Key & Peele Review: "A Cappella Club"

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<i>Key & Peele</i> Review: "A Cappella Club"

This week’s episode of Key & Peele is noticeably sharper than last week’s offering, but isn’t quite on par with the season’s pretty damn wonderful opener. Regardless, we have a few top-notch sketches, a Mad Max reference or two, and a Corbin Bleu a la High School Music wig at play. Shall we?

“What If I Told You That All It Took Was One Beard?”

The opening sketch spoofs the instantly recognizable ChildFund International commercials. Here, Key is Alan Sader, or an alternate version of him, walking towards the camera with an expression of utmost sincerity. The gag here plays on the “you can save a child by…” suggestion, purporting that all it takes is a costume beard to spare youth from being taken as child soldiers. This theory is tested with the arrival of a warlord (Key), whose cronies mistake the bearded children for elderly people. It’s one of those out-of-left-field jokes that Key & Peele puts into practice often, and a play on a very serious narrative that most television-watching Americans are familiar with. Admittedly, it’s hard to watch this bit and not think of a fairly recent SNL sketch, in which Bill Hader’s spokesman claims that “39 cents a day can save a child.” No doubt there are obvious differences, but the tiny details—most obviously, the Sader character—demonstrate that both shows’ writers had a similar joke in mind while mining this area for content.

Best Line: “That’s right, just one beard. And for a little more, you can give them a cane.”

Black on Black Violence: A Public Service Announcement

This sketch begins with Troy (Peele) wowing his all-white a cappella group with a “Motown outro thing” during practice. The introduction of Mark (Key) to the session quickly pits the titular characters against one another, as they fight for the seemingly exclusive role of “black friend” in stereotypically white scenarios. The juxtaposition of these uber cheery situations and their participants make Mark and Troy’s private, expletive-laced exchange all the zanier, even considering the larger joke and implications about tokenism. Specifically, the roles adopted by Troy and Mark—something that is exemplified through their character shifts in the group versus when they are alone—exists primarily for their white classmates’ consumption and entertainment. The humor then plays upon on a heteronormative aloofness that is harmless at surface level, but which ultimately excludes students of color by categorizing individual experiences in an across-the-board manner.

Best Line: “You think I’m gonna roll over like some falsetto ass mother fucker?”

Where It All Began: Meegan and Andre’s First Date

I feel pretty certain that some folks out there are over the recurring Meegan and Andre bit, but I dig it. For those that aren’t familiar with the sketch, it goes like this: Meegan is vain as hell and easily tempered; Andre is her submissive boyfriend, always attempting to reunite his beloved with her jacket. In this episode, we get a little backstory. During the couple’s first date, Meegan is characteristically detestable, and her thinly veiled attempt at being a decent person is a total failure. Although this sketch has a repetitious set up, this dip into the duo’s history makes it more fun than redundant. It dually refutes the argument that Meegan is a misogynistic character (a fairly hard sell to begin with) by leaving no doubt that she’s a—wait for it!—caricature. The specific characterizations that Peele employs, from that Kardashian-like vocal growl, the superficial, saccharine sweetness, and how she punctuates her personal digs with a disgusted smile, is absolutely delightful to watch. We all know a Meegan, and we’ve all seen a submissive, big-hearted buffoon like Andre dote on her. There’s also a hell of a lot of punchlines and clever quips (“I think we really complement each other well.” “We just did it right there.”) that make this sketch one of the episode’s finest.

Best Line: “Do I look like Mad Max to you? Do I look like Mel Gibson with a mullet? Does he look like a feral child with a boomerang in his hand? Then why the fuck is water a rare commodity around here?” BAM.

Succumbing to the “American Dream”

Two terrorists masquerading as food truck employees make a killing selling over-priced sandwiches to Americans. Although initially just a front for their sleeper cell, the pair have obviously succumbed to entrepreneurialism. Their cohort Mustafa (Peele) isn’t okay with the lack of dedication. The clincher is, however, that Mustafa eventually opens up his own truck in the same plaza. Who can resist the monetary temptation? This is a fairly average bit that finds inspiration in a fear of terrorism on U.S. soil. It may have some media relevancy, but it’s certainly not the most poignant or clever vignette of the week. It’s fairly stagnant; there just aren’t many opportunities for jokes that don’t feel slightly trite.

Best Line: “Pretty good margins.” The moment we know that Brother Mustafa’s jumped ship.

Two Old Guys Walk Into A Bar…

This is a fun illustration of generational disconnect in which two elderly men attempt to prove that they’ve “still got it” in a barroom. After prompted by a simple question—a younger patron asks if the pair like Drake—they begin reciting a litany of senior moments that all rhyme with the aforementioned musician’s name (Example: “I’m gonna tell you what I’m concerned about; making it to the john without a bathroom mistake!”). Of course, the irony that these old guys have spun the hyper-relevancy of a musician to fuel a conversation on their elderly habits is completely lost upon them. That said, the final punch line proves the initial thesis about out-of-touch seniors hollow, adding a nice little twist that is cute and inoffensive.

Best Line: “I’m over here, like a 1930s cartoon, hitting my head when I step on a rake!”

Interstitial Car Sequences

This week, the highlight of the interspersed driving sequence included Peele’s recollection of being a dynamite tambourine player, which was genuinely funny. When these exchanges veer into the personal aspects of Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key’s personalities, they’re all the better. We also get their takes on villains, a “Release the Kraken” reference, and a new expression: “Jumping in Full Dingle.” Start saying it now; it’ll definitely become a thing.

Guest Stars: Satya Bhabha, Bo Burham, Myles Cranford