'Key and Peele' - For 'Black Nerds Everywhere,' Two Comedy Heroes Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, longtime friends and comedy-show colleagues, are about to launch a new show on Comedy Central. They say their shared experiences as the biracial kids of single moms have often been a comedy gold mine.
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For 'Black Nerds Everywhere,' Two Comedy Heroes

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For 'Black Nerds Everywhere,' Two Comedy Heroes

For 'Black Nerds Everywhere,' Two Comedy Heroes

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Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are a team, a comedy team. Both of are biracial: half-black, half-white.


KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY: And so we actually think that we're particularly adept at lying, because on a daily basis, we constantly have to adjust our blackness.

JORDAN PEELE: Oh, yeah. Yeah.


PEELE: Like, I mean, to terrify white people.

KEY: Yup, to terrify white people...


KEY: That's one of the main reasons. And then...

PEELE: 'Cause I mean with our voices now, we sound very white. We are not intimidating anybody by the way we talk.

KEY: Oh, yeah.


KEY: We sound whiter than the black dude in the college a capella group. That's how white we sound.


INSKEEP: NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports on their new sketch comedy series, which premiers on Comedy Central next week.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: You can learn about Key and Peele in a sketch they do in which Jordan Peele impersonates President Obama.


PEELE: (as President Obama) I just want to say that I know a lot of people out there seem to think that I don't get angry. That's just not true.

BLAIR: And Keegan-Michael Key plays Luther, Mr. Obama's anger translator.


PEELE: (as President Obama) Luther?

KEY: (as Luther) Hi.

PEELE: (as President Obama) First off, concerning the recent developments in the Middle Eastern region, I just want to reiterate our unflinching support for all people and their right to a democratic process.

KEY: (as Luther) Hey, all y'all dictators out there, keep messing around and see what happens. Just see what happens. Watch.

BLAIR: Keegan-Michael Key paces back and forth, flails his arms. Sometimes he puts his face right into the camera like he's about to punch it. As President Obama, Jordan Peele is unflappable.


PEELE: (as President Obama) I just want to say to my critics, I hear your voices and I'm aware of your concerns.

KEY: (as Luther) So maybe you could chill the (bleep) out for like a second, then maybe I can focus on some (bleep), you know.

BLAIR: Key and Peele say the idea came from a few different sources. First, they're fans of early "Saturday Night Live," and one of their favorite sketches was the fake TV news.

PEELE: If you remember Garrett Morris, and they say and now for the Association of the Deaf, Garrett Morris will be doing the announcements. And then Garrett Morris would scream at the top of his lungs.


CHEVY CHASE: Our top story tonight...

GARRETT MORRIS: Our top story tonight...


PEELE: And so, that was something we had talked about that we thought wouldn't it be nice, you know, if we could find a way to finagle Obama's nature and use that as a nugget? You know what I mean? How would we get someone to interpret what we know he really wants to say?

BLAIR: They were even more inspired to write the sketch when a congressman shouted: You lie, during one of President Obama's speeches.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegal.



BLAIR: Key and Peele say it bothered them that Mr. Obama barely reacted.

PEELE: For him to have that much composure...

KEY: Right.

PEELE: ...it's like you don't have no - not after that.

KEY: It was really a burr in Jordan's saddle.


KEY: He's like come on, brother. If there's ever a time to get down to business, do it. How are you going to just put up a finger up and keep talking regular?

PEELE: Right.

KEY: Come on, man.

PEELE: But, you know, that's kind of course what we love about him too. It's that he's so, you know, he's so even-measured. He's so together. He's almost Spock-like...

KEY: Yeah.


PEELE: ...in his logic and wisdom, you know.


BLAIR: And that Spock-like nature is something else about the president Key and Peele admire. Peele thinks Mr. Obama was the best thing to happen to black nerds everywhere.

PEELE: Up until Obama, it was basically Urkel and the black guy from "Revenge of the Nerds," Lamar, we had no role models. So he made us cool.

BLAIR: And they say he made it easier to be biracial. Jordan Peele grew up in New York. He was raised by a single white mother. Keegan-Michael Key was raised in Detroit. His mom is also white.

KEY: You go to school as a kid and when your mom comes, and the kids go: That's not your mom...

PEELE: That's ain't your mama. Why you lying?

KEY: ...which, as a kid is like that is a deep insult. You know, that's our lifeline is our mom when we're little. So somehow I think that's that expectation at a very young age that we were supposed to live up to something because of what we looked like, I mean I think that probably invaded our souls, and gave us the need to do this kind of comedy on some level.

PEELE: Yeah. Yeah, I'd say that...

BLAIR: Did anyone make fun of you growing up because you didn't talk black enough?

KEY: Every single day of grade school.

PEELE: I still make fun of him.

BLAIR: In one of their sketches, Key and Peele change the way they speak depending on who's listening. It begins with Key by himself on a city sidewalk talking on his cell-phone.


KEY: Because you're my wife and you love the theater and it's your birthday.

BLAIR: A stranger walks up, played by Jordan Peele, who can hear what he's saying. So Key changes his voice to sound more black.


KEY: ...already filled up, but they do you have seats that are still left in the dress circle. So if you want me to get them theater tickets right now, well do it right now.

PEELE: What's up, dog? We're about five minutes away.

KEY: Yeah.

BLAIR: As they part, you realize that the second guy had been changing his voice too.

PEELE: Oh my, God. Christian, I almost totally just got mugged right now.

MAKEISHA MADDEN-TOBY: I love the posturing of it. I just - I love that it taps into like stuff that no one is talking about.

BLAIR: Mekeisha Madden-Toby is a TV critic for The Detroit News.

MADDEN-TOBY: How do people perceive you versus who you really are, how you let people perceive you - I mean all of those things, I think they just brilliantly tap into those things.

BLAIR: Madden-Toby says "Key & Peele" will fill the void that was left on Comedy Central when comedian Dave Chappelle quit his show in 2005.

MADDEN-TOBY: Comedy Central needed that voice ever since they losing Chappelle. And I think that they are pretty close to it.

BLAIR: Key and Peele are huge Chappelle fans. But, for now, they're not sure their new show will reach as many African-Americans as Chappelle's did. A tough crowd, they say.

KEY: It really concerns us to be terribly frank. Yeah.


PEELE: That's just one of those things, I guess.

KEY: It concerns us that African-Americans enjoy this show.

BLAIR: Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, their new show debuts next week on Comedy Central. Sketches include parodies of a reality cooking show, being related to Thomas Jefferson, and the little lies husbands tell each other about their wives.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

INSKEEP: From NPR News, it's MORNING EDITION. You can follow us on Twitter, by the way. We're @morningedition and @nprinskeep, that's I-N-S-K-E-E-P.


INSKEEP: Renee is back with us on Monday. I'm Steve Inskeep.

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