My favorite episode of Key & Peele is the first one, the pilot. It was shot eight months before we shot the rest of the first season.
Most pilots or first episodes are like first pancakes: Unformed and a mere sampling of what the show will become. Series usually take at least half a season to find their voice (or, in the case of The Simpsons or Seinfeld, almost two seasons). Not this one.
Jordan and Keegan were both comedy veterans when they joined forces — they knew not only what they wanted to say but how they wanted to say it. This first episode is like a fertilized cell: Each sketch contains the DNA of the series.
The cold open (Phone Call) wrote the blueprint for countless code-switching sketches to come; Bitch set the tone for our most common sketch, the escalating game with the ludicrous topper; Celebrity Chef showed how we planned on dealing with pop culture (not as a disease but as a symptom); Luther and Obama (the first of many to come, see my Directing section for the last) nailed our take on politics while feeding back into the code-switching of the cold open — and on and on.
Everything you need to know about the show was in the first episode, but that still didn’t stop it from being fun and surprising for the next four seasons. (Here’s the cold open. The rest of the episode seems to be in Comedy Central cold storage:)