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Keegan-Michael Key

Keegan-Michael Key
Cliff Lipson
Keegan-Michael Key

As half of the Comedy Central sketch duo Key & Peele, Keegan-Michael Key introduced the world to President Obama's Anger Interpreter and the East Coast/West Coast Bowl.

His partnership with Jordan Peele began at another sketch show: MADtv. Key told NPR's Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg that "Jordan's brilliant tactical mind" came up with the idea of working together: "'What if we just write all of our scenes together, or the majority of our scenes together, and then we're indispensable?' And I went 'you are a genius.'" Key said they'd also rehearse their sketches in their shared apartment, so they could fully perform them at table reads to better sell their ideas.

TV comedy wasn't always the goal for Key. After he graduated from Penn State with a Master of Fine Arts in theatre, he originally intended to stick to the stage. "In '96 I wanted to move to Seattle, where there was a booming theatre scene, and I was going to start a theatre with friends and only do comedia and absurdism... that'll fill the seats!"

Key's latest project, the Audible Original series The History of Sketch Comedy, meshes these interests together. He explores the history of comedy, going back centuries, and argues that while times change, the fundamentals stay the same. "I am a firm believer of what's known as the seven-plot concept. That there are seven plots, and then as you extrapolate out... there's like forty-nine sub-plots, that's about it" said Key. "Every story under the sun has been told, the exciting part is telling it in a new and different way."

For his Ask Me Another challenge, Keegan-Michael Key put his Shakespeare knowledge to the test in a game called "To Thinkpiece Or Not To Thinkpiece," blowing away Ophira Eisenberg and Jonathan Coulton with his knowledge of even the most obscure plays. After acing the game, Key declared, "I guess I really like that guy and the plays that he wrote!"

Interview Highlights

What the "Planet's Funniest Animals" host thinks is the funniest animal

Hands down, is a chimpanzee doing anything. Actually no, not anything, they have to be either eating peanut butter or chewing gum. A distant second is just penguins falling down... Really, the funniest thing is watching any lower primate flatulate, then smell their hand and fall down... That's the gold standard.

On meeting (then Vice-President) Joe Biden

Here's the most endearing thing that happened that day: we were at that event and my wife Elle and I were there with friends, and they have a three-year-old daughter. This young girl was talking to the Vice President and he stopped and bent over and they had a three-and-a-half minute conversation about Frozen, and the fact that there is also Frozen 2, and we can't necessarily determine which is the better film... They were having the most wonderful conversation. He's surrounded by all these people and he was just zoned in on this little girl. It was just delightful.

Heard on Keegan-Michael Key: Key & Peele & Penguins & Shakespeare

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