Comedy Central has tried and failed with many series in recent years. "Tosh.0" aside, nothing compares to the network's late-night shows ("The Daily Show," "The Colbert Report") or its longest-running prime-time hit ("South Park").
But new sketch comedy "Key & Peele" (10:30 tonight) might be able to break out where other series have not. For starters, its hits outpace its misses -- by a mile. That's not often the case with sketch comedy shows. Just as important, the humor is consistently smart.
The series stars Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, both of "Mad TV," who play an assortment of characters and appear as themselves in segments taped in front of a studio audience. In the first studio segment, they introduce themselves as biracial and acknowledge that they sound "very white."
"You never want to be the whitest-sounding black guy in the room," Mr. Peele says.
In one sketch, two friends hide from their wives in an effort to refer to them with the b-word that rhymes with witch. The lengths to which they will go to say the word without being heard are comically absurd.
In another segment, Mr. Peele plays President Obama, who hires Luther (Key) to be his "anger translator."
"You know those [expletives] are gonna say no before I even suggest something," the anger translator says about the Republican-controlled Congress, before shouting into a megaphone, "I am not a Muslim!"
"Obama was the best thing for black nerds everywhere," Mr. Peele said at a press conference earlier this month.
"Now it's OK for black people to walk down the street and say, 'Star Trek,' yes!' " Mr. Key said.
"Before Obama we had Urkel, and there was Lamar from 'Revenge of the Nerds,' " Mr. Peele said.
In discussing their backgrounds, Mr. Key said, "It's the usual way it is." Both men have a black dad and a white mom.
"The reason I do all of this is so I can buy [my mom] a house," Mr. Peele said, "at least that's what she tells me."
Mr. Key is married. Mr. Peele is not.
"I don't believe in marriage for the same reason I don't have tattoos," he said. "It's like a tattoo that's alive and makes you wait to watch the next episode of everything, which I have no interest in."
Portions of this story first appeared in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook. First Published January 31, 2012 5:00 AM