Kindred spirits in comedy
Sketch masters go all out for laughs in promising ‘Key & Peele’
The new sketch comedy series “Key & Peele’’ premieres tonight on Comedy Central at 10:30.
But if you’re in need of a good laugh right now, go to YouTube and check out any of the President Obama “anger translator’’ sketches.
In them, Jordan Peele, hitting just the right notes vocally as Obama, explains calmly that some folks mistakenly believe he never gets angry. So, he’s hired Luther (Keegan-Michael Key) to translate some talking points for him.
If you couldn’t help cracking up at Luther’s escalating outrage at everything from the lack of mayonnaise on the president’s sandwich (“You know right now in France Nicolas Sarkozy is eating a [expletive] tub of mayonnaise!’’) to the birth certificate issue, then “Key & Peele’’ will likely be a dependable generator of giggling fits.
As Dave Chappelle did on “Chappelle’s Show,’’ the duo break up the sketches by comically riffing on different topics.
Both alums of “MADtv,’’ Key and Peele are clearly kindred comedy spirits. The lanky, bald Key runs at a higher frequency than the more compact and laid back Peele, creating a crackling energy.
Interestingly, both are also biracial, the sons of white mothers and black fathers, and race is a recurring theme of both the stand-up and the filmed bits.
Of course, this is a charged issue, but, again like “Chappelle’s Show,’’ Key and Peele manage to handle the issue with both sensitivity and edge.
Mocking their own regular speaking voices as sounding “whiter than Mitt Romney in a snowstorm’’ leads to a discussion of never wanting to be “the whitest-sounding black guy in the room,’’ which devolves into a riotous Ladysmith Black Mambazo impression. A genealogy website spoof also has some fun with Thomas Jefferson’s reputation.
But race is far from the only subject. An idiot seeking medical marijuana and two friends smack-talking their wives with extreme caution also hit the funny bone.
Like all comedy, whether the duo always sticks the landing will depend on the viewer. A recurring bit about Lil Wayne in prison didn’t do much for me beyond Peele’s impression, for instance, but no translator is necessary to know that “Key & Peele’’ has great potential.
Sarah Rodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.