Q&A: ‘Key & Peele’ on Their Peabody and the Show’s Success

Key and Peele interview
Catherine Ledner for Variety

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are creators-writers-stars-exec producers of Comedy Central’s “Key & Peele,” which launches season 4 in September. They recently received a Peabody Award, made Time’s list of most influential people and were praised by President Obama.

Are you now respectable?
Peele: Time and the Peabody — to get something that prestigious really snuck up on us.
Key: I’ve yet to take a left turn out of Surrealville. Wait, how did two guys who make poop jokes get involved with people who run nations? It’s still kind of unbelievable.

How did the show achieve its success?
Peele: We definitely felt like outsiders for a couple of years. The TV ratings weren’t what we wanted, but so many people found our show through the Internet. Now we can’t walk through an airport without getting stopped.

When one of you stars in a sketch, can we assume that person initiated it?
Peele: I wouldn’t break it down as simply as that. The best sketches exist in the things we both find funny. We feed off each other’s opinions and making each other laugh. When one of us is onstage, the other is giving notes to keep the vision that got us to this sketch in the first place.

How would you describe your humor?
Key: I learned a magnificent new word the other day. There is a quality for all of our scenes that contains “anagnorisis,” which is that moment of discovery before a twist happens. Which is “Where is this scene gonna go? Oh, now, that was crazy! Where’s it gonna go now?” As opposed to the traditional “we’re going to introduce a premise and then explore it.”

You’re making a movie with Judd Apatow. What can you tell us?
Peele: Keegan and I like to undercut badass genres. I don’t want to give away too much, but it channels some of the themes that we hit on in the show: The everyman placed in a badass genre.

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