How did Jordan Peele meet his longtime comedy collaborator Keegan-Michael Key?

Key and Peele is one of the best comedies of its time. The show satirized American racial tensions while making way for hilarious skits. Neither Jordan Peele nor Keegan-Michael Key were a household name before the show hit the airwaves. But like most overnight success stories, their journey spanned decades. The two rose through the industry ranks before persuading Comedy Central to give the green light Key and Peele.

Keegan-Michael Key (left) and Jordan Peele at the Primetime Emmy Awards in 2016 | Dan MacMedan/WireImage

In a 2015 New Yorker profile on the two creators, Jordan Peele details his purposeful rise in the world of comedy. Growing up with a single mother on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, he became interested in performing sketches during a workshop at the Metropolitan Opera when he was in fifth grade. He was initially given the position of assistant stage manager, but after one of the actors fell ill, Peele took the stage for a few performances. As a child, he was a shy fan of genre films and fantasy books, but the experience showed him how much he enjoyed working in front of an audience.

He enrolled at Sarah Lawrence College to study puppeteering before joining an improv troupe with his roommate and future Key and Peele writer Rebecca Drysdale. They ironically called their act Two White Guys even though they were a mixed-race man and a Jewish woman. The success of their troupe led Peele to join Boom Chicago, an Amsterdam-based improv troupe, where he made a name for himself playing Ute, a giddy Danish supermodel.

How did ‘Key & Peele’ come about?

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Key and Peele first met in 2003 when they performed at Chicago’s Second City Theater on consecutive nights. They quickly became friends after that and worked together on mad tv one year later. They were initially thrown against each other, but their chemistry was so apparent that they combined their talents, riffing on some of the same ideas which they later explored in Key and Peele. But after a few years on the show, they grew frustrated with layers of interference from producers and the overall scale of Crazy TV.

Peele attempted to join Saturday Night Live in 2008 but was not allowed due to his contract with Crazy TV. He terminated his contract in 2009, and after a pilot failed to gain traction at Fox, he and Key began planning their own sketch show.

Figuring out the finer details of the show with Comedy Central took time. Early in production, Comedy Central envisioned the show as Key vs. Peele, but the duo’s partnership was such that they couldn’t find enough topics they disagreed on enough to play on the concept. The studio’s first choice to direct the series dropped out, so Key and Peele suggested Peter Atencio, whom Key had known from a series they made together for MySpace.

The cast have worked together since ‘Key & Peele’ ended

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After five seasons and 53 episodes, Key and Peele ended in 2015. In the New Yorker article, Peele describes their connection as “a complete understanding between brothers”, so it makes sense that they collaborated on another project shortly after their show ended. .

In 2016 they did Keanu, which marked the first lead role in a film for both actors and Peele’s first film writing credit. (He co-wrote the film with Alex Rubens.) Much of Keanu feels like a Key and Peele sketch extended to feature length. It follows Rell (Peele) and Clarence (Key) as they search for the former’s pet cat named after the star of The matrix, and their quest leads them into increasingly absurd action movie diversions.

It’s the last live-action project the two collaborated on, but they brought their buddy number to two animated films. The first was storks, also in 2016, where Key played Alpha Wolf and Peele played his sidekick, Beta Wolf.

Both have a similar dynamic in toy story 4. Their performances as Bunny and Ducky are essentially G-rated versions of the valet characters from Key and Peelethis time in a carnival where they hope to be won over and taken home.

The actors’ paths have since diverged. Key continues to act in television series and films, while Peele has mainly become an exciting filmmaker and producer.

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