Keegan-Michael Key’s high-leg kick whipped through the air of the Archie Griffin Ballroom at Ohio State, sending the crowd into a constant frenzy.
It was no longer Key on stage, but the character Coach Hines from one of his famous sketches on the comedy show MADtv.
“We were almost called ‘Word Play and High Kicks,’” Jordan Peele, co-creator of the Peabody award-winning sketch comedy series “Key & Peele,” said after Key’s reenactment.
OSU welcomed Key and Peele with frequent laughter and open ears Friday night at the Ohio Union in the Ohio Union Activities Board-sponsored event.
The duo spoke about the process going from students of comedy to some of the most influential people in the industry.
Peele said he fell in love with comedy while performing with an improvisational group at Sarah Lawrence College in Westchester County, N.Y. The group stressed the importance of having a background in improvisation to any young comic looking to be successful.
“If you’re going to get into comedy, I think nowadays, especially, improvisation has to be a part of your résumé,” Key said. “It means you can take the time to write if you want, or you can write in the moment.
“Key & Peele’s” success — now in its fourth season — can be attributed to the duo’s ability to work together for long periods of time. It takes the pair 11 months out of the year to write the shows’ sketches, and that grind can be taxing if you often argue.
“We don’t fight,” Key said, stressing that the two had to stick together since their days as minority actors on MADtv.
Peele said it became imperative that they come up with sketches that made it impossible to get rid of them both.
Five Emmy nominations later and “Key & Peele” continues to capture its audience with witty comedy that “tackles themes” instead of “tackling topicality.”
A big part of the show’s fame has come from the Internet. Sketches like “East/West College Bowl” and “McCringleberry’s Excessive Celebration” together have accumulated more than 30 million views on YouTube and keeps the show relevant even when it’s not on the television screen.
“Sketches are tailor made for the Internet,” Peele said. “Our show, you can experience in three minutes.”
The comedy stars took the stage by storm Friday, going off-script and keeping each other and the crowd laughing all night with popular impersonations and energetic banter.
“I liked how (Key and Peele) infused all the sketches and reenactments into their piece during the whole time,” Adaeze Okoli, a third-year in economics, said. “I thought it was cool, and that (their success) wasn’t just a straight shot. They had to work hard for it.”
Next for the duo — self-described as “one organism” — is the realm of motion pictures, Key said. Key and Peele are currently scheduled to shoot a movie in March, and Peele is also scheduled to produce a horror film in 2015, which he wrote.
“The show has been satisfying,” Peele said. “We feel like the next place for our voice to exist is in film. That way, we can get a real serious budget and push it places we couldn’t on television.”