A few years back, when I was home from college on winter vacation, I ended up having the flu. My makeshift bedroom at the time was the living room, so I had a pile of blankets on the floor to surround me during this illness. One day, my mother decided to work from home (and take care of me), which meant she also ended up having power over the remote control. Said control led to a combination of a Real Housewives Of Atlanta marathon and those small claims/“celebrity” judge court shows for as long as I could keep myself awake. The way I remember it, those shows all sort of blurred together like some sort of televisual dystopia. For me, the only thing that has come close to touching that experience is the opening sketch of this week’s Key & Peele, “Judge Jessie.” And it does so while also being absolutely true to what daytime small claims court shows are like.
From the sketch’s look to its characters (with Key as Judge Jessie and Peele as a defendant), Judge Jessie is instantly the kind of daytime court show with a tough-but-fair, know-it-all judge you’ve no doubt seen numerous commercials for on a local network affiliate. It’s a simple sketch about an easily mockable genre of television—please remember the height of Judge Judy and all of the “comedy” to come from that—and it manages to amplify what are the already the most ridiculous aspects of that type of programming. It’s comparable to the “child beard” sketch from episode three of this season. Judge Jessie’s combination of talents as police officer/trial lawyer/black belt/carpenter/surgeon/crack ho/announcer make him the perfect, infallible judge; and much like the rest of those real TV judges, the sketch leads to the lingering question of why Jessie’s slumming it in this type of court when he could really be helping a lot more elsewhere. In this instance, however, his being a “crack ho” pretty much answers that question.
As for a particular court case within the sketch, let’s just have a moment of silence for those two small chihuahuas.
The episode’s titular job interview is another slice-of-life sketch, one that perfectly captures the awkwardness of witnessing the tail-end of a job interview before yours. It’s a universal concept, as it’s already bad enough to hear your potential boss like your competition, but for them to have a rapport in such a short time? That’s basically the death knell. This sketch captures that feeling perfectly. Adam Pally as Peele’s competition gets to have fun with Key, to the point where it sometimes feels like he’s really interviewing for a job in this scenario (a spin-off called Key & Pally, perhaps). He’s just so jovial, in less and less believable ways, which is something only Peele’s character can see.
These first two sketches are all about Key going over the top as Peele reacts, and while “Judge Jessie” has dead-eyed Peele, this sketch is all about incredulous Peele, who even has a useless sounding board to make him feel worse about these shenanigans. This sketch especially gets it just right with all the terrible jokes (and uproarious laughter that doesn’t quite match). Plus, the squeal Key makes as a response to Adam’s “solar-powered” “joke” is something that needs to be frozen in time.
The “okay” sketch actually feels like it was taken from a real conversation, frozen in time, and inserted into this episode of Key & Peele. The bravado of Key’s character as she goes on and on about how she’s going to lay down the law with her possibly cheating boyfriend (who gradually turns out to be her serial-cheating boyfriend) combined with the ever-changing inflection of Peele’s character’s “okay” just works. It’s a sketch that works now in 2015, and it’s a sketch that could have worked in 1995. Again, it’s such a simple premise, and it’s one that Key & Peele is just now getting to. It’s almost the spiritual successor to Key & Peele’s “I Said Bitch” sketch. Then, the reveal that Key’s boyfriend is a slow motion dreamboat is a nice button to the sketch, and one that earns that final “okay.”
In this week’s returning, recurring sketch, we have the excitable valets and their unrelenting love of Robert Downey Jr. (Roberts Downeys Jrs./RD-Squared) and Val Kilmer (Valley Kilmers). The valets sketch is one of those Key & Peele sketches that gained a lot of traction early on and became hits, hitting a bit of a wall because of that; they exhausted “Liam Neesons,” and even with minor variations on the individual sketches themselves, the ending never really changed (which was something that had to be accepted). However, in this instance, the sketch is one of those things where the predictability is comforting. Call it a matter of being all about the journey, if you must, or call it a result of the series ending. Regardless, Key and Peele’s physical comedy in these bits deserve just as much appreciation as their mangling of names and titles, and that will never get old—just look at moments like their galloping in honor of Tombstone, right after they cartwheel out of frame. Key and Peele’s enthusiasm is infectious, and that alone gets Key & Peele very, very far.
In my review for last week’s “Killer Concept Album,” I mentioned the hardened action hero sketch, a sketch from my screener that had been swapped for another. Allow me to insert what I said then, here:
These relaxed conversations bring up some really ridiculous, real-life topics, but at the same time, they can bring up some pretty good points. As Jordan talks about how his love handles are the reason he can’t be an action star, it’s important to note Key & Peele has given its stars ways to become action stars and whatever else they want to be with its amazingly produced sketches. Watching Jordan in the sketch that follows—as the retired war hero who gets back into the game—isn’t funny because it’s ridiculous to think of Jordan as an action star. It’s funny because Peele’s character is not quite sure which way to go when the General (Key) and Agent Jackson (Tricia Helfer) are doing the walk and talk. It’s funny because he simply doesn’t understand “standard” technology.
Peele: “What’s the matter, General? Everybody’s putting their hand in the laser.”
Key: “It’s not a laser, it’s a hologram.”
Peele: “Tomato, tomato.”
It’s funny because it challenges the very trope of a recluse who was once relevant being able to remain relevant much, much later. The sketch is actually a bit like an ironic Demolition Man (one that could be made today) in a way, one where Sandra Bullock would end being a double agent (or, at the very least, Sylvester Stallone’s daughter).
There. You can hardly notice a thing.
“The Job Interview” is an episode of Key & Peele that goes by like a breeze, from beginning to end. Each sketch is solid, never once meandering towards the end. It might not be the funniest episode of the series, but it really is a cohesive installment throughout, and that’s still much funnier than a lot of other things.
- Is it possible the “Judge Jessie” sketch idea came from the Wu-Tang sex case on Divorce Court? I hope that it did.
- I’m both surprised and disappointed the valets didn’t bring up “The Batmans” when talking about “Valley Kilmers.” Then again, they haven’t seen The Saint, which is probably the most honest moment of the entire episode.
- This week, in Sketches That Remind Us Racism Is All Around Us: The Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner lizard people sketch. The sketch is actually fascinatingly bizarre for the length that it is, but it’s also somewhat of a waste of Melanie Lynskey, Art LaFleur, and Bonnie Bartlett because of that brevity. I’ve thought way too long about it, especially given the length.
- Can we confirm or deny Meryl Streep’s presence in Weekend At Bernie’s?
- I finally got a chance to watch last week’s ghost sketch, and I am upset with how much I identified with it (the ghost, specifically).
- By the way, Jordan has some pretty righteous sideburns in the job interview sketch.