Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele have spent the last 11 months working on Season 3 of their sketch comedy show, the eponymous Key & Peele (Wednesdays, 10:30/9:30c, Comedy Central). The two took a break from locking in the final episodes of the season to call up TV Guide Magazine and discuss some of their more popular sketches.
TV Guide Magazine: We have to start with the Obama's Anger Translator sketches.
Jordan Peele: The fact that Obama responded to that, that meant to us that Luther the Anger Translator was kind of endowed as a real phenomenon. Obama would never endorse that if he didn't at least partly agree with what Luther was saying. So we love the fact that we kind of made Luther real.
TV Guide Magazine: Did you ever try reversing the roles?
Peele: I think just by virtue of the energy that Keeg and I have, it was kind of a no-brainer that Keegan was going to be the crazy guy, energetic, jumping up and getting in the camera's face, and that I would be sort of representing the calm face.
Keegan Michael Key: Yeah we kind of cast ourselves based on actual demeanor.
Peele: One of the sketches this season I think is really going to resonate is, Obama is essentially trying to have a romantic night with Michelle, but because he speaks with a political tone and doesn't get directly to the point, she needs Luther to come out and translate his frustration. And we created a new character we think people are going to love, which is Michelle's Anger Translator.
TV Guide Magazine: "Luther" is somehow the perfect name for Barack's Anger Translator. What's Michelle's Anger Translator's name?
Peele: Her name is Katendra.
TV Guide Magazine: And then we have the East/West College Bowl sketches, which are instant classics. "D'Pez Poopsie" might be my favorite out of all the names.
Peele: We love those sketches, because everyone has different favorites. There are some that sort of rise to the top, like your McCringleberries and your Fudges —
Key: [Laughs] "Like your McCringleberries and your Fudges."
TV Guide Magazine: Do you guys have a personal favorite?
Key: L'Carpetron Dookmarriot. Hands down.
Peele: I do love Cartoons Plural.
Key: Oh my God, Cartoons Plural! That's my second favorite.
TV Guide Magazine: How long does it take to come up with all those names?
Key: Jordan came up with every single one of those names.
Peele: Yep! The first sketch was a couple of nights, but the second one took a couple of weeks. I knew it had to beat the first one, so the second one was a little longer.
TV Guide Magazine: Are there any ones that you left out because they were either too ridiculous or you didn't think they were funny...
Peele: There was a first-season one that got left out that was WWW.BARGAINBUSTERMCBISCUITHEAD.ORG. [Laughs] But that was a classic situation where Keegan introduced me to football a few years ago...
TV Guide Magazine: Whoa. He introduced you to football?
Key: Oh yeah, Jordan's been a die-hard football fan for about two years. [Laughs]
Peele: [Laughs] And that was one of the first observations that Keeg imparted to me about college football, how ridiculous the names were.
Key: But then Jordan played Madden and he came to me one time and said, "Keegan, there is an offensive lineman for the New York Jets —" and then as he started to speak, I think we spoke in unison: "You mean D'Brickashaw Ferguson?!" And he was like "THIS DUDE'S NAME IS D'BRICKASHAW FERGUSON." And it just lit a fire under Jordan. I came to work like a month later and he goes, "What do you think of this?" and then hands me the script, and I'm like, "I think it's done!" [Laughs]
Peele: [Laughs] That was the hardest I'd ever seen Keegan laugh, reading that. When we crack each other up, we know it's gold.
TV Guide Magazine: Are you guys your own worst critics?
Peele: We make sure that we write four or five times the amount of sketches we need, so when we're paring it down at the end we know we're dealing with what we think is gold.
Key: What happens in the whittling process, eventually you get to a point where you are killing babies. And that's a good thing. It gets easier when certain parameters get put on us, like, "We're not gonna be able to get that elephant," "We can't pay for the hang-glider..." So that helps sometimes. But then, if we really love a sketch, we'll rewrite it to make it less expensive.
TV Guide Magazine: That brings to mind a common complaint about the Star Wars prequel movies, that George Lucas became so enamored with the technology and ability to create whatever he wanted that he lost a lot of the humanity that made the originals so good.
Peele: That is one of the fears of success. You bring up something like Star Wars, I think one of the ideas that's gotten thrown around is, in the early days, you have to listen to people around you and have a community putting something together. Key & Peele, we try to take the ego out of the process, kind of like Jim Henson did with The Muppet Show.
Key: And the other thing is, think about when George Lucas got out of school, he was still a regular person who did regular things, like go to the grocery store and try to buy a car. And all the people he made Star Wars with, they were all regular people too, with a skill set. But the problem is, by the time they made Return of the Jedi, the only people you know are other filmmakers. And I think you get to a place where you don't know regular people — Jordan, you've made that point about Mike Myers and Robin Williams — you get to that place in your career where you're so massive, you don't live a regular life. Yet you're trying to make movies for people in Wichita and Omaha and Tampa. So we have people in our lives, other executive producers and writers, with children and rent to pay. Nobody here is rich. I have a wife that keeps me firmly planted on the ground: "We're going to the Farmer's Market, and you're going to buy vegetables like all the rest of the saps in this world. You ain't nobody special!"
TV Guide Magazine: Going back to the show a bit, the Valets sketches [in which two valets dissect popular culture] have also struck a chord, particularly on social media platforms. It feels like those guys would have some things to say about the new Batman vs. Superman movie.
Key: Well, we do three Valet pieces this year, and the first one is about Batman
Peele: They're basically wondering how, for instance, Danny DeVito could think he's gonna f--- with the Batman.
Key: I think the argument they make about regular bad guys with the Batman, it's probably the same argument they would make for Superman. Like, "No contest, no contest, no contest. Superman is an alien from another planet with different gravity! Batman jus' a regular dude. So it gon' be like [car alarm noise], Batman can't win." They would get rapidly excited about that. And then they'd probably talk about kryptonite, and how they think "Liam Neesons" should probably be the one who plays Old Batman.