Key and Peele


Explaining a joke takes all the fun out of it. So I am going to do exactly that.

Key and Peele is a sketch show [ that is both available on TV and youtube] that I really really love. They have really funny sketches so eventually one wonders ‘ whats the deal here? Why is it so funny?’.

I tried to answer that question and below are what you may call my findings.

I have watched everything that is available on youtube multiple times but the ones that I will use to explain the common patterns are the following;

Boxing press conference –

Movie hecklers-

Black ice-

Alien Imposter-

I recommend that you watch all of them before you read the following ( to better understand the context).


First 30 seconds in any key and Peele sketch is used to tell us about the genre that they are going to exploit through visual and audio means and sometimes even dialogue.

Here is what I call the quintessential key and Peele sketch to explain it better.

I charted all the events here.

Yellow color means exposition ( exposition means the information that the audience needs to know in order to understand the story and how you give that information.)

Red( crimson) is used to tell the first round of  jokes

Orange is used to tell when the joke is being reacted to ( more on this later).

Blue is used to tell you when the pattern is broken.

The boxing press conference sketch timeline is drawn below.


Now in this sketch, the first 30 seconds are used to settle us into the environment and tell us which genre we are in.

Some visual techniques used here are-

Aspect ratio

old school tv color grade

and obviously, the set looks like a press conference

through all that and trash talk from Keegan’s character tells us a lot of things

through all those techniques we assume that we are in a typical boxing press conference.

One of the things that key and Peele does great is exploitation of the genre rules. They take the typical tropes of a genre and poke fun at it. They take a premise and use a genre loopholes to punch in a joke ( for example alien imposter – two black people in an alien invasion where the aliens can shapeshift to look like humans. The joke here is that otherwise, stereotyping white people are asking two  black people for help.( and a shady looking black man doesn’t hate the police))

Black ice is a great example


They tackle the topic of ” stereotype against black people being propagated through news” in a very smart way. They take two white news readers and two black newsreaders reading ‘ normal news ‘ until at around 30-second mark we realize that the normal news has a racial connotation to it.

I would like to talk about the pattern establishment here

from 30 seconds to 45 we get the first joke which establishes the entire joke pattern from 45 to 55 seconds we establish the two-part pattern.

The joke itself and the reaction to that joke.

They typically use this pattern 4-5 times to establish predictability, just enough so that audience can assume that a similar type of joke is coming and that’s when they break it ( look at the blue part).

[ I used the same pattern establishing in one of my own videos

here – ]

In Black ice, they establish that two different segments of society are subtly arguing ( or arguing in a nonconfrontational way) through the ice and we assume that this will continue to happen when they break it by talking about the underlying premise out loud. It gives the end a cathartic feel meaning that the punch is delivered and we feel satisfied.

Pattern establishing jokes are generally (relatively ) longer so in shorter sketches they use a completely different way of landing a joke which is essentially head on

joke joke joke joke and then previously established punch.

Movie hecklers is a great example


in this specific sketch, they use the first 15 seconds of exposition and reverse that to deliver the punch. Here it was that the people heckling complained that person who was earlier getting disturbed by the hecklers heckling is actually now heckling the earlier supposed hecklers. ( that’s why you should watch the video first).

Let’s talk about Alien imposter sketch


this fairly resembles the movie heckler sketch and even the punch is based on the similar lines.

The joke itself is actually based on a classic comedic principle ‘ two eccentric/normal people in an eccentric/normal situation’ so the entire journey becomes either, how will two normal people handle this eccentric situation or, how will two eccentric people handle this normal situation.

for example

boxing press conference – One normal person in a normal press conference with an eccentric enemy.

Movie hecklers- Two eccentric movie hecklers in a normal theatre.

That is about it. I will update this when I find something new.

Some sources that you should check out if you wish to dig in-

Keegan’s interview –


I will only post the next analysis (of ” Manchester by the sea”) only if at least 3 people share this.  Do let me know if you share this. Thank you.



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