Here is the conclusion of my mini run of Key and Peele posts in anticipation of Keanu’s release tonight. Perhaps it reduces a brilliant show that ran for four seasons to a greatest hits record to list my top ten favorite sketches but, well, this is the internet and y’all love your listicles. I also welcome any sketches that you think were overlooked in the comments.
So, here they are, my favorite Key and Peele sketches.
10. East West Bowl
This is the most obvious choice for a favorites list but there’s a reason. This sketch is brilliant. I’ve watched it over a hundred times and I could watch it a hundred more. This sketch was a turning point in the show when people really started taking notice of Key and Peele. Even the second East/West bowl and the “Superbowl Shuffle” East/West players’ rap were great. Amazing sketch.
9. Substitute Teacher
This is the second most obvious choice but, again, there’s a reason. This sketch is unreal. I mean, look, what’s the premise here? He pronounces the names wrong. That’s it. That’s the joke of the scene. And yet the character of Mr. Garvey is so fully realized. I felt like I had that “you’re not going to mess with me!” substitute teacher in school. Each student’s name is mistaken so perfectly. Mr. Garvey’s obstinance is so complete. “A. A. Ron.” Come on. This is a thing of beauty.
8. You Can Do Anything
This is a lesser known Key and Peele sketch but one I’ve watched so many times it goes on the list. Peele take the genuine post-game emotion of an athlete – most likely Kevin Garnett – and then just takes it to the craziest place possible. “Ain’t nothin’ figurative about this, you WILL turn into a robot.”
7. Insult Comic
There’s something hilarious to me about the innocence of the burn victim in the audience. He shifts in his chair ever so slightly in hopeful anticipation when it’s his turn for the insult comic to make fun of him. He keeps smiling as he suggests things for the comic to make fun of and then when the joke comes, his pain is so visceral and agonizing. Jesus, how cruel am I? I guess this sketch reminds me of something I heard Groucho Marx say about comedy. I’ll paraphrase. You’ve got an old lady in a wheelchair at the top of a hill, at the bottom of the hill you’ve got a brick wall. You’re going to push the old lady down the hill. For it to be funny, she has to be really really old.
6. Black Republicans
This isn’t political, I swear. This sketch just gets me every time. While these guys in suede leather jackets and dad jeans could easily be cheesed or miffed, somehow “royally pissed” fits perfectly. These guys are so absurd in their simultaneously stereotypical and completely unique geekiness. I can’t explain it, it’s just perfect. Oh, and also, Malcolm Jamal Warner.
5. Retired Military Specialist
Thank you, Key and Peele, for this sketch. In every action movie, every old pro always comes out of retirement and, every time, they are never any worse for the wear – not a bad knee, not a few pounds overweight, not with a new pair of prescription glasses. I also just love how Keegan so effortlessly owns every move Decker tries to make.
4. Little Homie
I didn’t love this sketch the first time I saw it. It’s a badass puppet, that’s it? On repeated viewings, I found that this really is a satire about our broken justice system. Okay, it’s totally not, it really is just a badass puppet, but that’s hilarious. There’s something great about the parole officer’s commitment to the Little Homie role play and Clive “Doubledown” Ruggins forgetting he’s talking to a puppet in spite of himself.
3. Continental Breakfast
Every line in this sketch when he’s eating is a masterpiece. The slicked back hair and John Waters mustache. It’s all just too perfect. The ending comes out of nowhere and still manages to completely fit. Watch it. If you don’t love this sketch, I feel sorry for you.
2. Mattress shopping
The best sketches are they ones where you can’t possibly conceive where they came from (see below). This is one of those sketches. Like The State’s Barry and Levon sketch before it, it’s completely random but makes sense in its own little self contained universe. I love Keegan’s flat topped salesman and Jordan’s hapless nerd with an apparent dark side but ultimately the refrain of “Who got that good D?! I got that good D!” is just too damn funny.
From Jordan’s fluttering eyelids as he says, “oh man oh man oh man,” to the very last second, I love everything about this sketch – the haircuts, the nonsensical jargon. Drax them sklounst. I’m gonna go Hayden Panettiere-y on some terries, especially if they get froggy. I don’t know who the actor playing the straight man is but I love that dude too, especially his frightened shriek of “I’m on vacation!” as all three of them get ambushed by homeland security. Fireboard those motherjammers.
Honorable Mention for The Most Brilliant Dumb Sketch Ever – Dicknanigans
This is literally two guys kicking each other in the dick and going cross-eyed afterward but, man, does it work. “Si-going.” I guess a case could be made that they’re sending up pretentious art world b.s. But, frankly, no. They just tacked that on to make the entire dick joke premise a little less conspicuous. I love Rebecca Drysdale and Seth Morris as the art world denizens eating this up. I also loved them kicking each other in the dick, that was really great, too.
Some Bonus Crap
3 Times Key and Peele Sketches Were Perfect Improv Lessons
In a two-person scene, when in doubt, you can always match your scene partner. This sketch is also a perfect example of “do it again but bigger.”
This sketch starts in a real place – two football players hitting each other to get pumped for a game. But then it gets a little rougher, a little more violent, and then it’s in full on action movie show down mode ending in a climax that makes logical sense for the scene and from which you can heighten no further. Also note, they never lose their initial behavior of using the psych up language throughout. Perfect.
In addition to being a brilliant sketch, it’s a textbook group scene. There’s a leader who introduces the premise – cousin Delroy’s getting married… to a man – and then an outside voice – the gay co-worker – who’s a counterpoint to the rest of the group. Each person in the scene has their own deal, or manner of behavior. There’s the note taking family member who wants to get it all right. There’s Romany Malco who’s so uncomfortable he can barely bring himself to make eye contact with a gay man. Lance Reddick sits in a La-Z-Boy and keeps asking about gay hymns. There isn’t a single extraneous line or moment. Another perfect sketch.
A Brief List of All the Key and Peele Running Jokes I Could Catch
These jokes aren’t really running jokes because they usually only repeat the joke once but they exist nonetheless. If you caught any others, let me know.
- All white women are named Emily – Alien Invasion and Black Republicans
- Nooice – the sketch and the license plate of the car they’re driving in during intestitials
- Front Hand Back Hand is also mentioned in the Battle Raps sketch
- “Put the pussy on the chainwax” – the sketch and then it gets mentioned in MC Mom
- The boxers from the Boxing Press Conference sketch – i.e. the “fuck you in the ass” sketch – are mentioned by the bartender in sketch where Keegan has a broken neck, “yeah, it was the only heavyweight bout where the boxers got married.”
- “Non-stop Party” by LMFAO (not really LMFAO) is playing in the bar at the end of the texting sketch and also by the annoying survivor in the apocalypse sketch
- The football players from the East/West Bowl recur throughout any sketch with a football player
- Every sports team – football, baseball, soccer – is called the Rhinos
- In the Hall of Mirrors sketch, the cop says the criminal is wanted for the murder of Mason Jimenez, perhaps the Jimenez from the cop sketch where the partner keeps talking about the new cop’s dick
- Donkey Teeth -the East/West Player’s name actually comes from an order in the Soul Food sketch
- Doug Duggart from Tackle and Grapple in the Brothers Brothers Brothers… sketch