After an amazing five-year run, Key & Peele will call it quits at the end of this season. For the last half-decade, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have overseen an impressive show that has not only been hilarious, but has also played host to dialogues on social matters including gun control, gay marriage, and, of course, race.
Though the series had plenty of wonderful sketches that didn’t touch on hot-button issues, Key & Peele was at its best when it managed to weave social commentary into well-crafted sketches. Whether they were playing slaves, fugitives from the Nazis, or just versions of themselves, the sketches Key and Peele produced concerning social issues always managed to be empathetic, sharp, and hilarious at the same time. As we say farewell, let’s look back at the 10 most daring Key & Peele sketches.
In advance of Season 5, Key & Peele released several sketches to prep us for their final season, including this musical number entitled “Negrotown.” In this sketch, Keegan-Michael Key plays a man wrongly detained by a police officer. Jordan Peele portrays a homeless man who transforms into a magical Willy Wonka-like guide through “Negrotown” after Key falls into a police-brutality induced fantasy world.
Though this is clearly a direct response to recent acts of brutality by police officers against African-Americans, the song addresses a number of factors that make life difficult for black Americans. And yes, the choreography is sick.
“White-Sounding Black Guys”
In this interstitial piece, Key and Peele talk about how they “adjust their blackness” depending on the circumstances. They admit that they themselves code switch depending on who they’re speaking to and in what environment they’re speaking. As they put it, they have learned to feel comfortable talking “whiter than the dude in the college a capella group” or “like Ladysmith Black Mambazo.”
“Civil War Reenactment”
This sketch, released all the way back in the beginning of Season 2, is even more resonant today in the wake of renewed controversy surrounding the Confederate Flag in South Carolina. With this sketch, Key and Peele remind us how advocates of Southern Pride and similarly euphemistic stances towards the legacy of the Confederacy often gloss over slavery: the primary reason the war was fought.
In this silent cold open that kicked off Season 3, Peele is shown walking through his neighborhood, enduring the suspicious glances of his neighbors, children, and the police. Once he’s had enough of their icy stares, he puts on his hoodie, which makes it appear to passersby that he’s white. Once he does that, the icy stares melt away.
“Gay Marriage Legalized”
During Season 1 of Key & Peele, support for gay marriage saw a surge, and states where gay marriage had once seemed unlikely voted to legalize. Though the atmosphere across the country was one of jubilation, this sketch follows one half of one couple that doesn’t share everyone else’s excitement.
Over the years, Key and Peele have done a number of history sketches that comment on the current social climate. One of the funniest and hardest hitting was their “Auction Block Sketch” from the show’s first season. In the sketch, the show’s stars play two slaves who take umbrage at the fact that no potential owners want to purchase them.
American culture, and particularly the part of it invested in American exceptionalism, often likes to gloss over the realities of America’s slave trade. Though the piece is played largely for laughs, the sketch serves of a reminder of the realities of slavery in culture that is all too eager to whitewash our cultural memory.
“Sex with Black Guys”
Often, when Key and Peele confront race, they do it in grand style, setting their sketch in a fantastic world or relying on a historical period. For their “Sex with Black Guys” sketch, the duo confronted casual racism in the here and now. The men are sitting at a bar when they overhear two white women discussing how much they’d like to sleep with a black guy. As the women’s statements grow more and more racist, Key and Peele have to decide if their principles or their baser desires pull more weight.
For one of their most hot-button sketches in the show’s history, Key and Peele entered an unexpected locale: Nazi-era Germany. In this sketch, Key and Peele play two men who have narrowly escape Nazi detention and are hiding out in white face. An SS officer (played by Ty Burell) comes to their home, seeking out the escaped men. It is only thanks to the Nazi’s notoriously unscientific Eugenics that they escape.
“Right to Bear Arms”
When gun control makes its way back into the national dialogue (which it seems to do more and more frequently all the time), the right wing conversation returns to the Constitution. This sketch takes the Founding Father Second Amendment discourse to a new level. In this sketch, Peele plays a Terminator-like figure sent back to the past to prevent the Second Amendment from happening. How does he plan to stop the Founders? Twin Uzis, of course.