As comedians know, trying to get someone to crack a smile, let alone laugh, can be an arduous process, so it’s not surprising that comedy movies are often hit-or-miss with audiences. Sketch shows fare even worse. But veterans Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have a chemistry that can’t be taught.
With over one billion YouTube views and 11 Emmy nominations, Key and Peele is the most critically acclaimed and popular comedy sketch show on Comedy Central since Chappelle’s Show abruptly went off the air. Deciding to go out on a high-note before quality begins to dip, the show ended its run in 2015 with its fifth and final season, but not before producing hundreds of memorable sketches.
Here are their ten best.
10.) I Said Bitch
While hanging out, two men trade marriage war stories on how they set their wives straight. The punchline here is that the husbands always end their arguments with, “I said biiiitch,” but not before looking over their shoulders, and making sure their wives aren’t close enough to hear them. Their meetings escalate rapidly in increasingly obscure locations; eventually—in classic Key and Peele staging—the men are in a space shuttle, where one of them floats from orbit trying to get his point across.
9.) Mattress Shopping
A soft-spoken, perhaps introverted man, with a peculiar system for testing out mattresses goes shopping for one. He violently thrusts upon each mattress, screaming sexual phrases and squealing, before he settles on one. What seems like a joke on multiple personality disorder, quickly takes an unexpected turn with a plot twist that would make M. Night Shyamalan proud.
8.) Aerobics Meltdown
When a competitor receives shocking news during the 1987 Jazz Fit Championships, he tries to maintain his composure on live television. Key and Peele gets strange and enters dark comedy territory, producing one of the most unique sketches they’ve done. What really sells this is how the entire story is told through no dialogue, relying on emoting while keeping in sync with the dance choreography. The direction is expertly done as well, moving from 80s production values to contemporary HD on the fly.
7.) Auction Block
Key and Peele are at their best when they tackle sensitive subject matter, focusing on the ridiculous they can be. “Auction Block” places Key and Peele in the middle of a slave auction block framed as a draft for a kickball game, where they are constantly being overlooked by other slaves. Initially, they’re opposed to and angry at being sold as slaves, but as the auction progresses and no one places a bid for them, they become baffled and outraged at the lack of interest for them — They go as far as making their case for why they would make excellent slaves.
6.) Soul Food
Two friends have lunch at Mama Sugarback’s Soul Food Shack, and in a weird turn of events, become increasingly competitive. One of the simpler sketches on the show, “Soul Food” is a riff on black food culture and gets right the point. The ferocity at which they order their meals and the absurdity of the items – A bowl of mosquitos, Donkey Teeth, fish heads wrapped in razor wire, stork ankles, and even a human foot – reaches cartoon levels of insanity.
5.) Proud Thug
As a Latin gang begins a meeting, they’re a chair short so Carlito, played by Peele, opts to lean up against a table. Even when they locate a chair for him, Carlito decides that chairs are for pussies and he’s too proud to sit in one. When the table he’s leaning on breaks, he falls among the debris and refuses to sit up, trying to not to appear “soft”. When it’s revealed a piece of wood stabbed him during his fall, he dies of blood loss. As a ghost, the gates of heaven open up for him, but his stubborn mentality doesn’t allow him to enter, as “heaven is for pussies.” Classic Carlito.
4.) Retired Military Specialist
In a riff on every military action B-movie from the 80s, a General tracks down Decker, an aging military specialist that was in his prime during the Cold War, to recommend someone for a secret mission. Being stubborn, Decker views this as the General’s way of enticing him to take on the mission and urges him to test out his capabilities. What follows is a series of comical attempts of Decker trying to prove himself.
3.) Substitute Teacher
“Substitute Teacher” introduces one of the duo’s most iconic characters, Mr. Garvey, and his struggle with pronouncing the names of a class of white middle-class students — A commentary on white teachers constantly mispronouncing black student’s names. As expected, Key is excellent, with hilarious outbursts and facial expressions, but the kids’ reactions and reluctance to correct their teacher really sells it. Some gems include the infamous “A-A-ron” for Aaron, “Dee-Nice” for Denise, and “Balakay” for Blake.
Key and Peele take on the roles of Garcia and Rafi, respectively, in this sketch about a baseball team staging an intervention for Rafi’s ass slapping habit. In addition to poking fun at the homo-eroticism surrounding all sports, “Slap-Ass” also touches on the high number of Dominican Republic players in the MLB. Peele’s crackpot portrayal of a baseball player’s hungering thirst for ass slapping is absolutely perfect. From his desperate facial expressions, heavily exaggerated accent, and enunciation, Rafi is a classic character with plenty of memorable lines.
1.) Manly Tears
After learning about the death of his childhood friend, gang leader Carvel (played by Peele), delivers a powerful message to his crew—the only problem is that he’s sobbing while he does, and his second-in-command, played by Key, can’t refrain from laughing. Carvel rattles off childhood memories that he shared with his deceased friend; each resulting story sends Key into a more intense fit of laughter. Key and Peele’s acting in this sketch is top-notch; from Carvel’s sobbing, stuttering, and muttering to Key’s seemingly genuinely laughter, “Manly Tears” is the funniest sketch in the series.
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