Just when Keegan-Michael Key thought he was done playing Barack Obama’s “anger translator,” Stephen Colbert (or, more accurately, President Donald Trump) pulled him back in.
Key first honed the character of “Luther” on his Comedy Central sketch series Key & Peele, playing the physical embodiment of the unrestrained inner monologue of Jordan Peele’s carefully considered Obama. Luther even made it to the 2015 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, where the actual Obama called on Key to perform the role.
Key figured his Luther days were behind him once Obama left office. He was wrong, but as he told Colbert with a winking grin during Tuesday’s episode of The Late Show, “I think there’s probably something brewing up in Luther,” hinting that it was high time to bring him back. So Colbert read a few of the (very few) things Obama has said publicly since Trump was inaugurated, prompting Key to reprise Luther’s trademark histrionic reactions.
First, Colbert read from Obama’s statement on how the Republicans’ proposed health care plan would hurt you “if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family” — and after a mere moment’s consideration from Key, Luther went off.
“C’mon, people! Trumpcare?” Luther shrieked. “More like Trump don’t care! I’m talkin’ ‘Don T. Care,’ don’t care.”
Jumping up and down in frustration, Luther-as-Obama pointed out that hey, he worked with bipartisan groups to come up with his health care plan, so “what are y’all hiding, huh? ... Maybe y’all just don’t want anyone to see that you’re just all cooped up in a dungeon over a kettle just making a potion.”
(Note: There is absolutely zero way I can convey to you how beautifully unhinged Key/Luther became at this point as he mimed stirring the contents of a witch’s cauldron, so make sure to match the incredible visual to the words at 2:45 in the clip above.)
In conclusion, Luther screamed, “I would say you people make me sick, but I can’t afford that, because I wouldn’t have no damn insurance! Fuck.”
Next up for anger translation: Obama stating at an event with Germany’s Angela Merkel that “we can’t isolate ourselves; we can’t hide behind a wall.”
“I spent eight years tearing down walls, and this motherfucker wants to put ’em all up!” Luther cried, leaping up from Colbert’s couch, pacing around the set in restless rage, and eventually launching himself into an outraged backward somersault (a thing I didn’t even know was possible).
(And again: There is no translating I can do to convey Key’s fantastic physicality as Luther gets angrier and angrier, so I beg you to check it out for yourself.)
“I thought I was on a forced retirement, y’all,” Luther concluded, panting for breath. “But it looks like Obama still needs me, so I’m back.”
For how long, it’s impossible to say. Still: The way things are going, it sure seems like Luther will have plenty of latent wrath to work with.