My posts about Key and Peele in the lead up to Keanu continue!
There’s a pretty strong influence of sci-fi and horror in Key and Peele. They really have a thing for the apocalypse and always reveled in the yearly Halloween episode where they could do (racist) zombie sketches, vampire sketches, and horror sketches. But they also took their sketches to darker places than I have ever seen in any other sketch comedy show. The exploration of this territory makes sense given the cinematic style of their sketches. You can even see it in the mid-run change in opening credits to something very reminiscent of True Detective, a show uniquely dark in its own right. Several times these guys created the kind of sketches that didn’t make me laugh so much as made me just sort of exhale and go, “damn.”
These Two Apocalypse Sketches
There’s an inherent existential hopelessness to post-apocalyptic scenarios but these two sketches still have funny premises. They’re dark because in both of these sketches, they just up and shoot someone dead. In the first, one of the last two humans on earth gets shot in the head for being annoying. In the second, an entitled, racist white guy gets shot because, well, in a post-apocalyptic world, he can be. There is an element to these guys getting some comeuppance but hell, man, a bullet to the brain is still a bullet to the brain.
The Family Matters Sketch
I already mentioned this one because I have a soft spot for Family Matters from childhood but, on the other hand, holy shit is this sketch dark. First of all, it’s literally dark. The office in which the TV exec is doing cocaine feels like it’s at the end of a labyrinthine hallway in some rundown studio. He ends up blowing his brains out under the influence of the psychic, telekinetic, insane Jaleel White who has clearly been possessed by the essence of his on screen character Steve Urkel. So, yeah, you know, just like Debbie Downer.
Perhaps the idea of a man’s wife and daughter being in a terrible accident could be offset by the absurdity of the fact that he’s in an aerobics competition video. Perhaps. Perhaps? There’s something funny about this all being described off camera via cue card – from Clint Howard no less – and instructing the guy to “keep dancing.” But this sketch still feels like a nightmare to me, especially with Jordan’s cackling laugh at the end.
This sketch isn’t funny. I don’t mean that in the traditional conception of “not funny,” like there was a joke they were going for and it didn’t quite land or it was a hacky premise that I’ve seen done to death. There doesn’t seem to even be an attempt at humor. This simply seems to be a little horror vignette. At the very least, there is a punchline at the end. So, that’s something, right? Right? Someone hold me.
This show didn’t shy away from talking about racial politics but it was usually handled with much lighter comedy. This sketch is as bitingly satirical as the show ever got. The darkness resides in the fact that it’s clearly a reference to Trayvon Martin. In other words, it’s not so much ha-ha funny as it is look-yourself-in-the-mirror-and-ask-yourself-if-you’re-a-good-person funny.