One of the more popular and enduring sketches on Comedy Central’s Key & Peele has been Luther, President Obama’s “anger translator,” which features Jordan Peele as a comically reserved commander in chief and Keegan-Michael Key as the over-the-top voice (and gesticulating arms) of his inner rage. The schizophrenic skit—a hit with critics and viewers alike from the get-go—apparently tickled POTUS’s funny bone too.
It began as a seemingly off-handed remark three years ago, when the duo met President Obama during his visit to L.A., where the show is filmed and the two live— “I need Luther,” Key remembers the president joking. But the meeting took a turn towards the surreal after Key attended a holiday party at the White House last December, and got to talking with one of the president’s punch-up guys. (Yes, the president takes his comedy seriously too.)
“The next thing we know, we’re on an airplane going to Washington, D.C.,” says Key. And then, shortly thereafter, on a very different sort of comedy stage: the White House Correspondents dinner, where the actual president and his fictional anger translator brought the house down.
Which will come as little surprise to fans of the show: What the duo hasn’t needed over five seasons of Key & Peele is a laughter translator. The show has consistently been one of Comedy Central’s top-rated, with about 2 million weekly viewers, has snared an additional 100 million streams online — not to mention the heaps of Emmy love it received this year.