Jordan Peele is, as they say in explosives laboratories, blowing up. The Comedy Central show he stars in and produces with Keegan-Michael Key, Key & Peele, is launching its fifth season tonight. The two are working with Judd Apatow on an as yet untitled comedy. They signed to produce and star in a New Line flick called Keanu, no relation to the other Keanu. And Peele is developing a horror film called Get Out.
We stole a few minutes with Peele to get some answers: to our Lucky 7 questions, what line he won’t cross in comedy, and what Die Hard and Family Matters star Reginald Vel Johnson thought about this Key & Peele sketch:
So, have you heard from Reginald Vel Johnson?
I have. I had a little Twitter exchange with the man. First of all, he complimented my impression — a thing from which I drew much glee. It was a childhood dream of mine to ask him how much of his career he spent in a uniform of some sort. He said, “Um, about 70 percent. If you include priest and doctor, about 90 percent.” And then I asked him, “How much of that scene do you think is true?” And he said, “I’d tell you, but Jaleel is lurking.” You’ve actually cut to one of the highlights of my career.
Why is comedy the only place, really, that America can talk about race?
First of all, it’s an enlightening experience to laugh. It’s cathartic. If you laugh, you will justify why you laughed at it. There are so many ways to talk about race that are encroaching on boundaries people aren’t comfortable with. Laughter is an expression of you recognizing the truth in what somebody’s saying. With comedy, you can lead somebody to a truth.
Is there any place you guys won’t go, when it comes to your comedy? Do you have a line you won’t cross?
We’re conscious of what makes a bully a bully. I think that line, to me, is when you are poking fun at people who are victims or victimized for things you’re making fun on. When you make fun of the bullies, the hypocrites with power, liars, then you are on the right side of comedy. And I think everybody feels when that happens. The one guideline we have with Key & Peele is that we don’t want to exploit the exploited…and the downtrodden and the people who don’t have it coming. Punch up.
Playboy’s Lucky 7 Questions
What was your first exposure to Playboy magazine?
I think it was the Anna Nicole Smith issue. I wanna say it was ’96. I just remember seeing this and having to literally — I don’t know if I stole one from somebody, or if I had the courage to go buy one or something. But she was a different…there was a different thing going on that. I know that issue front and back.
What movie scared you the most as a kid?
I’m a huge horror movie fan so this is a perfect question for me. The Shining. Still probably the best horror movie I’ve ever seen. The Overlook Hotel, the way that that world — of being one of three people in such a vast, remote, desolate, isolated environment and then seeing a ghost up in there? Seeing twin girl ghosts in a hallway? Forget it. Done done done. I was so terrified of horror movies as a kid. I’ve been spending the first half of my career focusing on comedy but my goal, in all honesty, is to write and direct horror movies.
Heaven forbid you end up on death row — what’s your last meal?
Chicken parmesan sandwich. Some french fries with malt vinegar. Keep it homey.
What’s the first song you knew the words to?
Kriss Kross “Jump”. I don’t know if I could break it down now, but yeah. And there was Das EFX, “They Want EFX.” That was a feat to memorize.
What’s your pop culture blind spot?
There’s a lot of them. I would say the one that I most want to fix would be the young adult novel movie phenomenon. I’ve been out of the loop on the Twilights the Divergents. Part of it’s probably because I don’t read nearly enough, and I have a penis, so between those things, I’m not the perfect Twilight fan. I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan, but I’ve never read the books. Basically, I’ve neglected literature for the past 12 years.
What’s the biggest lie you ever told?
“Trust me, everything will be fine.” I’m not gonna give you any context, but it wasn’t fine.
(This article was first published on Oct. 29, 2014)
Marc Bernardin is the Deputy Editor of Playboy.com. He is fully aware that these are only six questions above. Blame it on the rain.