Maybe Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele were always meant to know each other.
“We are so much alike,” says the New York-born Peele, 32. “Our senses of humor are so in the pocket ... and coming from similar backgrounds make us very much alike.”
Both come from biracial parents, are privately the nebbish type and keenly into making up outrageous characters. When they met briefly in 2002 at the Second City in Chicago, “we were fast friends,” says Key.
“It’s like we were doppelgangers,” Peele cuts in to say.
But they didn’t get to work side by side until they ended up on “Mad TV,” the former late-night sketch show on Fox, nearly a year later. They infused the show with their weirdness, from Peele’s take on Morgan Freeman to Key’s original creation, Coach Hines (an awkward high-school athletics coach).
Now, the two are behind the wheel of “Key and Peele” (10:30 p.m. EST Tuesday, Comedy Central), a half-hour sketch series that skews everything from hip-hop stars to passive-aggressive husbands. They write the material, star in every sketch and call the shots behind the scenes.
“We write to (sketches) only we can do well,” says Peele. Key “is a very physical comedian, and we just let it go all out with some of the stuff we do.”
Likewise, Peele has “a subtlety that can garner huge laughs. I am definitely his Eeyore to his Tigger,” says Key, 40, a Detroit native.
Often, “Key and Peele” incorporates both their styles in every sketch -- such as the one in which a mild-mannered President Barack Obama lets loose in a street-savvy rage, or one where two husbands who are kind and gentle to their wives let their bravado loose whenever the women aren’t around.
The two say their particular racial background -- each having one white parent -- helps inform their views of race and how it’s placed in their comedy. In the opening episode, they crack to the audience how neither race fully accepts them: They’re either “too white” or “too black” to fit in.
Key and Peele know of the controversies that have tagged other Comedy Central sketch shows -- most notably, how Dave Chappelle and Carlos Mencia tackled race issues. One of Chappelle’s earliest TV sketches parodied “Roots” and showed a black slave being beaten.
On “Key and Peele,” a similar sketch has the two on a slave-auction block and commenting on why no one wants to buy them.
Key and Peele say they have their own way of making social commentary. Theirs is not so heavy.
“In sketch comedy, people who want to be offended are going to be offended,” says Key.
“If we make sure we are true to our (comedy) and don’t make fun of the victims then, we know we’re good.”
Other highlights for the week of Jan. 29 to Feb. 4 (listings subject to change; check local listings):
The 18th Annual “Screen Actors Guild Awards” (8 p.m., TNT and TBS). The event will honor outstanding performances in film and television. Dick Van Dyke will help honor lifetime achiever Mary Tyler Moore.
“Luck” (9 p.m., HBO). Dustin Hoffman stars as an ex-con getting back into the game in this drama from writer David Milch (“Deadwood”) and set against the backdrop of horse racing.
“Cake Boss: Next Great Baker” (9 p.m., TLC). This season’s winner rises to the top.
“Glee” (8 p.m., Fox). The kids want to be starting something with Michael Jackson songs.
“The Ringer” (9 p.m., CW). The story picks up with new episodes: Siobhan can’t believe how well Greer is adjusting to her new life.
“Tosh.0” (10 p.m., Comedy Central). How many quirky Internet videos can comic Daniel Tosh find for our amusement? Well, at least enough for four seasons.
“The Union” (9 p.m., HBO). This documentary chronicles Elton John’s collaboration with old friend Leon Russell as the two make a new CD.
“I Just Want My Pants Back” (11 p.m., MTV). In this rare scripted series for the onetime music-video channel, a recent college graduate navigates his way through life in Brooklyn, trying to break into a music-journalism career.
“Who Do You Think You Are?” (8 p.m., NBC). Martin Sheen explores his Spanish and Irish roots in this genealogy reality series.
“Shark Tank” (8 p.m., ABC). The “sharks” are swimming for a new season of entrepreneurs looking for inventors with rich ideas.
“Secrets of Eden” (8 p.m., Lifetime). John Stamos plays a minister who is the prime suspect in a murder investigation in this film based on Chris Bohjalian’s best-selling novel.