Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele of Comedy Central’s sketch comedy series “Key & Peele” joined moderator and professed super-fan Patton Oswalt in conversation at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills Monday.
Oswalt pulled out a list of questions from his pocket, but noted to laughs, “I’m sure whoever wrote these had the best intentions … I’m gonna assume that a white person wrote these questions.” He read: “Is America ready for this brand of in-your-face race-themed comedy?”
“One of the things that has made our show relevant,” Peele answered, “it’s a very in-between show for in-between times. There are things that, plain and simple, haven’t changed. There are things that we have to address that are different — we have a president of color now. Being mixed-race ourselves, we take advantage of sketch being able to go all different places.”
Key and Peele talked about their “Luther the Anger Translator” sketches as a “eureka moment” in writing the pilot. (The sketch features Peele as President Obama and Key as Luther.) “Anytime there’s something that’s out there that no one’s discussing, it’s a golden opportunity. It fit perfectly in that category — what can ‘Key & Peele’ do that no one else can do?” Peele said. They also said that President Obama is a fan of the show and told them, “I need Luther.”
Key, however, noted that the most revolutionary sketches from the show are like the “Les Miserables” sketch, the brainchild of writer Rebecca Drysdale who introduced the two many years ago.
“Both Keegan and I love theater and musicals, so that sketch is very important to us because it marked one of the first times a sketch wasn’t pinpointed at any social statement, besides the fact that we’re a couple of black dudes who have to play Jean Valjean and Javert,” Peele said.
Oswalt noted another sketch, with Key playing a speaker who follows Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech, and naturally, falls flat. “It has nothing to do with race. It has to do with being a performer,” Oswalt said. If there’s a “Key & Peele” template, Key said, “we put human stories in a new and different frame.”
As to what “Key & Peele” might be like post-Obama presidency and with elections around the corner? “We’re already casting Hillary translators,” Key joked.
Peele explained that their production schedule is different than a sketch comedy show like “Saturday Night Live,” because the show will air about four and a half months after shooting. “We can’t really be topical,” he said. However, during the elections, they responded to events with a “Luther/Obama” sketch every week. “It ended up being a smart thing, to help get viewers to understand it was a show that was right now. We’re not doing that at the moment.”
Key and Peele are also guest-starring in FX’s “Fargo,” as FBI agents Budge and Pepper. “There’s a lot of ways it could go wrong with Key and Peele in this ‘Fargo’ thing,” Peele said, calling it a “dream project” and proclaiming themselves to be huge Coen Brothers fans. “We wanted to do it as much justice as we could. We were told by (show creator) Noah Hawley we would be the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of the show.”
“That world is so iron-clad. I don’t think we could topple it,” Key said.