Key & Peele Review: “Alien Imposters”

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Along with South Park, Comedy Central’s other big fall show Key & Peele kicked off a new year with their season four premiere last night. The show started things off with a great short sketch about a pair of bank robbers suffering from a problem we’ve all had – trying to open a door and unlock it at the same time. A funny, quick, simple sketch that Key & Peele are known for and a fun start to a new season. Unfortunately, that’s where the fun mostly stopped.

We were then greeted with a new intro parodying True Detective, which was good and all if a bit flat compared to their normal creative intro. This True Detective theme was consistent throughout the episode, where their usual sketch breaks showing Key & Peele talking to an audience were replaced with in-car segments similar to the popular HBO show. Right away I wasn’t a big fan of it. Those audience segments, while obviously very scripted, added a lot of personality to the show and broke up sketches nicely. With these in-car segments it made everything feel unbalanced and took a lot of humanity out of the duo. And on top of that the breaks just weren’t funny at all.

Next it went into a mostly boring sketch that had Key & Peele identifying aliens based on their reactions to the fact that they are black. You would let this African American fellow date your daughter? Clearly you’re an alien. It’s sad just how similar this sketch was to one from a couple years ago where “racist zombies” wouldn’t attack them because they were black. A real lack of creatitvity in the sketch and a lot of low-hanging fruit jokes thrown in. The only saving grace for this particular sketch was one of the last potential aliens who continually screamed when Key spoke to him, but that was it, and even then it was far from a well crafted joke.

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It’s clear the show has a higher budget now, but that didn’t help much with several poorly written sketches. Image Courtesy of Comedy Central

Following that was another instantly forgettable sketch using the tired joke of a drill sargeant changing the lyrics to the popular marching tune into something dark or strange. This felt like a sketch that, in previous years, would have been replaced with an audience segment. Which is a real shame because it was a total bore.

Then finally came the sketch that’s been all over the internet already about a confused family holding a Q&A for a gay relative about to be married with increasingly alarming questions from the various family members. It has been out for a while now on YouTube and the show’s Facebook page and is a great sketch harking back to Key & Peele’s earlier style. It features cameos by Romany Malcom and the always funny Gary Anthony Williams and does a great job of addressing both the confusion around odd wedding practices and misunderstandings about gay marriage in particular. It was nothing more than a series of questions fired at Keegan-Michael Key playing a gay man answering the familiy’s questions but it was consistently funny and didn’t feel like it was dragging at all. While they got more exaggerated towards the end of the sketch, for the most part the questions were the kind a confused, potentially homophobic, relative would ask and eventually escalates to some really hilarious ones. It’s been a while since the duo has had a skit quite as big as Substitute Teacher, but this could very well be the next big one. A lot of quotable parts that would still work out of context. The shining light in an otherwise boring episode.

Jordan Peele’s Barack Obama impression made another appearance in a a ho-hum sketch. Another sketch that probably wouldn’t have existed in previous years wherein Obama goes down a line of people and either shakes their hand dutifully if the person is white (including a patient baby) or fully embraces them if they’re black. One funny joke where he runs into Key and doesn’t know what do to until he’s confirmed 1/8th black by an assistant but otherwise a bit of a dud.

The show ended on a sketch parodying music video shows and pretty clearly Nicki Minaj and the terribly broad advice she gives. No real jokes set up and payed off – it’s just a straight parody but it worked well enough. The funniest thing about this was seeing the girl who used to play George Lopez’s daughter on The George Lopez show in the sketch. Good to see she can still find work. Proud of you.

Overall, this was a very disappointing season opener for the normally genius comedy duo. It’s a real shame that the show is quickly becoming more about parodies than just straight sketches. I’m not calling the show dead by any stretch, but three successful seasons is more than most Comedy Central shows get nowadays so it’ll be interesting to see if this is the end for Key & Peele or just a hiccup. I’m really hoping for the latter but this first episode was not encouraging.

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