Key And Peele Take No Prisoners With Their Comedy Central Show
With the resurgence of Comedy Central's programming post-Chappelle's Show over the last couple of years, quietly one of the best shows on cable television for the last three years has been Key And Peele. Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele—both former cast members of MADtv—work brilliantly together. The 2014 Emmy-nominated, Peabody Award-winning sketch comedy series has seen its popularity skyrocket over the last couple of years both on television and on YouTube.
Season three saw Key And Peele ranked highly across a slew of demographics, and rightfully so with its no holds barred, anything goes approach to its skits and undeniable on-camera chemistry between its two stars. With the fourth season now in full swing, Peele got on the phone with XXL to discuss the show's success, how it differentiates itself from Chappelle's Show, his favorite skits from Key And Peele and his love for Wu-Tang's Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers. —Emmanuel C.M.
XXL: When you started Key And Peele, how big did you think it was going to be?
Peele: You know, to be honest—I think Key would have a different answer—but I thought we had something. I feel very strongly that Key is one of the best performers I’ve ever seen and one of the best comedians and sketch comedians that ever existed. And I am a very confident writer of sketch. So when I knew I was going to do this show with him, to me it was kind of a no-brainer that we can work this out and do something very cool. I think the only question was the possible pitfalls. Like, are we going to get off the ground? Or are people going to just compare us to the Chapelle’s Show and say, “Okay, these guys are just try to be Chapelle so it’s not really worth my time?"
So what we really tried to do was make a show that could only be made today. That was the main thing that we had that we knew our heroes could not have done—respond to things like technology, to the president, to the types of people that have emerged in 2011 to 2014. And yeah, I kind of had a feeling it was going to be a success.
When did the idea come to you guys? Was it during the MADtv days and you're just like, “Hey, I think we can do this. We can be like the cooler Kenan And Kel but way more intelligent?”
[Laughs] You know, when we came up with this, Kenan And Kel did not come up. We just... While we were on MADtv, every time we did a sketch together it felt like magic. We put extra rehearsal into it, we put extra effort into it and extra choreography into it. And so we knew we had this special commitment that just made us maybe complement [each other].
And then the actual creation of the show wasn’t necessarily as romantic as, “This is something we have to do.” It was an opportunity where we were both not working and we basically said, “Hey, let’s do this sketch show together.” We pitched it and then when Comedy central said, “Make a pilot,” then we had to say, “Okay, what can we bring to the table?”
Now we’ve actually got this show, we got it off the track, it's going. Now what do we have to bring to the table? So the cart came before the horse.
One of the things I appreciate with this is that the show appeals to all races, backgrounds and ethnicities. Everyone can enjoy this. Was this something y’all had in mind?
You know, the important thing to me was that we take no prisoners. You know what I mean? Our identity is all over the place, like this country is. We are mixed. And that was a scary thing to admit before the president got elected.
And so when that happened we realized that, okay, all of a sudden there is an interest in mixed culture and what it means in this country, [and] we can go places that people haven’t gone before. We can go to a wide variety of places that no one has been able to do before.
So I think the main rule is we like to take out hypocrisy wherever it is. And take no favors, really. And at the same time, we identify as American and we of course, growing up in this country and seeing a world through an African-American eyes. So a lot of our perspective is going to be coming from a place, the same place that Chapelle came from. But then we also have to ask ourselves, what is relevant in our lives that Chapelle might not have thought about?
Some of your raps skits are hilarious. Like the Rap Battle Hype Man; I think I watch that at least two times a month.
Do you know the real guy that that’s based on?
Okay, you’ve got to look up “Worst Hype Man Ever” on YouTube. [It's] a real dude that is based on. And it’s just a clip that’s online and it cracks me up. So I was like, “We’ve got to get to this and take it to the next level.” And of course in the sketch, he becomes... like animal.
What kind of music do you listen to?
Music? I’m going all over the place. I listen to world music. I am kind of a reluctant Kanye fan. I love Kendrick Lamar and then there is like... There is probably a handful of female vocalists I listen to, from Anita Baker to Lana Del Rey. That's some of my stuff.
Why are you a reluctant Kanye West fan?
[Laughs] I am usually not a fan of people who are as much or more image as they are music. And sometimes, his whole image thing kind of overshadows his music. But when it comes down to it, I am a fan of his music. So I have to kind of... I have to kind of say, “Look...” And by the way, I love his image, too—I love the fact that he will say what's on his mind and you can count on that. But sometimes it’s all a bit much. And I want to turn down the track on his interview and turn up the track on his music.
How did you guys get the rap names Bling Benzy and Da Struggle? Where did that come from?
I mean, obviously we are huge fans of this funny name. It probably just came from... We knew what the sketch was and we knew what it was going to be so we had to find a perfect name that fit those characters. Da Struggle is of course the current conscientious rapper, the political lyricist and then Bling Benzy is just all about titties and cash.
Do you have a favorite skit?
There are so many. I think my favorite is maybe Liam Neeson, that one is just great. Those are the sketches that Key and I really get to do what we do best, which is just play off each other. Do high-energy, just go crazy. And we’ve got two more of those coming. Yeah. One of them—this is an exclusive preview here, no one knows this— but one of them is about our favorite show, Game Of Thrones. And then the other one talks about Robert Downing Jr.
My favorite thing about those sketches is that you know those dudes.
You begin [going to] Redbox every night just to have an encyclopedic knowledge of films. I love those. I also love “I Said Bitch.” That’s the one that we actually performed in the room at Comedy Central on our show. So it’s kind of the DNA of the show. It’s like, this is the kind of thing we want to do.
I’ve got to ask—what's your favorite rap album?
I’m just going to go and say Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers. I’m from New York. Every track on that was golden. I also love Method Man and Redman’s joint [Blackout!] but yeah, 36 Chambers.