One of the more memorable sketches from this week’s Key and Peele subverts the tropes of big-budget sports movies—but not before evoking many of their clichés, including triumphant music and a rainy game day backdrop. After taking a nasty fall, a Rhinos football player (Key) attempts to keep up with the game. His would-be uplifting pep talk is interrupted several times by his own cognitive impairment, and his reluctance to admit he has no idea what the hell is going on is the crux of the sketch’s humor. It’s an unexpected twist on a familiar scene, and one that throws contemporary dialogue on concussions into the mix to create a very funny result.
Undeniably, Key and Peele understand the comedic value of juxtaposition, and their use of oddball characters in familiar scenarios is a proven formula for brilliant sketch comedy. The Rhinos sketch is one of the more subdued examples from this episode. A later vignette shows four friends hanging out in a typical living room. All seems relatively normal, until one character (Peele) swings his body and opens his mouth in response to anything funny, rather than vocally laughing. This, we learn later, is all in an attempt to hide the horrific sound of his lethally high-pitched laugh. As he grabs a knapsack and heads out the door while his terrified friends look on, we get the sense that this has happened before—and what was, mere minutes ago, a man strangely dancing in his friend’s living room has become the inciting incident for this intensely weird character’s story.
While Key and Peele has demonstrated a grasp on conflict, it’s also proven a knack for creating memorable punchlines. The opening stinger is a great example of their go-to formula for shorter one-two sketches. In it, we see a masseuse (Peele) giving his new client (Key) an explanation of common “embarrassments” associated with getting a massage, including passing gas, erections, and spontaneous crying. It’s only after the set-up, however, that we realize that the masseuse is referring to his own behavior. Although perfect for the show’s shorter openers, this structure doesn’t quite pan out in one of the episode’s final sketches, which shows the rivalry between Macedonian and Albanian deli owners. Although it has all the visual trappings of a solid sketch, its long duration wears the joke extremely thin.
All in all, however, this is another great half hour from Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key, and offers outrageously committed performances, solid jokes and highly commendable costume and make up work, not to mention a much-anticipated guest star. A hospital spot featuring Rashida Jones as a terminally ill wife who requests her surviving husband’s near-celibacy will likely be one of the most talked about sketches of the episode (Peele’s performance in this sketch is particularly wonderful, too). Admittedly, this isn’t the crowning point of the season thus far, but as we enter the second quarter of the duo’s latest season, Key and Peele are showing no signs of letting up.