TCA: Comedy Central Lets Everything Fly on Sketch Show 'Key & Peele'

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The tagline for a show featuring "MadTV" veterans says it all: “If you don’t watch this show … you’re racist.”

When Key & Peele launches on Comedy Central on Jan. 31, viewers should get a hefty serving of candor and hilarity.

That's what was provided to members of the Television Critics Association, who were on hand to see a brief reel and ask questions of biracial comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. Their series, which is getting a plum time slot behind breakout hit Tosh.0, is part sketch, part stand-up.

The latter is a way for the MadTV vets to better introduce themselves to and connect with new viewers, a strategy they say worked for role models such as Dave Chapelle. Still, the plan is to load the show with pre-taped sketches, one of which was released early to a record 1.6 million YouTube views and counting.

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To hear Comedy Central’s original programming chief Kent Alterman tell it, the show has “the best attributes” of a good comedy: the series is funny, provocative and thought provoking. What’s more, he says, nothing is off limits, a point that is driven home with the show’s tagline: “If you don’t watch this show … you’re racist.”

When asked if America is ready for this sort of in-your-face brand of race-themed comedy, the duo suggests it is. Or at least both men hope it is. “We’ve done the president thing, maybe they’ll be ready for this,” quipped Peele, adding: “Obama was the best thing for black nerds everywhere. Before Obama we basically had [Family Matters’ Steve] Urkel.”

While they stayed mum on the specifics of their sketches, they acknowledged that were at times surprised by how far Comedy Central would let them to. A key example: a sketch that features a sound-effect battle between vocalist Bobby McFerrin and comedian Michael Winslow.

What they will share: Key & Peele won’t showcase mean-spirited comedy. “We both hate people being mean in comedy for no reason,” noted Peele. “We need to try to get a funny foundation first… and then we’ll put the filter on top of it.”

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