What is there left to stay about Key & Peele? It’s been hailed as one of the funniest, most intelligent, and best directed sketch series on TV, particularly when it deals with race and politics. The show returns tomorrow night, and the new episodes — a continuation of the fourth season after a long break — are more of the same, the show playing to its strengths without losing its edge.
Reviewing a sketch comedy series before it airs is a tricky balance, because it’s hard to dance around what makes it so great and funny without just blowing all the punchlines or describing the small tidbits that build and build. With Key & Peele, however, you mostly know what you’re getting yourself into: some light skewering of politics, a few clever sketches about the intricacies of black culture (especially within a white world), some silly sketches with the sole agenda of making viewers laugh, a ton of increasingly funny names, and a handful of seriously impressive wigs. Based on the first three new episodes, Key and Peele are enjoying their titles as Comedy Central’s sketch comedy kings and are eager to relax and continue on.
What is interesting about these returning episodes so far is that they seem to go a little more equal opportunity with their humor, and also insert a bit more feminism than what we’re used to. After a few successful sketches featuring President Obama’s anger translator Luther — who even made a guest appearance at the White House Correspondents Dinner this year — tomorrow’s premiere episode introduces the previously-announced anger translator for Hillary Clinton (Kate Burton). Clinton’s translator, played by Mad TV‘s Stephnie Weir, is both a necessary and smart addition to Key & Peele‘s roster of characters: the addition keeps the show timely as the election cycle continues to heat up, and it also has fun with the contrast of the overly-polite, repressed conversations between Obama and Clinton vs the anger translator’s opposite approach. The interaction between the two remarks on the particular ways in which women are especially raised to be docile and accommodating, particularly when talking to men — it becomes a sigh of relief to see Clinton’s translator rightfully angry and combative.
Also in these episodes are sketches featuring drunken, pirates singing shanties about respecting women (there’s also an in-between discussion with Key and Peele as they wonder whether or not they are sexist). One of the stand-out sketches — and I suppose this is a spoiler — features a Ted Talk-like event in which two male speakers put a room full of men through “Menstruation Orientation”, which informs men how to be sensitive (“[Women] ain’t cranky, they got blood coming out of their vaginas!”) but also thoroughly explains everything from cycles syncing up to tampon insertion. It’s a low-key brilliant way to educate men and dispel notions that menstruation is too “gross” of a subject to ever discuss, let alone in mixed company.
As for the rest of the three episodes, there are hits and misses (though, as always, far more hits). In particular, I’m still not totally on board with the newish driving around runner that replaced the stand-up/audience bits. There is the expected sketch about police brutality and cops’ trigger-fingers when it comes to black people; it isn’t as biting as I expected it might be, but it gets the job done. The absurd sketches that pop up here and there aren’t gone; I’m eager to discuss the build-up in a segment revolving around turbulence, as well as one about tip-toeing around spoilers. Even with a long hiatus, the series returns without missing a beat. It’s the same old Key & Peele formula but it doesn’t disappoint.