January 22, 2013

A New Era In Sketch Comedy: ‘Key And Peele’ And ‘Kroll Show’

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Saturday Night Live is the Godfather of American sketch comedy. I know what you’re thinking: “it’s not as good as it used to be.” I’m not sure when that was first said, probably five minutes into the 1975 premiere episode, but you know what? SNL has endured, and dominated. Wayne’s World, The Blues Brothers, The Church Lady, Coneheads, Celebrity Jeopardy, Land Shark, More Cowbell, Weekend Update, countless Presidential impressions, plus every word Will Ferrell, Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray, Phil Hartman and Chris Farley ever said: all landmarks of US sketch comedy. And Kristen Wiig! Gilda Radner! Tina Fey! I could go on like this for hours. All that, plus the show’s been on for almost 40 years.That’s longer than I’ve been alive, which is saying something, because honestly, I’m not looking so good.

Just because it’s the Godfather however, that doesn’t mean SNL is without its missteps. I mean, look, sometimes Marlon Brando goes in the backyard to eat oranges with his grandson and has a heart attack in the bushes. And sometimes SNL airs five talk show parodies in the same episode. It’s not perfect. I believe I’ve seen every SNL of the last 15 years (hello, social life!). Some make me laugh, some don’t, but I feel compelled to tune in, just to see what happens. It’s a cultural touchstone, but more importantly, it feels like an old friend. A pal I like to check in on to see what they’re up to. And never before have I considered adding another sketch show to this list of buddies. But lately, much to my surprise, I’ve been making some new friends. (Again, hello social life!)

There’s a few sketch shows that have made a mark during SNL’s run. In Living Color, Mr. Show, The Ben Stiller Show, and Chappelle’s Show all come to mind. From foreign lands, Kids in the Hall and The League of Gentlemen. All great shows. But right now, Comedy Central has two that are really killing it: Key & Peele, and Kroll Show. Here’s a few clips of Key & Peele.

The newest installment of their most famous bit: Obama’s Anger Translator:

And my personal favorite, “Yo Mama Has Health Problems.”

A good sketch show needs to have its own voice. A style of comedy that you can’t find anywhere else, and as obvious as that sounds, it’s not common. But Key & Peele nail it. Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have said that their main goal take every sketch to a place the audience didn’t expect. Be Unpredictable. That’s their hook, and it’s a great one. If a sketch needs to be one minute, it will be. If it needs to be five, why not? If you’re one of those who complain SNL sketches “go on too long” or “never know how to end,” then K&P is the show for you. Plus they’re just a funny couple of dudes who can play a lot of characters. I count 30 in this bit alone.

I mean come on, how are you not gonna laugh at “The Player Formerly Known as Mousecop?” But Key & Peele has been a big success for Comedy Central, so chances are you’ve already tried it out. Kroll Show however, is brand new, and just as worthy of your attention.

And two characters I can never get enough of: Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that Nick Kroll is a friend. But honestly, I’m not that nice to my friends, so I wouldn’t be saying this if it weren’t true: Kroll Show is worth checking out. The comedy is almost entirely character-based, and it has one great quality that SNL could often use more of: it’s weird. You know the last ten minutes of every Saturday Night Live, where they try out something crazy that often ends up being the best piece of the night? That’s Kroll Show. Over its first three episodes it’s strived to create its own universe, a bizarre world that all the Kroll characters inhabit at once. It’s Mr. Show with a dash of The League of Gentlemen, and best of all, it makes fun of douchebags.

SNL will always be my sketch comedy best friend. Whether I make a date with it for Saturday night, or bump into it around the DVR on Sunday morning, I always enjoy seeing it. But I’m glad to have a few hip new pals to add to the group. Check ‘em out, I think you’ll dig ‘em too. TC mark

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