Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are the duo behind the award-winning Comedy Central sketch comedy show Key & Peele. Each has a white mother and black father, and a lot of their comedy is about race: Perhaps because they’re biracial, they’re perfectly comfortable satirizing white people and African-Americans — as well as everybody else.
Both Key & Peele are alumni of the Second City Chicago’s improv theater. And being from the Barack Obama era, and one of their most popular routines is the White House address in which Obama (Peele) speaks to the nation with his usual reassuring, measured cadences, living up to his billing as “No-Drama Obama,” while his “Anger Translator”, Luther (Key), vents what’s really on the mind of the leader of the free world. Where Obama is careful not to gloat over beating Mitt Romney in the third presidential debate, Luther breaks into a victory strut: “Boom, Mitt! I sunk your battleship, bitch!”
“We actually felt like Obama was kind of responsible for us even getting a show in the first place,” admitted Key. “Because there’s this biracial person who might have to ride the divide between two different races…”
We know we’re frustrated when a person like [Rep.] Joe Wilson had screamed during that State of the Union address, when he was like, ‘You lie!’ to the President. And we were like, “The President can’t react the way millions of Americans right now are going, ‘Ugh!’ He can’t say anything. He can’t rail at this man, he can’t get upset. What if we had a surrogate who could get upset for him?”
One of the themes of Key and Peele is how black anger, black pride, black sensitivity over slights, second-class treatment, and worse, get bottled inside—bricked up behind a stoic public mask—until the contents explode and all kinds of crazy-ass stuff comes out.
“I think there’s a Midwestern sensibility about comedy, in a manner of speaking, but I don’t know if I can quantify it. Also, we lived so close to Chicago, which is certainly one of the hubs of comedy in the United States of America, and that probably helped provide part of the sensibility that people get when they hear certain types of comedy. That’s something that’s been very important to me, and I think that had a lot to do with how I see comedy and look at comedy.”