Top 5 Comedians Dead Or Alive: Key & Peele


Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have never been afraid to use their television series to put a comical spotlight on serious social issues. Following in the tradition of Saturday Night Live, In Living Color, and Chappelle’s Show, Comedy Central’s Key & Peele often plays like a live action political cartoon disguised as a sketch comedy show. It’s an exploration of the human condition wrapped in humor.

For four seasons the two MADtv alumni have challenged viewers to question their views on often contentious topics like race, homophobia, and politics. The upcoming season finale continues the program’s tendency to blend comedy and social commentary.

Key and Peele open the finale with a Crossfire-esque sketch that points out the über-partisan lunacy often displayed on cable news channels. Other spoofs in the episode titled “Terrorist Meeting” include amusing takedowns of ISIS, gang culture, sibling rivalry, and movie dates.

The future for Key and Peele is set to feature a reboot of the 1980’s movie Police Academy. Before the Peabody Award winners jump into forthcoming motion picture endeavors, wanted to get Key and Peele’s thoughts on their past inspirations.

Every comedic genius stands on the shoulders of legendary performers that previously broke down doors in TV, film, and stand-up, so discover which funny men make Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s respective lists of comedians that left a memorable mark on them.

[ALSO READ: EXCLUSIVE: Jordan Peele Of “Key & Peele” Talks Reboot Of “Police Academy” Movie]

Jordan Peele

Martin Lawrence

Martin was able to give you high and low during his time on Def Comedy Jam and his TV show. I loved how his character, Martin Payne, showed his faults. He wasn’t perfect. He was arrogant, brash. You either hated him or loved him. You never really hated him. You always kind of loved him. Martin mixed it up in a way that was very inspirational to me.

Damon Wayans

Damon Wayans has that “Bugs Bunny” thing going on. You just wanted to see Damon win in every sketch on In Living Color, and he did. He always had that little smirk on. You knew he was doing something risky or dangerous. I think that’s a quality that I envy in him. You can always see the performer having fun. Absolutely one of the funniest guys I can think of.

Dave Chappelle

Dave Chappelle had that same quality that Damon Wayans had. He’s really silly, and you can tell he always had that smirk on his face, like he knows he’s getting away with something. As a performer and stand-up, he’s one of the best ever.

Ricky Gervais

I love Rick Gervais from the British The Office. As a persona, he’s an interesting guy, and I love the way he explored the awkward moments on his show. That was truly a character – David Brent from The Office. You hated him, but it felt like he was baring a part of the performer’s soul. You know that they are so many things [Gervais] must have in common with this character, and he must be channeling what’s disgusting about himself. I love that vulnerability.

Eddie Murphy

I got to give it up for Eddie Murphy. He’s the king of sketch. I love Eddie Murphy’s stand-up, but for me as a sketch performer, he broke some barriers. Specifically, the sketch where he got makeup put on to look like a White guy, and he goes undercover to see the world through White people’s eyes.

He’ll get on a bus, the last Black guy gets off the bus, and the White people say, “Alright, he’s gone.” Then the drinks and cigars come out. He sees this semi-fictional reality where White people party the moment that Black people are missing. That sketch to me is the best sketch of all time.

Keegan-Michael Key

Martin Lawrence

The reason is really because of Jordan. He made me notice that Martin Lawrence does a thing when he performs where he is often the butt of the joke. In a lot of African American comedy, you don’t see a person allowing themselves to be vulnerable enough to be the butt of the joke. And his joke telling was really, really good. There’s a dimension that he has that you just don’t see very often, and you certainly didn’t see it when he was doing stand-up.

Lenny Bruce

I just think that Lenny Bruce spoke truth through comedy, and he was really edgy. The thing about that is he was brave. He got thrown in jail for doing his comedy which you wouldn’t see today.

Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy is the comedian of my generation, and not only that, but a good actor. That was amazing to watch him be so good at sketch comedy, so good at stand-up comedy, so good at comedy in movies, he sang… He’s just one of those superstars. Just all talent, all the time.

Richard Pryor

In some ways it was if he was better than anybody, anybody whoever was a comic. In the comedian firmament, I can’t think of anybody as talented of an actor, a person who had pathos, raunchy message, and everything. He was the total package.

Chris Rock

In the midst of his fearlessness and ferocity of intention, Chris Rock still manages to add a dash of politeness and decorum to all of his comedy. It’s outrageous, but responsible at the same time. That’s one of the reasons that he’s my favorite.

His comedy, though racial at its core, is also fundamentally cultural as well. His comedy encapsulates the big three: culture, class, and race. He does it in a way that makes you laugh from your belly while you’re simultaneously saying, “That’s just not right.” To me, that’s the classic definition of really, really, really good satire. He’s one of the great masters of it.

All you have to do to see how insightful he is as a person is read his recent article in The Hollywood Reporter about the state of race in the entertainment industry. It’s a wonderful, insightful, and brave treatise on how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go as people of color.

[ALSO READ: Top 5 Dead Or Alive: Lil Kim]

The season finale of Key & Peele airs Wednesday, December 10 at 10:30/9:30C on Comedy Central. To watch previous episodes of Key and Peele visit

Follow Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele on Twitter @keeganmkey and @JordanPeele. Follow the show Key & Peele on Twitter @KeyAndPeele.