Leave it to Key & Peele to debut the sequel to the ridiculously entertaining “East/West College Bowl” online to promote the season, all the while sitting on the dynamite of the East/West Super Bowl Shuffle. Now, I’m not totally sure why last season’s East Team went back to 1985 for their video, or why last season’s West Team gets to respond 28 years later, but the use of comedy names that we’re already familiar with keeps the scene flowing. We can pay attention to the joke of L’Carpetron Dookmarriot’s character without getting stuck on the funny name. (For the record, a slow, smiley player solos: “L’Carpetron Dookmarriot / I love the ball so much I wanna marry it.”)
Peter Atencio and company immediately transport the audience into a 1985 locker room with the look, and the players’ on-camera awkwardness is even better than the stage bit (“We got to do it—” “No.” “—and gravitate toward it”) lets on. Smoochie Wallace, for instance, is uncomfortably self-conscious throughout his solo, and the lip-sync is off for several players. But back to the visuals, with that bleary definition, it may have been shot on camcorder for all I can tell, although that delirious moment of multiple Keys and Peeles dancing in the foreground with a giant Key and Peele in the back suggests some serious post-production. Jordan Peele’s stare slowly curling into a smile is going to keep me up tonight. Then the West Team goes overproduced with a widescreen video and Super 8’s lens flare guy to balance the simple main joke: BYU’s buttoned-up white-boy Dan Smith goes “Natalie Portman Gangsta Rap.” In both videos, the look immeasurably enhances the comedy. That star wipe needs an Emmy.
While we’re on the subject, the Zero Dark Thirty terrierist scene looks like a paint-by-numbers recreation—so much so that I may have winced a little during the play torture—but the other real standout, style-wise, is the mafia surprise party. From the first glimpse inside the house, you see what’s coming, and the whole “Pagliacci” sequence is gold. I love the idea that nobody hears the spray of bullets until they peek up from behind the table of presents or walk in from the next room with the cake. And Key’s mobster is just standing there the whole time. Not to undersell Key and Peele’s delightful accents and the skittish set-up, but the editing of the punchline—well, punchscene—lands the sketch.
But the sketch that had me cracking up the most isn’t very elaborate at all. Jacqueline and Denise (pronounced, “Jay-kwellin and Dee-Nice”) are arguing outside a club about Denise insinuating herself in everyone’s business, and suddenly Key’s Denise crosses the line by calling Jacqueline a bitch. Immediately they start preparing to fight, slowly dismantling their going-out get-ups, giving their boyfriends their purses, their necklaces, their fancy nails. Naturally, things escalate to bras and spanks, the best parts being the sight of Jacqueline dropping half a foot when she takes her heels off and the sight of Denise taking out her contacts so they don’t get messed up in the ensuing brawl. It’s on-point, too: Jacqueline’s giving Denise an infinity of do-overs so as to avoid actually having to live up to her decision to fight (“Uh-uh!”), and Denise, way drunker, is giving Jacqueline an infinity of chances to prove that she’s actually willing to fight (“Uh-huh!”). It could be high school jocks. It could be presidents of countries. At least, until the ending, when Jacqueline gets in the first and only blow by unzipping her body to reveal two little girls, each of whom slaps Denise and runs off. To which she just stands there flabbergasted, asking the crowd, “Y’all saw that?” I don’t even know. Did we?
The others aren’t filler, but they’re more in that direction than the rest, with recurring characters and familiar jokes, solid though they may be. The Liam Neesons valets are back to wonder why anyone would step to Batmans, and it’s a thing of beauty. Half the joke is the physicality, jumping around, exercising on each other, using the revolving door, so baffled are these two as to why Michelle Puhfeiffers would think she’s actually a cat and could take on Batmans. The usual obstacle of how to end a sketch is a lot iffier this week (hence a lot more not-just-absurdist-but-supernatural breaks in reality), but the turn that the one person who they could understand challenging Batmans is, naturally, Liam Neesons is just right. Then there’s the man who has a Ratatouille—at least, I think we’ve seen him before, but maybe he just looks familia—which is to say a rat that can make a sandwich covered in rat poop. Peele nails it just by shrugging, which is also kind of a metaphor for this: crazy how much comedy Key & Peele can wring out of basic pop-culture misnomers and mispronunciations. Finally there’s the Metta World News, a freakshow op-ed that literally culminates in gibberish before Metta World Peace lays down to sleep on his anchor desk over the credits. Other recurring characters may come and go, but I hope I never get tired of this bit. The episode may not be quite as uproarious as the premiere, but the imagination is still going strong.