Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key, late of “MADtv,’’ recently fielded questions at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif. Below are excerpts from a discussion of their new Comedy Central series, “Key & Peele,’’ premiering tonight at 10:30.
Q. Why did you decide to make the show part skit and part stand-up?
PEELE: We’ve done sketch before, but we just felt that there needed to be some kind of connection to introduce us to the world . . . and certainly that’s what worked for [Dave] Chappelle who is, of course, a hero of ours.
Q. You guys do a lot of comedy around your biracial heritage. Do you think America’s ready for that?
KEY: We certainly hope so. [America’s] done the president thing. Maybe they’ll be ready for this.
PEELE: Obama was the best thing for black nerds everywhere. Finally we had a role model.
KEY: Right, exactly. It’s OK for black people to walk down the street saying, “Yeah, ‘Star Trek!’ ’’
PEELE: Before Obama, we basically had Urkel.
KEY: So basically we had a cartoon as the role model.
PEELE: Then there was Lamar [from] “Revenge of the Nerds.’’ We live in this world where we’ve grown up identifying ourselves as African-American. Part of sketch [comedy] is you have to be pushing the boundaries. You have to have a new voice. So that was our cue to say, “Look, man, we have this thing in common, and we can explore stereotypes or the lack thereof.’’
Q. Can you talk about walking the line between being offensive and being genuinely funny?
KEY: I will say this - and I love this about my partner - we both hate bullying. We hate people being mean in comedy for no reason. Everything we do, we always grind, grind, grind on the game of a scene to try to figure out how to get [a] funny foundation first.