Peele: It's so funny you say that. Our comedy background is sketch and improvisation, so I would say our wheelhouse is working with other people and working with each other. We feel very comfortable in that zone. Working in stand-up, I could see how someone could develop a sense of "me against the world," [or] "It's my material, I know what works, let me do my thing." We didn't have that.
Key: What we do is intrinsically collaborative. They way we're trained is intrinsically collaborative. So we don't really know how to do it without being teammates.
So, in a sense, that's your comfort zone.
Key: It definitely is our comfort zone.
What we do is intrinsically collaborative. We don't really know how to do it without being teammates. - Key
Peele: As I said before, we're such huge fans of one another. As far as confidence, and ego and keeping my shit together— pardon my french—it's such a safety to know that I have the best sketch performer by my side to pick up slack if I'm having an off day.
Key: And likewise, if I'm ever dry or burnt out in regard to a fresh concept for a scene, with all due respect to our writing staff, I feel like the best writer is sitting right next to me. I mean, there are things that come out of this man's mind that I'm just go, "Ugh, nobody on the planet earth would have ever thought of it that way." So I feel like both of us have the best six-gun on our hip.
Do you think that you don't fight about creative control as much as another pair would because you both have shared a point-of-view, in terms of both being from bi-racial backgrounds?
Key: I think that has something to do with it. We exist in a very specific sub-culture in our country. So I think that POV can get really furled in with the two of us really easily.
Peele: Something you gotta know about us, even independent of one another, we're freakishly non-fighters, the two of us. [Laughs.] We will avoid confrontation at all costs, and I can accuse myself of being borderline cowardly at times.
Sounds like it could make for a lot of passive-aggressive tension.
Peele: You're right, but I even avoid passive-aggression. That's how afraid of confrontation I am.
Key: I'm so bad, I avoid passive-passive. [Laughs.] But the other thing was we made an agreement, a declared agreement, a long time ago that comedy is primary. Whether we're biracial, whether we're male—it doesn't matter. If it's not funny, we let it go.
'Comedy is king.' That mantra is what destroys our egos, because there is no ego if it's not funny. - Key
In the last 20 months of our life, I think we've had two conversations that one could even consider slightly heated and all it was about was, "I think this is funny," [and] "I don't think it's funny". It's never about us. It's always about, "Do we think the most amount of people are going to find this humorous?" And that's what it always has to be about. If anything is hanging over our head, it's that. "Comedy is king." That mantra is what destroys our egos, because there is no ego if it's not funny.
Peele: Jim Henson had this thing about erasing the ego in a creative situation and we sort of follow that guideline. The project and comedy are more important than the individual.
That mentality greatly differs from the majority of entertainers out there.
Key: [Laughs.] Of course, we have the luxury of having each other to keep each other in check. Not to mention my wife.
Peele: Talk to us [during] Season Two.
Key: Talk to us [during] Season Two, or don't talk to us because we won't talk to you. [Laughs.]
Keegan, you mentioned that you had a distaste for reality TV during one of the sketch's intros, but reality TV and cheesy sitcoms are unfortunately what makes up the comedic landscape right now. What is it you're specifically doing differently that makes the show seem so unique and is getting so much attention right now?
Key: A lot of it is timing. The leader of the free world shares a demographic with me and Jordan. It would be different if he was a community leader, but he's a leader of the free world. He's kicked the door open. Jordan is famous for his quote… What's your quote?
Peele: Obama is the coolest thing to ever happen to black nerds. Before him, we had Urkel and Lamar from Revenge Of The Nerds.
Key: We attribute some of it to that. There's somebody on the social and political landscape that represents something that we represent. But at the same time, it's still a very specific thing. So if you want specific comedy, you can watch something akin to Key & Peele, like something that would be on Adult Swim or Comedy Central, or if you like mainstream comedy you can watch the broadcast networks.
Peele: I think we put... I'm trying to say this without being a dick in some way. I think we put more effort into our sketches that has been done before. We have an amazing director and we shoot them like they're short films, and we spend an awful amount of time writing and whittling down, which is a great luxury to have.
Key: And we write them almost like they're short comedic films. Jordan is the world's greatest not-letting-you-off-the-hook-er. He's really is like, "Not yet, not yet. It's too many repeat beats," or, "We haven't heightened it enough yet," or "Have we really whittled it down to what we think is going to make it funniest?" We just keep grinding.
Peele: Like a little bonsai tree or something.
Key: That's a terrific, terrific analogy. We're a little obsessive about it. And I think that may be something that puts us apart.
Peele: We also have the luxury of being able to watch our favorite shows and be inspired, and say, "OK, what worked for them?" And, "How can we put in a little production value here?"
Key: Every human has the right to our opinion. So you can hate our show if you want to, but you can never say we couldn't work on it.
Creatively, reaching that point is always the goal, because it really effects your output when come from the mentality "I'm putting my all in."
Key: I think so. If you keep striking, striving, striving, even if you hit... Some people go, "I don't know, maybe I'll make it to the stars." But if you're heading for the moon, you're bound to bump into a star. Oh, god, that was so Casey Kasem of me!