“It’s like Abbott and Costello meet Richard Pryor.” That's the description on the Peabody Awards website, which announced last week that Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele were Peabody winners for their show Key & Peele, a Comedy Central mainstay since 2011. The clip below is about homophobia in the workplace, but it really could be any of the dozens of segments created, written and acted by the duo, two of the funniest people in show business. Even though their program was renewed for a fourth season starting fall 2014, I suspect most viewers will first watch them online (I do), where their sketch-sized episodes seem tailormade for midday distraction or late-night laughs. Their skits nearly always feature stinging comments on racism or other forms of prejudice, and deliver disdainful rebukes to the status quo. Hilarious and scathing, they are best absorbed in small doses.
There is no point in trying to deconstruct or separate Key or Peele into a distinctive talent category. Just when you think that Peele, who looks like everyone's idea of the class clown, might be the funnier one, Key — the taller half of the duo, who could be the grandson of veteran actor Woody Strode — spins out a masterful, sidesplitting characterizaton. Both have the same flair for timing and satire, blending extravagance and forced gravitas into devastating impersonations. Everyone and everything is a potential target, from President Obama's aloof self control to the arcane patois of black sub-cultures, from sex to soul food, college football to substitute teachers.
Key and Peele claim to be commenting on what it’s like to be “biracial in a post-racial world," but their sketches and characters are staking out ground in what appears to be a multi-racial multi-verse, a world of infinite punchlines. Perhaps the Peabody was given to them for helping the human race take itself a little less seriously.
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