Now that Jordan Peele has become an Oscar-winning filmmaker who has changed the face of the horror genre, it’s hard to imagine that just a few years ago, he was instead best known for playing a screechy girlfriend and a man obsessed with continental breakfasts. But it’s true.
Before he wrote and directed two modern horror classics, Peele starred alongside Keegan-Michael Key in one of the funniest sketch comedies ever to hit the air: Key & Peele. Over the years, the show amassed hundreds of sketches. Their comedy was marked with cinematic flair and big-name guest stars with truly remarkable acting and writing at its core. Anyway, here are The 10 Funniest Key & Peele Sketches, Ranked.
10 School Bully
This is a great sketch, because it touches on so many real issues – bullying, child abuse, the education system – in hysterical ways. It gets down to the deep-rooted psychological issues behind so many different mentalities in a high school setting that it makes your head spin and also makes you understand where a lot of these people (nerds, bullies, abusive fathers etc.) are coming from, as well as making you laugh.
It’s one of the most emotionally investing and also hilarious sketches in the duo’s history. Plus, the sketch gets bonus points for featuring Andre Royo – a.k.a. Bubbles from The Wire – as the bully’s dad.
9 Text Message Confusion
In most of their sketches, Key and Peele either play friends or enemies. Their chemistry is so incredible that they can either play characters who love each other or characters who hate each other.
But in this sketch, it’s like Peele is playing one of the friendly characters and Key is playing one of the contentious characters who found themselves in the same sketch due to confusion over the meaning of a text message. This is a hilarious sketch, because it’s a situation that people find themselves in every day – minus the baseball bat with nails sticking out of it.
8 Gay Wedding Advice
Key and Peele always know the perfect way to use the “straight man” trope from sketch comedy. In fact, in this case, ironically, the “straight man” is the only gay man in the room. Peele plays a mildly homophobic guy with a gay co-worker and a gay cousin who’s getting married.
So, he recruits the gay co-worker – played by Key – to explain the ins and outs of a gay wedding to Peele’s homophobic family. All he’s trying to say is that it’s basically the same as any other wedding, but they keep asking stupid questions like, “When do we get to sing ‘It’s Raining Men’?” It points out the stupidity of homophobia so hilariously.
7 The Andre and Meegan Saga
It’s impossible to pick just one Andre and Meegan sketch, because the characters work so well in every scenario the show puts them in, and their relationship develops over the course of several sketches, so their whole romantic saga gets a mention.
From their first date to the whole jacket debacle to all the beatings Andre had to take on account of Meegan’s big mouth, Andre and Meegan comically represent a specific type of couple that we all know – the couples that probably shouldn’t be together, yet couldn’t live without each other. They nail the voices and the mannerisms perfectly.
6 East/West College Bowl
There’s no way to quite describe what makes this sketch work, but it’s pretty clear that it does work. The names of the characters get more and more outlandish, going from double-barreled to Biblical to bilingual to just sound effects. Even the names of the colleges they’re from get stranger and stranger.
The structure of the writing works wonders for the comedy, because it’s just one punchline after another. It’s just one setup (East Coast) followed by about 30 punchlines, and then another setup (West Coast) followed by another 30 punchlines. And then there’s the final punchline: a white guy with the hysterically generic name Dan Smith.
5 Obama Meet and Greet
Barack Obama has actually said that Jordan Peele does his favorite celebrity impression of himself. Peele played Obama in a few sketches, taking him from his college years to teaching Malia to drive to hiring an anger translator.
But it’s “Obama Meet and Greet” that is arguably the funniest of the bunch, as Peele plays Obama at a meet and greet in which he’s very reserved and professional with the white people – even the white babies – and very informal and affectionate with the black people. When he reaches Key, he’s not sure what to do – until one of his aides informs him he’s one-eighth black and he says, “Afternoon, my octoroon!”
4 A Cappella
What makes “A Cappella” work so well is that it’s a light, fun examination of a real racial issue. The characters both know that, for whatever reason, the group of white guys can only have one black guy in it, so they engage in a Highlander-like “There can only be one!” struggle to be that guy.
Everything in the composition of the sketch is considered. As soon as the white guys leave, the bright color palette switches to a darker, bleaker, grittier one. The characters’ voices change to a deeper, more sinister tone. Plus, everything they do to fit in adheres to stereotypes to win over the white people.
3 Alien Impostors
“Alien Impostors” expertly uses a premise we’ve seen in a million sci-fi action movies – the alien invaders disguise themselves as humans – to point out racism and microaggressions. The set is decorated with post-apocalyptic debris and graffiti that tells us to “Trust no one,” the shots are angled and color-graded like a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster, and the special effects make it look like a real movie.
That helps to sell the satire of racism, because it puts us in a real movie and then starts doling out the jokes. SNL doesn’t have the time or budget (or brains, frankly) to do that.
2 Substitute Teacher
This sketch proved to be so popular that there was even interest in adapting it into a feature-length movie about Key’s character Mr. Garvey in various other school-based scenarios. On the surface, it just seems like a silly sketch where a substitute teacher mispronounces all of the students’ names and gets angry when they try to correct him.
However, it’s actually a very clever race-swapping satire, as the no-nonsense black substitute teacher who has taught kids in the inner city for twenty years comes to a school with a predominantly white student body and can’t pronounce any of the white kids’ names.
1 Aerobics Meltdown
The best Key & Peele sketches are the ones that are filmed and edited in a cinematic way, with the convincing acting and engaging writing to back up the visual style. “Aerobics Meltdown” is a prime example of that, as it’s a dark take on perhaps the corniest subculture ever popularized.
The aerobics video parts look like they were shot on VHS in the ‘80s, from the image quality to how the actors seamlessly embody the cheesy dancers from that era, while the behind-the-scenes parts look like a dramatic retelling in an Oscar-baiting Ron Howard-type movie (Ron’s brother Clint Howard even plays the guy holding the signs off-camera).