Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele recently surprised the TV world by announcing that the fifth season of “Key & Peele,” which is currently airing on Comedy Central, would be the show’s last. The sketch comedy seems to be at its peak, as evidenced by this year’s eight Emmy nominations for the series and its related specials, including one in the newly created Best Variety Sketch Series category.
Five of those bids went to Key himself as an actor, writer and producer. “I was not expecting all of this,” he tells us in our exclusive video chat (watch it below). “I almost expect it for my crew because we have such an amazing crew … I always want that for them,” but he wasn’t expecting so much attention for himself, especially his surprise nom for Best Comedy Supporting Actor. He remembers reading the nominations list with disbelief, wondering, “Best Supporting … who’s that for? And my wife was like, ‘It’s for you, dummy!’ That was a complete and utter shock.”
But despite the awards windfall, he and Peele are sticking to their guns in saying goodbye to the show – for now. Though he doesn’t rule out a “Key & Peele” comeback in the form of specials down the line, he says, “I feel like we’ve done what we wanted to do with the art form and explored it as much as we feel we want to explore it right now … I want to leave it all out on the field, and I’m starting to feel like in this particular case with this particular type of work, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to maintain that.”
For his Comedy Supporting Actor nomination, he has submitted the episode “Sex Detective” to Emmy judges. He’s especially proud of the title sketch, a police procedural parody featuring Peele as an outlandish sex-crimes investigator. It stood out to him “because I’m just acting. It’s not easy to simply be the straight man.”
The episode is a savvy submission because voters will also get to see him in a wide variety of roles and settings: he’s also featured in an action-movie parody, as an overweight woman at a frozen yogurt shop and as arguably his most famous character: Luther, the anger translator for President Barack Obama. “I’ve got a prosthetic piece in here, I’ve got a crowd favorite in here, I’ve got this nice straight-man piece in here,” he says of the episode’s broad range, “and all of them sitting in different genres, which was a lot of fun.”
His Luther character has become such a breakout hit that he actually got to play the role with the real Obama at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner earlier this year. “It might go down as my second favorite day in my life, after marrying my wife,” he says of the experience. “There is no pinnacle beyond this pinnacle, unless when he gets out of office I go on tour with him and do it during his speeches. He’s got to cut me in on that lecture circuit money.”
Below: Watch our complete interview with Key as well as a sketch from “Sex Detective” and his performance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Then use the easy drag-and-drop menu to tell us if you think “Key & Peele” will win Best Variety Sketch Series.
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