4 Tips from Key and Peele on Comedy Screenwriting (VIDEO)

It’s no secret that Key and Peele are the hottest thing in sketch comedy today.  Their camaraderie, comedic chemistry and superb improvisational training have garnered them attention from the depths of the internet to the president of the United States.  Key and Peele’s humor speaks to the human condition and their sketches will stay with you forever.  We caught up with comedy duo Key and Peele at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills this week (thanks to our friends at PressPassLA).  Here are Key&Peele’s tips on comedy screenwriting and creating comedic characters (also see video clips below):

  1. Behave badly — Comedy pretty much always has to be about people behaving badly. If you write an uplifting scene, it’s not funny. I’m telling you that much right now. It’s gotta be about people trying to get away with something, people trying to show bravado when they don’t have it. It’s usually about people hiding something. A person who’s trying to be a badass or trying to say they have more knowledge than they actually have, that’s usually the cornerstone of comedy. – Keegan Michael Key
  2. Embrace what makes you a loser — It’s Cheri Oteri from Saturday Night Live who said “a really good comedic character is often a character that embraces what makes them a loser.” And so if you can find a character, caring about something that nobody else cares about, and that they would go to their grave to fight for, that’s the anatomy of a good character. – Keegan Michael Key
  3. You know them — Characters that hit comedically tend to be characters that you feel like you know already. I do a character named Wendell, who – you can’t really pinpoint exactly where you know him, but you know you’ve met like thirty in your life. He’s a big, uh, comic book nerd with long hair, and he, uh, fantasizes that he’s a ladies man when, you know, in fact, he’s not. – Jordan Peele 
  4. Dress up — Keegan and I work a little different in that. Keegan uses people that he knows, and he’ll embody this, this person. I will tend to maybe write a sketch first and, uh, then sort of fill in “What’s the funniest person to do this sketch?”. And then we both (and screenwriters don’t get to do this unless they’re really innovative) get to put put on the wardrobe and experiment with the wigs and stuff.  When that part happens a whole part of the character comes to life, that maybe we didn’t expect. – Jordan Peele  

If you’re unfamiliar with Luther, Obama’s “anger translator,” then you need to watch this immediately:

And don’t miss the full video clips here from our red carpet interview with Key and Peele:

Have a comedy screenplay? Our Comedy Screenplay Contest features the industry’s top comedy producers and representatives!

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