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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Key & Peele: “Episode Seven”

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There isn’t much of an overarching theme or tone in “Episode Seven.” It’s just a really solid half hour of sketch comedy with some surprises, a few standbys, and a couple quick bursts of funny that nicely mix up the rhythm. In fact, the episode’s last sketch involves Jordan Peele coming home from work to find his wife wearing sexy underwear in a candlelit bedroom. Previously, she’d held a gun to his head after he snapped a photo of her sleeping, but now, everything is going to be different. Tonight is all about your fantasies, she purrs. He hesitates a moment before saying, “Well, we could call your friend Erica—” at which point he’s immediately thrown out the window. The episode ends not with a whimper, but with a bang, and definitely one that took the traditional slow build of a Key & Peele sketch and shortened it to just a few seconds.

It’s a really excellent bit.

Yeah, so I guess I’ve sort of run out of accolades to heap onto this show. I’m just thankful it’s around. Comedy Central has such an odd run with sketch comedy. I get the feeling the network lets the comedians do whatever they want, but then gets angry when those comedians don’t deliver the kinds of numbers it can get with Tosh.0, arguably a much lazier thing than a sketch show that requires multiple disparate scenes. The fact that Jordan Peele and Keegan Michael Key are able to crank out consistently funny and weird stuff, while also maintaining a sizable-enough audience to get renewed, is pretty darn impressive.

So let’s talk about the cool things about “Episode Seven.” In one sketch, Key transitions from street urchin to Tea Party frontrunner in a matter of seconds by way of Rob Delaney and a suit he wears like an apron—and it all happens in one take. In another, Key and Peele find themselves in a soul food restaurant, and attempt to one-up each other by ordering the most soul food-ish food imaginable, no matter how disgusting it sounds. “Donkey teeth,” is one thing; “a dog face wrapped in an Ebony magazine” is another. Then, the pay-off: They have to eat the food they order.

I guess I can say that if there’s one thing “Episode Seven” highlights, it’s that playful competition between Key and Peele is a source of endless entertainment. The two include a sketch where Bobby McFerrin goes head-to-head with Michael Winslow in a battle as to who can make the best mouth-noises. (Also, hey, Matt Besser!) When the pair dress like women and top one another in how much they want to buy a puppy and just smash its face, they have to actually follow through, over and over. The stand-up portions of tonight’s episode focus on this competition, and take the form of Peele calling Key out for something, for which he immediately gets very defensive—or vice versa. Previous episodes focused on how well the two can play the same comedic game, and the same applies to the sketch where the two play army recruiters headed to gay bars to recruit new members. It’s nice to see in “Episode Seven” that they can rib each other in the process, too.

Key & Peele is a great show, but I find that as the weeks go on, it fades into the background more and more. It’s not the show that exploded on the scene anymore; it’s just this reliable half-hour of comedy that I forget comes around until it does. I think that’s a good thing, though. It speaks to the show’s ability to fade into my consciousness so effortlessly that I hardly notice. Suddenly, I find myself comparing things I see to Key & Peele sketches every so often, as if the show has been around for years. I suppose Key and Peele have both been doing comedy for so long that Key & Peele isn’t so much an anomaly as an inevitability.