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Making Barack Obama Funny

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

Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, ObamaJordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Obama

Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key, June 15th, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

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.

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.”

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. . . .'”

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.”

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.'”

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