How the Key and Peele Movie ‘Keanu’ Got Its Hilarious Name

Key and Peele are a dynamic comedy duo. From their early days on MADtv to their recent work in movies, the two are no strangers to making audiences laugh (or cry, in Peele’s case, as he has proven himself a horror film master). Their big-screen comedy Keanu delivered more gut-busting laughter.

The adorably fuzzy star — a gray tabby cat — got its name from a truly awesome actor who provided the voice for the kitten. Here’s how the filmmakers came up with the name.

Who are Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele? 

Actors Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele arrive at the premiere of Warner Bros.' 'Keanu' at the ArcLight Cinemas Cinerama Dome on April 27, 2016, in Hollywood, California
Actors Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele at the premiere of ‘Keanu’ at the ArcLight on April 27, 2016, Cinemas Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, California | Amanda Edwards/WireImage

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele began working together on the comedy show MADtv. The popular magazine MAD inspired the series, which aired for 14 seasons. 

Both Key and Peele had imagined different career paths when they were younger. Key studied fine arts at Penn State and had always planned to pursue a career in the theater, NPR reports. According to Biography, Peele went to Sarah Lawrence College and wanted to be a puppeteer. He ended up dropping out of college after discovering a love for improv. 

The two met at Second City, an improv comedy club in Chicago, The Things reports. One of the writers at Second City introduced them, and by chance, they both ended up on MADtv. About three years after MADtv ended, their manager asked if they might be interested in doing a show together. For Key and Peele, the answer was a no-brainer: definitely yes. 

‘Key & Peele’: 5 seasons of brilliant sketches

Key & Peele premiered in 2012 on Comedy Central. The sketch show debuted to 2.1 million viewers. It was the network’s biggest premiere since The Jeff Dunham Show three years earlier, Mental Floss reports. 

During the show’s hilarious five seasons, the brilliant comedy duo accomplished many impressive feats, including working with President Obama and winning a Peabody Award. The show featured several recurring characters that quickly became fan favorites. 

Barack Obama and his “anger translator,” Luther, was one of the show’s most memorable sketches. Peele brought the president to life, while Key played Luther. Luther’s purpose was to translate the president’s calm, friendly statements into the “real,” underlying angry tirades Obama was hiding. The sketch was so popular that Key was invited to the Annual White House Correspondents dinner to play his character for the real President Obama. 

Other fan-favorite characters include Mr. Wendell, a sci-fi nerd; Mr. Garvey, an angry substitute teacher; and the Valets, two starstruck valet parking attendants who love to talk about movies. But the sketches didn’t always pan out exactly the way Key and Peele planned. For example, Mr. Garvey was originally supposed to be a Spanish teacher. Luckily, the changes seemed to work out for the best because the audience loved the show’s characters.

How their movie got its name


5 Most Hilarious Skits From Comedy Central’s ‘Key and Peele’

In 2016, Key and Peele took their act from TV to the big screen with their film Keanu, The Wrap reports. The talented duo created a comedy about two friends pretending to be gangsters to rescue their stolen kitten. Enter the real star of the show: the kitten. 

The adorable feline is named for one of Hollywood’s sweetest stars: Keanu Reeves. There’s a simple story about how the on-screen pet got its name. They were hanging out one day when Peele had an epiphany. Out of the blue, he said, “For some reason, I feel like the cat should be named Keanu,” co-screenwriter Alex Rubens told The Wrap.

Interestingly enough, the kitten wasn’t even supposed to be in the film. The original version of the script didn’t have the stolen-pet plot and instead followed Key’s and Peele’s characters through various wacky adventures related to their gangster personas. 

The filmmakers had originally reached out to actor Keanu Reeves to see if he would be a part of the film. At first, he declined. But after seeing the trailer, he changed his mind. He agreed to give a voice to the kitten with his name and recorded lines to be used during a special sequence in the film.