Obama may have accepted his reelection with dignity and poise, but Key & Peele know what he was really thinking: “I’m gettin’ some booty tonight!”
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, the stars of Comedy Central’s Key & Peele, brought their inventive sketch comedy to NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts last night as part of the New York Comedy Festival, and the first item on their agenda was the President’s victory. Taking the stage to a standing ovation, the comedians opened the night with their popular skit featuring President Obama and his anger translator, Luther. Peele’s Obama impression was flawless, as usual – it’s perhaps the best in the business – and Key spewed righteous bile as Luther, the boorish voice of the commander-in-chief’s id. As the president reflected tactfully on his campaign, Luther’s rhetoric was more to the point: “Thank you, Joe Biden, for not putting your foot in your mouth for two weeks!” and “Black people, we came out to two elections in a row!” And at the first mention of Mitt Romney, Luther literally bounded across the stage, gloating like Terrell Owens in the end zone. Much of the material came from a video released early Wednesday, but hey, it’s still a kick to see a President of the United States doing MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” dance.
The rest of the evening consisted of a mix of improv, rehearsed sketches, and new video clips. The highly energetic duo know how to work a venue, frequently encouraging suggestions from the crowd during the improv sets. In one ingeniously realized setup, the two acted as scam artists whose phony sob stories contained details of films suggested by the audience. Peele, miraculously and hilariously, spun Schindler’s List into an off-the-cuff yarn about grocery shopping, a testament to his days performing with Chicago’s revered Second City.
Some of the videos touched on series favorites, such as the unlikely gay couple of Sam (Key) and his exuberant, airheaded husband LaShawn (Peele). Last we saw them they were speaking to a local TV reporter about their upcoming wedding; this time, they were pursuing adoption, and LaShawn fired off all kinds of absurd propositions (Siblings? “We can dress them up like companion objects!” Special needs? “Hopefully it’s one with white eyes and can tell the future.”). Others were totally new, like an old-timey music video that played up the weird, date-rape-y undertones in the Christmas song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” or a confrontation between two dudes with increasingly swagged-out hats. The only duds of the night were the pre-planned sketches – their act as two cat-calling Russians felt tired and overplayed, and a performance of “Shot in the Dick” by faux-rapper Tha Incredible Mack (Peele) was underwhelming without the music video’s elaborate production.
In the penultimate bit, set at the fictional, progressive Snobgrass Academy, “the most diverse school of mostly Jewish students on the Upper West Side,” Key reprized the role of Coach Hines, a crazed, abusive high school gym teacher (who bears an alarming resemblance to another manic would-be disciplinarian, Chris Farley’s Matt Foley). Key played Hines with depraved aplomb, and even brought out fellow MADtv vet Bobby Lee as Yamanashi, the long-suffering target of Hines’ bizarrely physical admonitions. The segment was funny and nostalgic – Key and Peele were both players on the now-defunct MADtv – and gave Key the opportunity to further showcase his madcap physical comedy.
Finally, the duo sang a ditty dedicated to people of mixed race called, charmingly, “What the F*** are You?” Tiger Woods and Parks and Recreation star Rashida Jones received shout-outs in the sincere if slightly off-key tune; halfway through, Key advised the audience, “When you leave here tonight, if you see someone of another race… make love to that person.” And as they closed the show, which had opened to cries of “Four more years!” it was only fitting that the last words, courtesy of Key, were “Hillary Clinton 2016!”
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