Their skits were often irreverent, unapologetic, and controversial, but an apology was never warranted.
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele met in a setting that didn’t exactly encourage friendship: While auditioning for MADtv, a live-action comedy program on Fox, the two actors were expected to compete for the obligatory “black cast member” position, though they were ultimately both hired after proving their comedic chemistry.
MADtv ended in 2009 after a 14-season run. Some of its most famous sketches include the oh-so-quotable “Can I Have Your Number”, an Abercrombie model spoof, and a series featuring a hilarious man-child named Stuart. Though fairly popular on its original television platform, MADtv and its skits became immortalized on YouTube, where Key and Peele would later find the majority of their audience.
During the pair’s years on the show, they parodied a multitude of characters including Snoop Dogg, Bill Cosby and Barack Obama. At this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Key went on to act alongside the real Barack Obama as the president’s anger translator.
Following the conclusion of MADtv, the dynamic duo paired up again in 2012 to star in their own show on Comedy Central, appropriately named Key & Peele. Although the show aired on cable television, more views were generated from online mediums, like YouTube and the Comedy Central website. Unlike their work on MADtv,Key & Peele was not filmed in front of a live audience, and tended to stray into more controversial territory with sketches about Al Qaeda, Hitler, and slave auctions – and yet, somehow, they worked.
Key & Peele found a niche of comedy that showed no hesitation in its presentation of touchy subjects, and yet the pair manages to avoid widespread criticism. Instead of making light of serious subjects, they produced satire based off the unreasonable reactions of the public to said topics. By producing sketches based on current events and relevant public figures, Key and Peele continue to bring awareness to the younger, more internet-based generations in a way that is entertaining and sometimes curiously morose; most notably, their satirical portrayals of the racial tension between the white and black communities.
Of course, they have their fair share of goofy and meaningless sketches, which often produce more questions than answers.
(Don’t try to find any meaning. Just don’t.)
After five short years, Key & Peele recently aired its hour-long finale on Sept. 9 in a multi-sketch performance that Meredith Blake of the Los Angeles Times calls “biting and irreverent”. The final skit features a fictional utopia for black people, one devoid of police harassment and racial bigotry. It’s chillingly reminiscent of the recent police brutality happening across America, and withholds the Key & Peele tradition of making audiences uncomfortable with the truth.
They’re raunchy, impudent and a bit too truthful at times, but Key and Peele smoothly guided comedy onto a tremendously successful modern platform, one that will set the stage for generations to come. If they are not remembered for their subconscious political statements or for the societal boundaries they pushed as African American comedians, they can rest easy knowing that at least one of their sketches will go down in history:
(Slight language warning.)