Obama’s Shout-Out to Comedy Central’s Key & Peele

One of the most notable things about Obama’s appearance on Late Night to me was the moment when he shouted out Comedy Central’s Key & Peele, specifically their sketches centered around a character called Luther, who is meant to be Obama’s “Anger Translator”:

Obama said his staff had brought it to him, calling it “pretty good stuff.” The original sketch appears here:

When I talked to Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele in February, I asked them about the origins of the Anger Translator sketches. “It was in the height of the second Birther renaissance,” Peele told me. It felt like there were a bunch of things that were not being said that should have been said…We’re all thinking in our heads what we all hope he’s thinking, but he has to maintain his composure. Key added that “I think [the presidency] is a miserable straightjacket for anybody…The president frames things in a much more 18th-century way, “You’re reasonable people and I expect you to look at facts.” He’ll do that through actions as well as words, and that’s threatening to people.”


I think to have Obama acknowledge that desire, what Peele referred to as “a guiltily orgasmic moment” of watching someone speaking for the president express fierce, funny, frothing impatience with the more insane of his critics, is powerful. He’s not satisfying that urge directly, but in a way he’s putting himself on the couch next to us, looking at his public persona from the outside. He can’t give us what we want, and we might not really want it should such an explosion come to pass. But it’s a riff that suggests, despite the birth certificate press conference and the maddening, infinite patience, he is with us in recognizing the ridiculousness.