Making Barack Obama Funny

Key and Peele on how to pull off the perfect PORTUS impression

Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key, June 15th, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Credit: Joe Scarnici/WireImage/Getty

It took nearly four years, but we finally got the Obama sketch we'd been waiting for, in Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele's "Obama's Anger Translator." Obama himself praised the bit — in which Key plays a smack-talking "translator" for Peele's coolheaded Obama — and it helped make the debut season of Comedy Central's Key & Peele a hit. (Season Two premieres September 26th.) "It's my job to figure out what's absurd about this guy who seems like the least absurd person in the world," says Peele.

STAY COOL
PEELE: "We zoned in on the fact Obama has an absurd amount of composure. Ev­eryone is scrutinizing your every move; someone like Biden or Mitt Romney can't speak without fuck­ing up. But Obama is so on point that it's hilarious."

FRY YOUR PAUSES
KEY: "He has a glottal fry — it's when he stretches out paus­es by going 'uhhhh'. Even at his most impromptu, he's thoughtful. His glottal fry is the equivalent to Reagan's 'Well. . . .'"

GET IN THE RING
KEY: "He sounds like the Rock. Our friend [radio host] Joe Stapleton does a segment where he plays clips of Obama and the Rock back-to-back. Their timbre is so similar — the Rock when he was in the ring and the president when he's giving a big speech."

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
KEY: "You meet him, and it's like, 'You could've been Shaft.'"
PEELE: "Yeah, when he's around black people he speaks slightly more black, the Southern accent comes out a little more. When we met him, he gave us bro hugs."
KEY: "It's like, 'You didn't sound like that two minutes ago when you were shaking a white police officer's hand.'"