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The History of Sketch Comedy A Journey Through the Art and Craft of Humor

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2023-10-03
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books

Note: Supplemental materials are not guaranteed with Rental or Used book purchases.

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"A boisterous debut … the authors are as funny as one would expect … this is a hoot.”Publishers Weekly
“Will entice fans of Key & Peele … a fun and funny primer on the art form.”Booklist

Authors Keegan-Michael Key and Elle Key build on the popularity of their 2022 Webby Awardwinning podcast and delve deeper into the world of sketch, helped along with new essays created expressly for the book by comedy greats.

The History of Sketch Comedy will appeal to all kinds of comedy fans as well as fans of Keegan-Michael Key, whether they know him from his Emmy and Peabody-winning work on Key & Peele; his roles in Fargo, The Prom, Schmigadoon!, The Bubble, and the upcoming Wonka; voiceover work in The Lion King; or as President Barack Obama's anger translator, Luther.

With epic personal tangents and hilarious asides, the Keys take you on an illuminating journey through all facets of comedy from the stock characters of commedia del arte in the 16th century, to the rise of vaudeville and burlesque, the golden age of television comedy, the influence of the most well-known comedy schools, and the ascension of comedy films and TV specials—all the way through to a look at the future of sketch on social media platforms. Along the way, we hear tales of Keegan's childhood, his comedy influences, and the vicissitudes of his career path. As the New York Times said in its review of their podcast, "this comedy nerd history is filtered through memoir, with Key relating stories of his budding fandom, training and rise from improv comic to television sketch artist."

Part memoir, part masterclass, and hilariously embellished with priceless commentary, The History of Sketch Comedy highlights the essential building blocks of sketch comedy while interweaving Keegan's personal career journey and the influence of his comedy heroes. The text is complemented by original art by Elle Key and exclusive essays compiled from conversations with influential performers, sketch writers, and uber comedy fans including Mel Brooks, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mike Myers, Chris Rock, John Oliver, Tracy Morgan, Carol Burnett, Jim Carrey, Jordan Peele, and many more. This book is as entertaining as it is enlightening—a must-read for fans of comedy and all who aspire to comic greatness.

EXPANDING THE HIT PODCAST: With content from the #1 trending, NAACP-award-nominated and Webby-Award-winning Audible podcast, and featuring new-for-the-book material as well as never-before-heard stories and essays, this book will be a hit for newcomers and avid listeners of the podcast alike.

MASTER OF THE MEDIUM: Keegan-Michael Key is a bona fide maestro of comedy, with the chops, experience, and love for the history of the medium that make him the perfect expert on all things sketch. As co-writer Elle Key likes to say, "If Keegan-Michael Key was a guest lecturer at NYU teaching a course called 'The History of Sketch Comedy,' it would be a very popular class."

EXCLUSIVE ESSAYS: Keegan and Elle interviewed over a dozen comedy legends exclusively for this book, and got their takes on topics ranging from the influence of Saturday Night Live, to women in comedy, to the mathematics of sketch. Hear, in their own words, from Mel Brooks, Mike Myers, Jordan Peele, Julia-Louis Dreyfus, John Oliver, Tracy Morgan, Stephen Colbert, Carol Burnett, Chris Rock, Bob Odenkirk, Mike Birbiglia, Matt Lucas, Ken Jeong, Christopher Guest, Gary Oldman, Kevin Nealon, Laraine Newman, and Jim Carrey.

GIFTABLE VOLUME OF COMEDY GOLD: Original illustrations and personal photographs throughout make this unique comedy book as visually entertaining as it is enlightening. The perfect gift for comedy fans of all ages as well as anyone aspiring to write, perform, or produce comedic art.

Perfect for:
  • Comedy lovers of all kinds
  • Fans of Key & Peele
  • Fans of improv, sketch, stand-up, and shows like SNL, MadTV, Monty Python, and Mr. Show
  • Gift giving or self-purchase for established and aspiring comedians
  • Readers of such bestsellers as Bossypants, Yes Please, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Born Standing Up, and Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama

Author Biography

Keegan-Michael Key is an Emmy- and Peabody Award–winning writer, actor, and producer—and one of Hollywood's most in-demand forces. With his extraordinarily diverse skill set and wide-ranging talent in both comedy and drama, Key redefines what it means to be a chameleon and multi-hyphenate in the worlds of film, television, and theater. From his multiple-award-winning show Key & Peele (on Comedy Central, now Hulu) with sketches that often went viral on YouTube; to stints on Fargo and Parks and Recreation; to voicework in feature animations The Lion King, Toy Story 4, and Pinocchio; to his debut on Broadway in Steve Martin's Meteor Shower; to his feature films like Keanu with Jordan Peele, playing Meryl Streep's love interest in Netflix's The Prom, a singing, dancing curmudgeon in Netflix's Emmy-nominated Schmigadoon!, a movie star in Judd Apatow's The Bubble, and starring opposite Timothée Chalamet in the upcoming Wonka; Key's wildly varied and indelible performances have won him fans of all ages and backgrounds.

Elle Key is an award-winning film, television, and commercial director, writer, and producer. She was born in the Bronx and spent her early years working off-Broadway with theater companies such as Malaparte, Naked Angels, and Atlantic. She went from working in theater to film, producing eight independent features (including Nanette Burstein's Sundance award-winning doc American Teen, and August with Josh Hartnett, Naomi Harris, and David Bowie). She has written and directed numerous projects including those for the NFL, the Pro-Bowl, the Peabody Awards, and the Gotham Awards. She is an executive producer on Brain Games for Disney/Nat Geo, as well as an executive producer (along with James Corden) for Game On!, the Keegan-Michael Key hosted show for CBS. She is the co-president and founder of Bigger Picture Media Group. She is also a member of the Creative Coalition, Women in Film, and is on the Leadership Council of RFK Human Rights. In 2022, Elle won the People's Voice Webby Award for Best Writing for a Podcast for the original Audible production of The History of Sketch Comedy.

Supplemental Materials

What is included with this book?

The New copy of this book will include any supplemental materials advertised. Please check the title of the book to determine if it should include any access cards, study guides, lab manuals, CDs, etc.

The Used, Rental and eBook copies of this book are not guaranteed to include any supplemental materials. Typically, only the book itself is included. This is true even if the title states it includes any access cards, study guides, lab manuals, CDs, etc.

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