Goofy suits Key & Peele. I laughed more at this episode than I have in a few weeks, and it was all so goofy. The premises involve an embarrassing laugh, a presumed affair with a dog, and an excitable masseur. The talk is about nimrods, a story about slipping on a banana peel, looking for a human’s missing rhino horns. The names are Exquisite T and Mr. McFluffytail. A twentysomething who has embarrassed himself in front of his friends has a convenient hobo bindle that lets him wander the earth from friend group to friend group. There’s Peele’s silent laugh-dance that “looked like a worm on crack,” Key wrestling with a stuffed dog followed by the actual dog sauntering across the room unscathed, and Peele’s vaudeville stalling at his wife’s deathbed. The most serious this episode gets is when the melting pot bubbles over in a small-town Albanian-Macedonian restaurant rivalry. Like I said, this is a thoroughly silly episode.
The funniest moment: I probably laughed hardest when the dog pounces on Key, complete with the perfect sound effects. Everything else about the sketch fits together without that moment. Key’s wife and Peele are having an affair. Key thinks she’s sleeping with a dog, because he found a dog toy in the laundry room. That’s because Peele brings his dog over and has to keep him occupied during their trysts. There is no reason for that tiny dog to Yoda-attack Key, but it’s such a funny surprise when he does.
The funniest sketch: Overall, though, while I love Peele stalling at his wife’s deathbed—“Chickadee-check…yo comprende…your request has been filed”—the funniest sketch is the Macedonian restaurant where they cook kebapi, not like those sons-of-fuckers at the Albanian restaurant across the street who serve ćevapi. The “kebapi” pronunciation montage, with its inappropriate touching and peekaboo gestures, is a delight, as is Key and Peele switching places for the Albanian restaurant. It’s like a funny version of Star Trek’s “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” the one with the race who are black on one side of their body and white on the other hating the race who are the exact same but opposite. Yes, the English-as-a-second-language jokes are easy, but the phrasing has clearly been fine-tuned for maximum comedy: “My friends, I like to apologize for the behavior of my passion. I just feel bad in my brain for people to think that your mouths will have been raped by the food that they serving at these Albanian mother-bitches.” And dude nailed his future perfect tense, so who are we to complain about his vocabulary?
The weakest sketch: The football concussion sketch, partly because it’s hard to hear the jokes through all that production and partly because the jokes aren’t all that funny to begin with. The parody elements are spot-on, though, and get a load of that ending. The concussed Rhinos quarterback wanders off looking for his rhino horn, and one frustrated player wheels around in an almost silhouetted profile and just says, “Fuck.”
The weakest ending: However, the weakest ending is the deathbed one. After such a great sketch where Peele’s Todd promises his wife that he’ll do anything she asks (except give up pornography and fantasization and sex), it ends with dying Rashida Jones begging for one more comforting eternal vow from her husband. “Will you at least promise to see my mom every day?” To which Peele’s Todd replies, “So, zero pornography? Done.” All of a sudden it’s like an ‘80s sitcom or contemporary Saturday Night Live.
Key & Peele has an old-fashioned streak that sometimes veers into hack territory. The main example: sketches where men behave like this, and women behave like this. Other times, that comes up as a man who would rather give up pornography than visit his grieving mother-in-law daily. That’s a lot to ask, but so, apparently, is giving up pornography.
Why couldn’t it have just ended where it was? Peele finally wears her down. “Fine, forget it.” “Yes!” He’s cheering about getting one up on his dying wife, puncturing the solemnity of the scene, finally laying bare the petty zero-sum game they’re playing while she’s dying. Maybe it’s not big enough, but at least it’s not hacky.
The runner: Here’s a picture of Key smiling. Look at those eyes. Performance or not, this is what I mean when I talk about those moments of real life coming through.
Fly-Bys: Another cold open that makes me wish Key & Peele could pack more quickies into an episode. Here it’s Peele’s masseur warning Key’s client that sometimes things happen during a massage. Like crying, the release of gas, and sometimes erections. With that acknowledgment, the massage is underway, and immediately Peele collapses on his client in tears, farts, and gets an erection. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that.
- Finally Peele promises his wife that he’ll never have sex with anyone else, real or imaginary, but her. “Okay, I promise,” he says while making air quotes.
- Another hilarious surprise: when Peele’s twentysomething finally laughs, it’s a literally ear-piercing screech.
- “Fuhgeddabooouuut…” “I need to hear you say it.” “…It.”