Key & Peele Review: "Slap-Ass: In Recovery"

(Episode 4.04)

Comedy Reviews
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<i>Key & Peele</i> Review: "Slap-Ass: In Recovery"

Now well into Key and Peele’s fourth season, the eponymous comedy duo’s latest episode offers a mashup of sure-to-please sketches including new faces, old favorites and familiar pop culture references (Steve Urkel, anyone?). The tone is set instantly with the episode’s opening stinger, whose punchline is illustrated by a seemingly ordinary dentist (Key) swapping his lab coat for a bondage suit. And it’s all uphill from there.

The second sketch resurrects “Slap Ass,” a killer bit from Key and Peele’s third season, with Ralphie (Peele) returning as the tormented Rhinos baseball player who can’t resist slapping his teammate’s derrieres. He’s now—somewhat—rehabilitated, but, despite his friends’ attempts to shelter the vulnerable Ralphie from ass-slapping temptation, he can’t resist the backside of new teammate Ruben. Probably the funniest line comes with Peele’s seemingly improvised “We’re gonna need a bigger boat!” quip, which is followed by a presumably massive off-screen slap that (we’re told in a title card) kills poor Ruben. It’s a humorous sketch that offers a nice homecoming for a past character, but the best of the episode is yet to come.

?The standout sketch of the week is, hands down, the wickedly funny—and amazingly dark—Family Matters vignette. It’s a bit that’s sure to be the fan-favorite of the episode, with its golden cocktail of ‘90s references, F-bombs and over-the-top performances from Key (who plays television executive Gene) and Peele (who offers a killer impression of Family Matters star Reginald VelJohnson). Fed up with wild, Urkel-centric plotlines, VelJohnson eventually comes face-to-face with a power-hungry Steve, who uses his telepathic powers to torment anyone who defies his authority. It’s a hysterical sketch filled with hilarious writing, like when Peele’s VelJohnson screams “I’m a fucking actor, Gene! I’ve done more cocaine than you weigh!” at the segment’s climax.

The final two vignettes are as a varied as they are comical. There’s a wonderful bit about being caught in a bluff, as we watch Peele attempt to play the role of a haughty Francophile in an effort to impress his gorgeous date. Unable to the keep up with the very French items on a fancy restaurant’s menu, he is further stumped when his girlfriend adopts the foreign language like it’s second nature. In a pitiful act of self-doubt, he retreats from the date, offering a clipped goodbye before fleeing the scene.

The final sketch is an intensely bizarre, Scorsese-esque mobster scene, in which Key, playing the overzealous gangster Andy, beats the hell out of another man while Peele’s Jersey-accented mafioso narrates the violence. The one-sided altercation becomes more and more bizarre, with Key deleting the man’s cellphone contacts, drawing a mustache on his face and rearranging his silverware, all before working backwards to erase his ill-doings and leave the unconscious man seemingly untouched in his chair. It all ends with a dramatic wet willy that leaves Peele’s character crying, “We’re goin’ to war, Andy! We’re goin’ to war!” It’s the silliest, most inexplicable vignette of the episode, but a great way to end a stellar half hour.

All in all, this is the strongest episode since the season premiere, offering a nice combination of sketches displaying the show’s best features. Even the interspersed car banter works particularly well here, the dialogue about Hollywood directors especially so. Given Comedy Central’s habit of releasing a teaser sketch ahead of new episodes, it’s now just a waiting game until we can get a preview of what’s in store for episode six.