The History of Sketch Comedy review – Keegan-Michael Key's love letter to laughter

Podcast
The comic actor’s exuberant 10-part history unpicks the nuts-and-bolts of what makes sketches funny, from overlooked past acts to SNL, and British favourites including the Two Ronnies

“The sexy dangerous first cousin of standup,” Keegan-Michael Key calls sketch comedy, which feels like a stretch. But then, no one can accuse Key of understatement. His new audio series The History of Sketch Comedy brims with enthusiasm for an art form that, far from sexiness, is often sidelined as the runt of the comedy litter. No longer, if Key has his way. This 10-part podcast demonstrates not only the riches that strew the history of short-form comedy, but the art form’s pedigree as direct descendant of Greek theatre, court jesters and commedia dell’arte.

I didn’t see that coming – but then, there’s plenty in Key’s series that few of us would associate with sketch comedy. The opening two episodes, on the ancient and medieval worlds, are highly digressive and largely untroubled by anything you or I would recognise as sketch. (They’d be equally relevant to a history of comedy or standup more widely.) Each episode also tracks Key’s own career through sketch, improv and theatre. As one half of hit sketch pairing Key and Peele (his sidekick Jordan Peele is now an Oscar-nominated film-maker), he uses a handful of his own sketches – the fantastic Substitute Teacher, for example – as case studies.

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