As a writer for The California Aggie, I recently had the opportunity to participate in a conference call with a fellow writer from the Arts section. Along with other college media from across the country, we interviewed Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele — stars of Comedy Central’s new sketch comedy series “Key & Peele.” Their show centers around, among other things, race and being biracial — as both of them are half African American and half Caucasian. Although neither of us had ever done a conference call before, we handled it pretty well and were able to ask two questions and listen in to the rest of the conference call.
The conference was set to start at 10 a.m. So at exactly 10:01 a.m. we called the number and entered the specified pin. We then listened as other college media were checking in. Finally, when it seemed quiet enough, we said “The California Aggie checking in.” Then, as instructed by the mediator, we silenced our phones and waited until Key and Peele called in. Once they were on, the conference rapidly picked up as the mediator called out each college’s name, at which time the representative un-muted their phone and asked their question to Key and Peele.
When The California Aggie was called out, I asked: How do you know what to use in your shows and do you have a limit as to what subject matter is too offensive to use?
They both agreed that their general guideline is to determine how funny the material is. Peele said, “Nothing is really off-limits if it gets a laugh. Our main goal is to be funny and make people laugh. So our general guideline is to determine how funny a topic is.”
Key added that he hopes his audience understands his reasons for choosing specific material. “We are trying to write comedy for the 21st century. It is different now than it was 20 years ago, but the goal is the same — to entertain. We hope our audience is mature enough to understand what we are trying to make funny.”
Following our question, discussion topics included other aspects of their show, such as race, the Obama campaign, the future of the show, and how it differs from SNL or MADtv (which was our second question to them). They said they think Obama, as a biracial individual, has helped their show become popular. They both agreed that their show differs from SNL and MADtv in that they do not have recurring characters but focus on funny scenes and one-time characters. All in all, both were happy with the initial success of the show and hope it keeps gaining popularity in the future.
— CLAIRE MALDARELLI
I have never interacted with a celebrity before, let alone had a short conversation with one. So imagine my nerves right before a conference call with the actor/writers for the newest sketch comedy show on television.
We had a conference call with Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele on what most people know them from: MADtv on FOX, where they served six and five seasons, respectively. They now star in a new half-hour sketch show “Key & Peele” on Comedy Central. Their talents in improvisation, celebrity impersonations and original characters are showcased with skits that spoof everything from the government and popular culture to their own experiences.
Claire and I were issued a phone number to call, a series of numbers to punch in at the tone and seconds to freak out before being prompted to state our names and our school association.
At promptly 10 a.m. on Feb. 8, we sat nervously on the couch in the California Aggie offices waiting for the director of the conference call to answer. As soon as she did, we squealed silently and nervously checked in.
Our jaws dropped as a variety of college students checked in to the conference call. Students from all around the nation checked in after us; everyone was listening to each other converse with the director.
All of a sudden there were two distinct male voices on the line; the conference call had begun. Sooner than we expected, “UC Davis” was spoken in question form by the director.
Claire asked the first question we had for them: “Are there any topics that you would love to put on your show but are too controversial for television?”
Peele immediately responded with, “Our general guideline on how to draw the line is basically how funny something is to us. If it makes everyone in the room laugh, then our take is that something real and something comedic is happening. My theory is nothing is off-limits as long as it gets a laugh.”
Claire said her “goodbye and thank you” with a smile and all of a sudden it was on to the next school. It was fascinating and entertaining to hear what other college students from around the nation wanted to know from these comedians. The questions varied from actual thoughtful inquiries to pointless plugs for inspirational advice for aspiring comedians. Luckily, we were given the opportunity to ask a second question.
I asked the guys a question I thought would spark some debate: “What makes your show different than an updated MADtv or Saturday Night Live?”
These guys were prepared. “Our show is not based on huge characters. There are characters in our show; whether or not they reoccur is based on the audience. MADtv was a formula — our show doesn’t have one,” answered Key.
“We try to incorporate the shows. We’re not trying to be cool here. We’re trying to be funny. If you watch the beginning of certain shows, you notice that they’re trying too hard to be hipsters and be cool. We’re like, ‘Why are you trying to be a badass?’ We realize that we’re nerds. Our goal in life is to get the laughs.”
After pounding away at my laptop while they answered my question, I was almost too flustered to say my “thank you.” After almost missing the button to un-mute the phone, I was able to strongly say my goodbye.
That was it. We glanced over at each other with big smiles, realizing that we just interviewed nationally recognized comedians. Claire and I were proud of our questions and were happy to represent UC Davis’ newspaper that day. Sure, we only had about 10 minutes of conversation with these guys, but they sure did serve as a highlight of my journalism career thus far.
— ELIZABETH ORPINA
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