A confrontational man with a clipboard campaigning for social justice—it’s a character that’s been covered in comedy before (Aziz Ansari’s hilarious bit on having “a moment for gay rights” instantly comes to mind), but when Key and Peele introduce their version, it’s decidedly different. Key’s character, exiting a store with shopping bags in hand, is approached by Peele’s sidewalk activist. Prompted by the offer of saving a child’s life for a mere dollar donation, Key eventually gives in, not knowing that his donation will immediately free children from an ominous van before his eyes. It’s a hilarious joke that’s existed under our noses since the advent of those familiar canvassers and a great start to a solid episode.
The first sketch rolls by quickly, making way for a longer, more developed vignette, which features two elderly church-goers named Georgina and Esther. Their conversations follow a formula that begins with the introduction of a sin followed by an increasingly vulgar condemnation of Satan. Each is punctuated with a sweet “...with my prayers,” rendering their outrageous intentions metaphorical. The sketch is a bit decadent and by the time it reaches its punchline it feels a bit long. Regardless, the characters are the episode’s most inventive. From line delivery to make up and costuming, this vignette is the episode’s crowd-pleaser, and it’s easy to envision a return of the characters in a future episode.
Next, Key and Peele return as versions of themselves in a scene discussing the varying ways that a text like “Whatever, I don’t care” can be read. It’s a sketch that will resonate with many, and acts as a kind of cool-your-shit PSA for those who agonize over vague text messages. Another unmissable vignette brings us into a packed nightclub. Playing over the loudspeakers is a song that starts out like many others—something like, “if you’re a pimp, put your hands up”—before breaking down the definition of a pimp in its subsequent lyrics and forcing patrons to lower their hands. It goes on, rattling through the true meanings of words like pimp, boss, player and gangster. As the song comes to a end, it sings: “If you just realized you’re full of shit, put your hands up.” Everyone obliges.
While the show offers strong first and second acts, its last portion is its weakest. A scene following an unassuming sex freak as he purchases a mattress has all the trappings of a funny bit, but it plays out in an overwrought, predictable manner, with an unapologetically lowbrow sensibility. This one might come down to taste, and it really just didn’t do it for me. In the final sketch, Key’s character has heard hype around the workplace about a killer joke. When he actually hears the joke, however, he laughs hysterically at everything but the punchline. Admittedly, the idea of this bit is really funny, but it plays a lot like last week’s skit about a halo brace wearer in a nightclub with the screams of agony traded for riotous laughter. The outcome, however, is the same: tedious.
All things considered, Key & Peele’s latest installment proves to be a commendable half hour, and offers a handful of sketches that will undoubtedly stand out in the comedy duo’s canon. It’s really incredible how consistent the show is, dependably churning out hilarious material thanks to a tried-and-true performance style, witty writing and a killer production crew. While many modern sketch comedians have struggled to find relevancy or make viral content, Key and Peele have a proven talent for finding the right jokes for their vast audience. This week offers little exception.