Keegan-Michael Key Explores the History of Sketch Comedy in New Book


Keegan-Michael Key, known for his work in comedy on shows like “MAD TV” and “Key & Peele,” has taken on a new project: co-writing a book with his wife, Elle Key, titled “The History of Sketch Comedy.” In a recent interview, they discussed the journey of creating this book, which was inspired by a successful Audible podcast of the same name.

Elle’s Idea Persists

Elle Key initially pitched the idea for the book nearly eight years ago, but Keegan-Michael Key was initially resistant. He questioned the effort required to write a book but eventually agreed with Elle’s persistent encouragement. They decided to collaborate on the project.

From Podcast to Book

In 2021, they transformed the book’s concept into a podcast, which gained recognition by winning the People’s Voice award for best writing at the 2022 Webby Awards. Elle Key mentioned that the podcast’s success naturally led to the idea of turning it into a book. They both believed that a book was the ideal format for their content from the beginning.

Keegan-Michael Key
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA – MAY 03: Keegan-Michael Key attends the 2023 Milken Institute Global Conference at The Beverly Hilton on May 03, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images)

Similar Structure

The book closely follows the structure of the podcast. It consists of ten chapters, each dedicated to a different era or aspect of sketch comedy, ranging from ancient humor to contemporary TikTok comedians. Keegan-Michael Key’s distinctive voice and humor shine through in the book, much like in the podcast.

The Energy of the Podcast

Elle Key, an experienced writer, director, and producer, worked diligently to maintain the energetic and engaging tone of the podcast in the book. She acknowledged that this required considerable effort to adapt the podcast scripts into readable chapters.

Content and Interviews

The book includes excerpts from various sketch comedy shows, including iconic sketches from “Saturday Night Live,” “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” and more. Unlike the podcast, the book also features brief interviews with sketch comedy legends like Mel Brooks, Carol Burnett, and Jim Carrey.

A Personal Touch

One unique aspect of the book is the incorporation of memoir segments that trace Keegan-Michael Key’s life, providing a personal connection to the broader history of sketch comedy.

Sketch Comedy Roots

Keegan-Michael Key shared a childhood memory that influenced his passion for sketch comedy. He vividly recalled watching an “Saturday Night Live” sketch featuring Eddie Murphy impersonating Stevie Wonder while Stevie Wonder himself chastised him. This moment made him curious about what comedy could make his father laugh so hard.

The Evolving Landscape of Sketch Comedy

The Keys discussed the evolving landscape of sketch comedy, noting the increasing diversity in the field. While “Saturday Night Live” remains a dominant force, shows like “Key & Peele” and “A Black Lady Sketch Show” have contributed to more diverse voices in the genre. The rise of social media and smartphones has also empowered individuals to create and share their own sketches.

In conclusion, Keegan-Michael Key and Elle Key’s book, “The History of Sketch Comedy,” offers readers an engaging exploration of the genre’s evolution, with a personal touch and insights from comedy legends. It celebrates the importance of humor in bringing people together and spreading joy.

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