Key & Peele
MADtv had its moments, but it always felt like the idiot brother of the mega sketch comedy show, Saturday Night Live. That said, it was a great place for Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele to hone their comedic chops. They both joined the show in 2003 during the ninth season and were two of the cast’s biggest stars for the rest of its run. Since the end of MADtv, the pair became an official comedy duo with their show Key & Peele, which ran for five seasons on Comedy Central, the final season finishing up this last fall. Whereas other sketch shows (including the aforementioned pinnacle of sketch comedy Saturday Night Live) have struggled to find a way to make President Obama funny, these two made comedy gold out of Peele playing an Obama that has difficulty expressing his feelings and Key playing Luther, Obama’s “anger translator,” turning the president’s subdued demeanor into full-on tirades. Even though their show is no more, you can expect to see a lot of these multi-talented comedians in the coming years.
Fey & Poehler When it comes to women in comedy, both Tina Fey and Amy Poehler stand at the top of the class independently, but when they collaborate, it’s even better, always guaranteed to make for comedy gold. Whether performing in Saturday Night Live sketches, starring in blockbuster comedies (including the recently released Sisters), or hosting award shows and grilling celebrities with a dash of good-hearted spice, these ladies always bring the funny. They can get those witty high-brow chuckles and those ridiculous low-brow yucks as easily if not easier than the men can. And in an election year, it’s worth remembering that no one does election season sketch comedy like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (as Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton, respectively, on SNL, they got us through the 2008 election).
Coogan & Brydon
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon have been working together for decades. They’re both huge names in Britain, but only in the last decade have they really started to make their way Stateside. Of course, Anglophiles knew Coogan from way back as everyone’s favorite politically incorrect media personality, Alan Partridge, but it wasn’t until he started getting roles in American movies (and earned two Oscar nominations for Philomena) that the rest of the country started to take notice. He and Brydon have appeared together in a number of films by British master Michael Winterbottom. Both veterans of UK panel shows and masters of impressions, Coogan and Brydon have struck a chord with their most recent Winterbottom collaboration, the BBC series The Trip, a two-season roadtrip laugh-fest that somehow manages to be as artful as it is funny. We would follow these two anywhere to watch them do Michael Caine impersonations over fancy meals. Released in the U.S. as movies, check out the entire series if you get a chance. (Fingers crossed they’ll do a third Trip at some point.)
Armisen & Brownstein
Not only are Fred Armisen (of Saturday Night Live fame) and Carrie Brownstein (of Sleater-Kinney fame) a comedic duo, but they also do double time as a musical duo. They created internet videos for years under the name ThunderAnt before creating the Lorne Michaels produced mega-hit Portlandia on IFC. With oft-kilter sketches featuring patrons of an artisanal knot store, bookstore clerks at a feminist bookshop, and DIY artists who put birds on things, the dream of the ‘90s is alive in Portland, and we know about it mostly because Armisen and Brownstein chose to spotlight the weird, surreal culture of that hipper-than-hipster Pacific Northwest town. Last year, it was renewed for two more seasons, so there’s plenty more oddball comedy coming your way from these two talented entertainers.
Heidecker & Wareheim
You probably know them by their first names: Tim & Eric, of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! fame. Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim described that show as “the nightmare version of television,” but if that’s the case, then their nightmares are our sweet dreams. The two comedians have created multiple shows themselves, and produced a handful of others, and they all showcase their brand of off-beat gags, surreal anti-humor, public access production value, and frenetic editing. They’ve created a comedy aesthetic that is truly their own and unmistakeable, which isn’t easy in our everything’s-been-done-before millennium.