When President Obama delivered his annual comic rejoinder to the media at April's White House Correspondents' Association dinner, he got some help from his "anger translator," Luther.
Obama noted that "we count on the press to shed light on the most important issues of the day" – prompting an pricklier utterance from his fuming alter-ego: "And we can count on Fox News to terrify old white people with some nonsense!"
The act could have come straight out of Comedy Central's "Key & Peele," if only Jordan Peele had been playing his buttoned-up Obama to Keegan-Michael Key's Id-like Luther. Even in Peele’s absence, the presidential seal of approval marked a major moment for the comedy team, who return Wednesday for a fifth season of translating their observations on everything from race to the media to pop culture into laughter.
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Unlike Luther, there's little outwardly angry in Key and Peele's comedy, though they're hardly lacking in edge. They make serious points in ways subtle, smart and silly: In last season's premier episode, they portrayed two seemingly stereotypical rednecks in a bar bitterly spewing positive stereotypes about minority group members, including Mexican immigrants ("They work their a---s off and have strong family values," declared Peele's bar patron, topped by a Confederate flag baseball cap).
Perhaps Key and Peele’s most memorable skit came in Season 2 when they played two zombie apocalypse survivors who are aggressively avoided by frightened white zombies. Last season, they offered a biting variation on the theme as two armed survivors of an alien invasion who were able to tell the invaders from genuine earthlings through racial attitudes ("Would you let me date your daughter," Key's character asked a middle-aged white man in a business suit. "Of course!" replied the man, who, upon being shot, turned out to be a green-blooded alien).
Both bits, while pointedly tackling race, also showed off the duo's shared fanboy sensibility. Their geek-driven humor also plays out with Peel's obese, pizza-loving, video-making nerd Wendell and the pair's valet parking attendants, who work themselves into repeated frenzies while discussing action movies ("Why would you mess with the Batmans?").
Memo to Comedy Central: Don't mess with Key and Peele – they've got a great thing going. Even the President – and Luther – agree. Check out a timely Season 5 preview tackling marriage equality as Key and Peele bring their comic connection back to TV.
Jere Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.