If you haven’t seen the “Key & Peele” sketch about President Barack Obama’s anger translator, here’s a basic outline: The president says something diplomatic, then translator Luther, fitted with brass knuckles and an attitude, tells us how Obama really feels.
The sketch caught fire online and helped make the series’ January debut Comedy Central’s highest-rated new show since 2009.
On Wednesday, Keegan-Michael Key, who plays Luther, and Jordan Peele, who does one of the best Obamas in the business, return for season 2 (at 10:30 p.m.) with a new Obama sketch. Presented as a leaked VHS tape from Obama’s college years, the skit finds Peele donning an Afro and giving a speech about the importance of diversity — for planning a raging party. Later, he uses the unity of America as a metaphor for rolling a joint. “It’s the video Republicans wish they could get their hands on,” Peele says.
This season, expect the return of Luther, more parodies and a sketch about Mary Magdalene’s pimp. “We’re crazy about keeping our audience off-balance,” Peele says.
You had a short time between seasons 1 and 2. What changed?
KEY: We allowed ourselves more freedom this year to play a little more fast and loose.
PEELE: First season felt like we were trying to discover our voice. Season 2 is more like we’re playing in the playground we made for ourselves.
Did you feel like you could take more risks this time?
PEELE: We gave ourselves the freedom to be slightly less racial, for one.
Racial humor was a theme of season 1, which makes sense, considering you’re both of mixed race, but it seemed like too much of a focus.
PEELE: For me personally, racial humor was on the verge of becoming a crutch.
KEY: In a perfect world, we just want to write good sketches. We just happen to have melanin in our skin.
What spurred the new Obama sketch about his college years?
PEELE: We’ve been toying around with this idea of what Obama was like when he was in college. We were talking about him being like the character Stiles from “Teen Wolf.” He’s the party master; he would have been the one to bring together all the styles and factions. When the tidbits of him being a pothead came out, we realized it was a marriage of perfect things.
Jordan, you’ve now got serious competition from “Saturday Night Live” with Jay Pharoah taking over Obama. Did you see his debut?
PEELE: No, I missed [it], but I’ve seen his impression before, and I think it’s great. We’re friends with those guys, including Fred [Armisen, “SNL’s” previous Obama]. People tend to put the impressions against one another, but we all have a strange bond because it’s a high-pressure situation to be in.
Do you have a favorite sketch from this upcoming season?
PEELE: There’s one scene where I get to play Darius Rucker. Keegan is a guy at the Darius Rucker concert who keeps calling out “Hey, Hootie!” over Darius Rucker, who is now an accomplished country star.
I heard Hootie and the Blowfish were getting back together.
KEY: That’s hilarious. This would make our scene ridiculously topical. Sometimes you roll the dice and it pays off.