Key and Peele: 10 sketches to see before Get Out
Nathanael Smith | On 16, Mar 2017
Get Out has stormed through the box office in the US and hits UK cinemas this weekend. The horror-thriller, about an African American man meeting his white girlfriend’s family for the first time, is seriously unnerving audiences in both countries. Yet its director is Jordan Peele, a man most famous for the sketch comedy series Key and Peele. Together with his friend, Keegan-Michael Key, Peele regularly wrote and starred in some of the finest sketch comedy of the last few years.
He may seem like an odd choice to direct a hit horror film, yet a closer look at some of his best sketches reveals his extensive qualifications for making the film that’s captured America’s imagination:
1. White Zombies
Get Out’s plot is an almost Stepford-Wives-esque tale of something sinister hiding beneath the surface of ‘genteel’ white suburbia. Even in affluent, liberal white America, racism still courses through it like a poison. The simple joke behind Key and Peele’s White Zombie sketch riffs on the same idea, with a great punchline. This mixture of horror, laughs and commentary on race feels the closest to Get Out, tonally, of any of their sketches. It also displays the duo’s unfailing eye for a cinematic trope to subvert.
2. Auction Block
Jordan Peele recently compared horror and comedy on his American press tour for Get Out. Making people laugh, he argued, was a similar discipline to striking fear in them; he wants a visceral, audible reaction from his audience in both genres. Here, in one of Key and Peele’s most outrageous sketches, you can see his point. The sketch follows two slaves getting insecure about their worth, as no white men bid on them. It makes you laugh, but it’s an uncomfortable, gasping laugh as you try to work out if you’re allowed to find it funny – it plays with the audience’s reactions, and elicits audible responses from anyone watching in the same way that great horror does.
There aren’t many laughs in Key and Peele’s sketch about the Make-A-Wish foundation, which veers swiftly into distressingly dark territory. Here, Peele plays a weirdo kid trying to get his wish fulfilled. It uses the language of horror cinema, combined with Peele’s committed performance, to make Damien from The Omen seem like the perfect child. If you were worried that a comedian would be unable to freak you out, this will put your fears to rest. Sort of.
4. Movie Hecklers
“Ain’t this guy ever heard of mise-en-scene? Put some information up in the frame, bitch!” Worth watching for that line alone, this short skit simply observes two cine-literate hecklers yelling at a lame horror movie. It’s funny, especially for film fans, while that line should serve as a lesson to every blockbuster filmmaker out there. “It’s a visual medium, yo.”
5. A Cappella
This is a daft, perfectly executed skit that looks at being black in white-majority communities (in this case, an a cappella group and an improv troupe). The subtle, coded language that highlights racial difference transcends the silliness of the premise, showing just how perceptive Key and Peele are. The surreal punchline, the smarmy white kids and the shifts in colour palettes make this a multifaceted delight of a sketch while, once more, making you feel slightly uncomfortable, as you laugh about race.
If you thought that it wasn’t possible to make a peppy musical about race relations in America, a. you haven’t seen Hairspray and b. you’re wrong. This bright and breezy number imagines a world where there are no white people, using hilarious lyrics like “no stupid-ass white folks touching your hair or stealing your culture and claiming it’s theirs” to casually highlight the many ways that African Americans are oppressed and sidelined in the US. It’s one of the duo’s most brazen, comic commentaries on race in America, paving the way for the satirical edge of Get Out’s topical horrors.
7. Dad’s Hollywood Secret
A room full of mourners gather for the eulogy at a funeral. The speaker reveals that his father used to be an actor in Hollywood and that he’s found an old showreel of his dad’s work for them to watch. The resulting footage, replete with some of the worst stereotypes of 20s Hollywood, leaves the crowd reeling. It’s a hilarious, awkward skit that effortlessly highlights how poorly black Americans have been represented in cinema.
8. Text Message Confusion
Sometimes Key and Peele go high concept with their sketches, but often it’s their simplest ideas that were most effective. This wonderfully straightforward tale of miscommunication works, thanks to some simple storytelling techniques – snappy pacing and editing does 90 per cent of the work in making this funny. The sense of escalation is crucial to its appeal and the sharpness of its structure and writing bodes well for Peele’s creative instincts on a larger scale. Also, there’s a neat callback to their LMFAO sketch at the end.
9. Aerobics Meltdown
Here, a simple lampooning of 80s aerobics videos swiftly turns into something sinister, as one of the dancers finds out about a family tragedy while still dancing. It’s quintessential Key and Peele, where an inherently absurd situation is delivered with utter conviction by the performers. The premise of Get Out requires that kind of commitment, where something as innocuous as suburbia hides deep, sinister secrets.
10. Prepared for Terries
Prepared for Terries has very little to do with Get Out. It is utterly nonsensical, probably meaningless and, upon first viewing, more baffling than funny. But let it get under your skin, watch it repeatedly, and suddenly it becomes a work of perfectly pitched surrealism, an endlessly quotable slice of bizarre complete with the best wig-work that ever graced the show. Sure, it won’t prepare you for Jordan Peele’s new film, but you might have just found your new favourite sketch.