– Can’t we amend the Constitution to allow presidents to serve more than two terms? Because, frankly, I’m really going to miss “Key & Peele’s” anger translator sketches on their Comedy Central series after Barack Obama leaves office.
And I’m not alone.
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele officially launch their third season Wednesday night, but gave their fans a bit of a warm-up last week with a “best of” half-hour featuring an Obama sketch that approaches the level of great absurdist theater.
The highlights of Wednesday’s season premiere are the return of the anger translator and an insanely brilliant take-off on the film version of “Les Miserables,” which is so beautifully detailed, it may actually take you a second to realize it is a satire and the song lyrics aren’t what you think they are. The “Les Miz” sketch is so good, it may put older viewers in mind of the immortal movie-takeoff sketches engineered on the old “Carol Burnett Show.”
The duo opens the show by acknowledging that a lot has happened between seasons and they’ll have to catch up with a few of the more prominent news events. There is no dialogue at all in the opening sketch: Peele simply walks through a pristine suburban neighborhood and raises the hood on his sweatshirt as the white residents watch him pass. The set-up and the final image provide a singularly eloquent commentary on the Trayvon Martin case – with nary a word spoken, and without shouting airheads on cable news spinning and spinning their dogmatic views.
It might be tempting to compare Key and Peele to traditional comic duos, where one guy is the straight man and the other is the joke machine. But Key and Peele are equal partners in every sketch. Yes, Key is the bald one, but that doesn’t mean he’s any more likely to be wearing a wig in a sketch than Peele is.
Their timing is always perfect, as evidenced in the anger translator routines, in which Peele delivers a credible approximation of Obama’s cool, ever-moderate speaking style, while Key swoops, hollers, flaps his arms and spews ’hood-tinged invective behind him to tell viewers what the president is really saying.
In truth, Peele seemed to make more of an obvious effort in the show’s first season to mimic Obama’s pauses and “ahhhhh’s” than he does now, but he still gets the point across. Even if the subject of a particular presidential address is no longer current, the sketches still work.
The substitute teacher routine is also back, as is poor A-Aron, the pudgy student whose name is aggressively mispronounced – as are those of his white suburban classmates – by substitute Mr. Garvey (Key), who spent 19 years teaching in the “inner city,” he says. He insists the name “Jacqueline” is pronounced “J-Quellen” and “Blake” is “B-Laka.” And, of course, Aaron is A-Aron.
“Key & Peele” has been nominated for its first Emmy. It’s in the sexy category of “Outstanding Make-up for a Multi Camera Series or Special (Non-Prosthetic).” No, that isn’t a joke, nor is the fact that if you go to www.emmys.com, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences can’t seem to find a photo of Key & Peele to go with the list of nominees in the category.
Here’s an idea, guys: Next time you reach for the phone and auto-dial Neil Patrick Harris – perfectly acceptable and very funny Emmys host though he may be – think about calling Key and Peele instead. It might help when you are sitting around scratching your head about why TV is so out of touch with the 21st century.