Good call, Universal.
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are two of the funniest people on television right now, and their sketch show “Key & Peele” is brutally funny, week after week, bit after bit. Peele seems to be the guy who disappears into his characters, while Key is just plain hilarious, as outrageous and oversized a comic presence as Daffy Duck. As long as these guys are given room to follow their own voice as a team, they represent pretty much unfettered potential.
It was just a matter of time before someone got them to make a movie as a team. So far, I think Keegan-Michael Key has had better opportunities in movies. Whatever you think of the film as a whole, it’s pretty hard to deny that he is in amazing form in “Hell Baby,” where he plays a character named F’resnell who is basically Bugs Bunny. He’s that character who can step in from the edge of the frame, make any joke, do anything, and then skate away with no consequence. It’s the sort of role that a comic must love just as an exercise in pure unbridled energy. I liked him a lot when he guested on “The League,” too, as a character named Carmenjello. The moment Key starts speaking, in pretty much anything I’ve seen him in, I’m laughing. He has that sort of energy as a comic performer. He is innately funny, and seems to have an endless appetite for pushing things to strange and hilarious places.
Jordan Peele strikes me as a guy who will build a career doing both drama and comedy, and equally well. I like the way he explores the details of the characters he plays and the more he returns to certain ones, the more shading we’re seeing. He commits in a way I find thrilling in a comedy performer.
For Judd Apatow, it’s got to be nothing but exciting to take them into Universal and pitch a project for the three of them to write and for Judd to produce. That’s the thing that has been consistent the entire time I’ve known and spoken to Judd… he is drawn to comedy voices, and he seems to love to help these big voices find the best framework to express that voice. “The Larry Sanders Show” isn’t just a great Gary Shandling vehicle, it is the perfect showcase for what makes Shandling a comic genius. “Anchorman” is Ground Zero for the film careers of Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, because it is as pure an example of the weird alchemy that happens between those guys as anything could be. Steve Carell’s whole film career truly began the moment audiences fell for his sensitive side in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” because Apatow saw something in him that no one else had captured on film yet. He encouraged “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express” because they perfectly convey who Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are. Perhaps the best example ever is “Girls,” where he supported Lena Dunham as she created what is clearly a huge personal statement in a voice that could only be hers.
Adding Keegan Michael-Key and Jordan Peele to that list, as well as Amy Schumer in a deal that also recently closed, is proof that he’s not content to just coast along buying new beach houses for his same six friends every year (ahem, Mr. Sandler), but that he knows that he can help new voices continue to get the best possible shot at an audience and at making something that they can stand behind.
I can’t wait to see what this is.