Key & Peele talks a lot about what it means to be a male feminist and the gender roles of men and women; sometimes it’s through the lens of race, but it’s usually pretty universal. This week’s episode, “Hollywood Sequel Doctor,” ends up having an interesting throughline of masculinity and what that necessarily means, and it all begins with an accidental penis grazing in the opening sketch. Really, more conversations about masculinity should start with accidental penis grazing, but the opening sketch is a good start, keeping it short and sweet. In fact, given the fact that the characters in this first sketch—the Rhinos football team—were a part of such the epic season opening sketch, all that’s needed is something short and sweet.
The premise of Key’s character accidentally grazing Peele’s character’s penis is probably something any guy who’s at least been to high school can relate to, right down to the “you play too much” of it all. Even as a woman, I have witnessed such tomfoolery in my lifetime. There’s always someone who can’t take a hint and pushes through a goof or joke, even if it stopped being fun ages ago—then it usually ends with a “you touched my dick.” In the sketch’s brief screentime, it silently depicts the macho gay panic that can come out of these accidents, and the awkwardness of that panic is palpable. It would be so easy for Key’s character to say a quick, non-stuttering “sorry” and have that be the end of that, especially if they weren’t such “manly” football players. Instead, the characters end up walking a few paces—it gets so awkward that they walk “paces”—away with each other. And in doing so without losing eye contact, they only make it even more awkward, even though Key’s character learns a lesson. “Then perhaps indeed I do play to much,” he confesses, before he says to himself that he “never intended to grab the dick.” This isn’t a PSA on playing too much, but it could be. Mostly, it’s just an overblown macho reaction to an accidentally penis graze, which is pretty awkwardly funny.
It’s also kind of a case of truth being stranger than fiction, which is also the basis for the Gremlins 2 sketch (the Hollywood sequel doctor sketch). After Key and Peele dissect the intricacies of the Tremors franchise in a road trip segment, the show is transported to Warner Bros. Studios in early 1989, where no one is asking the important question: Why is Peele’s Magic Jackson Jr. basically a clone of Hollywood from the movie Mannequin? It’s not that it’s a problem, but since that entire look is apparently on the table, it’s disappointing that Key & Peele waited until its final season to reveal it. In fact, all of the ‘80s costumes are pretty great in this sketch—like the Dwayne Wayne glasses—even with Peele taking up so much of the focus. The sketch is absolutely fantastic for Peele, as he comes in like a whirlwind and “doctors” the sequel to Gremlins. The easy joke to make when it comes to the ‘80s movies process is always cocaine, but here, the only cocaine involved is Magic Jackson Jr. himself, human cocaine. He’s the most flamboyant person in the room, especially compared to Key’s very straight man, and that’s not even necessarily why his ideas suck. He just has really bad ideas, and he’s surrounded by idiots.
“You just said noun and gremlin, like you playing Mad Libs. You just like a child. You have the brain of a child. You do not have a high IQ, but you haphazardly came up with a gremlin that’s just made out of bolts and is zig-zagging all over the room and is done completely in animation. You a crazy person, and your idea’s in the movie! Done. Next.”
This sketch is just so fun to watch, especially once Peele gets into gear as Magic Jackson Jr. puts every writers’ (and his own) personal gremlin into the movie. Then, once you get past the enthusiasm of Magic Jackson Jr. and know the purpose of the sketch, every line the character throws out feels like the most sarcastic and insulting (though the child line is already insulting) take down of a crappy sequel possible. The final line from Magic Jackson Jr. then makes it even more disappointing that we’ll probably never see this character again: “Off to go put some cowboys in Back To The Future 3!”
“Hollywood Sequel Doctor” is a pretty good episode overall, but it also peaks very early while the rest of the episode has ups and downs. It’s even loaded up with guest stars in Rob Riggle, Jasika Nicole, Mekhi Phifer, and Tatyana Ali, but it’s a very top heavy episode. Regarding the Rob Riggle sketch, as one might expect with the introduction of Riggle as Key’s boss, it’s a fairly straightforward sketch. You have Riggle as the phony and emasculating boss who constantly yells at Key for no reason—that’s expected. There are moments. But it’s a sketch that feels safe, even when the exchanges between Key’s sales associate and Peele’s janitor have a little mileage in the humor department. When a fired Key comes back for a bagel, only to be shut down by the janitor (and backed up by Riggle), it’s that “classic” Key & Peele twist, complete with the scandalous score to go with it. It hits every beat you’d expect it to hit.
The sketch featuring Jasika Nicole as Key’s girlfriend is one about boyfriendly duties, but really, it’s a sketch that can apply to anyone. Nobody wants to help anyone move or paint, and sometimes you wish you could just cut ties with that person for that particular time-frame. But it’s a sketch that also feels safe, as Nicole’s character is never allowed to really elevate past her base level, even as Key continues to try to blow her off. Still, Key’s attempts to get out of helping her move and eventually paint her apartment are funny, even though the sketch isn’t too high concept.
The snitches sketch after that, with Mekhi Phifer, brings back the focus on characters though (the boyfriend duties sketch really doesn’t feel like characters, instead staying more grounded in reality), with Key and Peele assuming the roles of gangsters (again). For what ever reason, this particular episode has a way of making these men look especially ridiculous, from the opening sketch with Key’s wig to the gangster ensembles the guys wear in this sketch. Of course, the most ridiculous aspect of the sketch is Peele’s role as the obvious snitch alongside Phifer’s roles as the oblivious gangster and Key’s role as a gangster with a functioning brain. Peele is absolutely on fire in this episode, and his character J-Rock’s snitching relationship with the cops gets funnier to watch with each new reward. His “pizza time” song is especially inspired, and the image of him riding off in a mini-Escalade is simply beautiful.
The weakest sketch of the episode is actually the final sketch, the Africa conversation sketch with Tatyana Ali. The idea of trying to compete with a rival for a girl and the fake it ‘til you make it attitude of Peele’s character are good starting off points; but this particular sketch descents into complete nonsense early in the Lion King bit. It comes back up with the “Hakuna Matata” line, but then it continues and becomes even more nonsense. The majority of the humor that comes from the sketch are actually the facial reactions from Key and Peele, not so much the dialogue, and the reactions aren’t even the biggest focus. It’s somewhat of a downer way to end the episode, but then Key and Peele do their own official handshake in the Nooice-mobile and the end tag is a blooper from the bagels sketch, so everyone can leave happy.
- Magic Jackson Jr.: “You talkin’ about a gremlin with glasses who could talk and sing ‘New York, New York’. That’s brilliant. It’s in the movie. Done.”
- Magic Jackson Jr. (re: the well-timed Hulk Hogan reference): “You sir are a raging psychopath. Don’t let this town take that away from you.”
- Having recently rewatched Mannequin in a state of TCA-induced insanity, Hollywood is still fresh in my mind. I’m surprised I didn’t have a bad reaction to seeing Peele in this form.
- At one point in the bagels sketch, Rob Riggle starts talking about tongue twisters (specifically “She sells sea shells…”), and I found myself being intrigued by the idea of a sketch that was just that.
- With Key’s character proposing at the end of the boyfriend sketch, I wondered if he was aware that moving would also be involved in that scenario.