Key & Peele: "Season Three, Episode Five"
B+

Key & Peele: "Season Three, Episode Five"

These sketches were written well before any of my reviews, but after the season premiere, I lodged a mild complaint with Luther that the Obama sketch was so fluffy after the cold, hard steel of the opening Trayvon sketch. Well, “Season Three, Episode Five” is Luther’s enraged response, a one-two punch addressing just those topics. First comes Obama’s booty call, and then the framers consider the hypothetical implications of the Second Amendment, both hysterical. And there’s a whole other half of the episode after that, including the auspicious return of Metta World News!

The premise of the Obama sketch has been a long time coming, but holy Nice Guys Of OKCupid was it funny. Barack needs Luther to put his horniness into words. Even in something touted as the president’s big, hilarious takedown of the Tea Party the other day, that guy just can’t spit something out. Here he’s all, “I was hoping that we could, uh, I wanna make this clear, er, I want to be straightforward, eh...” This goes on for another two days, but eventually Luther comes out: “WHEN IS THE LAST TIME THAT WE HAD SEX, WOMAN? REELECTION NIGHT?!” Not to put too fine a point on it, because there’s a lot going on in this sketch, especially for something that seems like simple escalation, but the Nice Guy framing gets at something real and frustrating about the president to some supporters.

But anyway, Michelle’s all, “Let me stop you right there,” and calls in her translator Katendra. “MY PUSSY AIN’T ONE OF YOUR LIMOUSINES THAT YOU CAN JUMP IN AND OUT OF WHENEVER YOU FEEL LIKE!” The immediate bleep is everything, upping the ante in the funniest way possible. Then comes a bunch of strange executive metaphors involving heat-seeking missiles in caves, and then, like, three equally satisfying endings, because this thing is on fire: Barack and Michelle kiss chastely, and Luther and Katendra go at it; Barack dismisses the translators with a polite “We’ll take it from here,” and then Malia interrupts with her own translator: “If you don’t let me go to this party, I will get a tattoo on my face!” Lately, Key & Peele has been leaning on sketches that go to absurd lengths for one basic joke, repeated or exaggerated though it may be. “Obama’s Booty Call” is so complex, it’s legendary.

Then comes something with a little more teeth, a Bill Of Rights Terminator. The framers are going over the Second Amendment, when Peele steps out of the shadows with a knowing smile. “What if someone made a gun that could shoot, say, 50 people in 30 seconds?” Everyone laughs, and Key gets this hilarious low-angle bully shot after some wannabe Lincoln snark: “Congressman Peele, we have many points of order today, one of which is not judging your sense of humor, prodigious though it may be.” Cue obnoxious laughing from Key framed by two old white men in wigs. Turns out Peele has come back in time to prevent the passage of the Second Amendment because of all the bloodshed. He brandishes two automatic weapons and unleashes hell, which only excites the survivors, who draw Peele’s muskets so they can manufacture them back then. The punchline: Peele’s guns disappear after he changes the timeline successfully, but then reappear even larger after the witness changes it further.

As usual, the visuals are expert, grand (widescreen) but purposeful (tight focus). There are low-angle portraits, Key’s alienating laughter and Peele’s action-flick badassery, and individual cutaways for the casings and particular reactions. It’s another elaborate sketch in service of a single basic joke, but the sketch gets at intention vs. interpretation and an even more pressing issue: the consensus that murder is bad but guns are awesome. That’s not snark. Even Peele decides he wants to save lives from gun violence by ending others with gun violence, and that shot of him firing is Hollywood for “awesome.” The more you tug at this thing thematically, the more it reflects The Gun Debate in this perfect combination of acting, writing, and directing and everything else. Radical.

Which is why it’s all the more disheartening to see more of the same gender essentialism comedy that everyone has been peddling since television began and probably before. Peele tells his girlfriend, “You look nice.” And Peele says pissily, “What does that mean?” Key & Peele seems to think the joke is that it’s ridiculous how incomprehensible a woman’s emotional state is. More like a man nursing his entitlement because he’s one of the good ones. Then consider this: “Except for soldiers, athletes are like the toughest dudes we have, right? They’re like big, tough, masculine dudes.” It’s easy to misspeak, but this thing is edited, so what’s left is these old establishment values from people so routinely lobbing grenades in that direction. It’s not that I happen to disagree with Key & Peele so much as it comes off pretty incongruous next to such cinematically sophisticated material. The Obama sketch lets loose on the Nice Guy thing. “Guys, do you ever wake up in trouble?” embraces it whole-heartedly. Don’t they get it?

Stray observations:

  • The best translation comes when Michelle caresses Barack’s cheek, cooing, “You,” and giggling. Katendra slaps Luther across the face and then flashes him a weapons-grade expression of repulsion.
  • There were other sketches, too, but Peele in the coat room is another A+. The camera pans close along a pile of naked bodies undulating, and a flustered, dorky, high-pitched, lispy Peele babbles, “Carol, I don’t know if you’re in there somewhere, thanks for the invitation, I really enjoyed myself, I’ll see you at work tomorrow.”
  • Peele’s performance in the soccer sketch is heaven-worthy, convulsing, winking at St. Peter, and jumping back down to Earth, winning the game. As the commentator says, “So many rules clearly broken leading up to that goal but they’ve allowed it. Power Falcons win this match!” (Don’t worry, the other team was the Rhinos.)
  • Key doesn’t really get spoilers: “This is not integral to the story: Bruce Willis is a ghost.”

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