Sunday, November 22, 2015

Key and Peele: The Substitute Teacher

In Key's and Peele's satirical episode of "Substitute Teacher" (seen below), Keegan-Michael Key plays the role of a black substitute teacher to a classroom of white students. Immediately, Key is seen establishing strict order in the classroom, and takes attendance. Key repeatedly mispronounces the students' names, for example, stating that 'Jaqueline' is 'Jac-qually,' 'Blake' is 'Bla-lack-ay,' 'Denise' is 'Dee-nice,' and 'A-a-ron' is 'Aaron.' This example in the clip may also apply to how white individuals may pronounce the names of black individuals. This element of the sketch suggests the difference between the 'standard English' and 'black English' dialect. The language is similar, but the way the language is said varies. This exaggerated distinction in the clip represents how dialect should not matter when discussing/referencing superiority over another race. Additionally, the way the names are said may be different (but are not incorrect) for different people due to one's cultural background.

Key increasingly gets angry when the students are hesitant to correct him (in their eyes what they believe is the correct way) or to reply, 'here.' He claims that the next person to say some silly name 'will feel his wrath.' The clip uses an element of satire, hyperbole, to exaggerate the substitute's aggressive response of when the student corrects him. Key continues to disregard what the student says, assuming what he says is always right. Furthermore, when Key hears how Blake speaks his name, Key becomes wildly irritated. Key says, 'Do you want to go to war, Bla-lack-ay? Because we could go to war, I'm for real. I'm for real.' The form of irony used, dramatic, is shown through Key's statement of war, and how we, as the audience, know the war he claims may be the civil war (given him being black and the students white). This usage of dramatic irony demonstrates how ridiculous people may seem when they become too obsessed with the many versions (dialects) there are to express words. Additionally, how absurd that the little differences may be the ultimate concerns that divide us among different races.


  1. I think you did a great job of analyzing the different satirical strategies that the piece uses. I especially liked how you included a discussion about dialect. Nice work!

  2. I really enjoy your insight regarding the war comment made in the skit. I never thought of it as alluding to the Civil War, very smart and insightful. The discussion about dialect relates well to the book we are reading in class, and I totally agree I sometimes think people are way too particular about the way things are said (regarding dialect). In my opinion, Key and Peele always find great ways to use satire to draw deeper insight about race. Great post!