Over the course of fifteen years, Jordan Peele has slowly become a household name and now he shines at the top of Hollywood’s elite director's list, but he didn’t get there without a lot of hard work. We are going to go back to his beginnings and will be taking a deep dive look into how he got to where he is today. With a new horror film from Peele just around the corner what better time than to dissect his intriguing career thus far.
From Comedy Actor to Horror Filmmaker, Jordan Peele Has Done It All
Jordan Peele attended Sarah Lawrence College in 1997 and studied for two years until he realized you don’t need a degree to be funny. Peele decided to drop out and form a comedy duo with classmate Rebecca Drysdale. After a couple of years, Peele switched it up and started grinding sketch and improv comedy at Second City and Improv Olympic in Chicago where he began to attain more traction for his work. Later in 2002, Jordan Peele relocated and performed sketch and improv comedy at Boom Chicago in Amsterdam.
Peele’s First Big Gig
In 2003, Peele joined the cast of the hit TV show Mad TV. Around the same time, a future collaborator of Peele’s Keegan-Michael Key joined the cast too which is where they met. During Peele’s time at Mad TV, his comedy skills only grew as he delivered hilarious impressions and in turn, received his first Emmy nomination. Peele even auditioned for Saturday Night Live around the time of the Writers Guild of America strike but ended up not receiving a role on the show and continued to work on Mad TV through 2008.
Peele’s Own Little Sunken Place
After Mad TV, a few years went by where it seemed like Peele’s career was halted. He bounced around acting gigs having been featured on some small TV shows such as The Station, Chocolate News, Reno 911!, SuperNews!, and Love Bites. Peele also had some very small roles in two feature films: Little Fockers and Wanderlust. But little did the public know, Peele had many ideas up his sleeve for the future.
Peele’s Big Break
In 2012, Jordan Peele struck comedy gold with old collaborator Keegan-Michael Key as they created the hit TV show Key & Peele which aired on Comedy Central. The show lasted for three years and also sparked many viral youtube comedy sketches online such as ‘Substitute Teacher’ and ‘I Said Bitch’. Many people, including myself, oftentimes get stuck in the youtube rabbit hole for hours on end watching Key & Peele’s laugh-out-loud comedy skits. My brother, friends, and even relatives quote the sketches daily. Their comedy was a huge hit in the pop culture world and will surely influence future comedic acts for years on end. The show was not only popular amongst fans, but it came with critical acclaim and received 16 Emmy nominations including 2 wins during its time on air.
Peele Lands His First Lead Role
After the success of Key & Peele, Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key collaborated once more bringing us the hilarious Keanu. Peele not only starred in the film but he also co-wrote and produced the movie too. Although the premise was extremely silly, (having similar humor to his comedy skits from Key & Peele), the film was a success winning over both critics and the general public. While the film probably didn’t win over many new fans, Keanu was still a benchmark in Peele’s career as a whole.
Peele’s Moves On In A Big Way
After the success of Keanu, one would think Peele would begin to star in bigger-budget comedy movies and continue his acting career. But to the surprise of many, Peele shocked the world with the announcement that his next move would be writing and directing an original horror movie titled Get Out. He had never directed anything in the past so there was no telling whether the film would be a hit or a miss. I myself had reasons to believe the film would flop and was unfortunately not anticipating the film to be good at all.
For starters, the film had a February release date which historically is a month that doesn’t produce the best movies. Additionally (and this could be a very hot take) I thought the trailers looked like another throwaway Blumhouse horror film. But to many people's great surprise, including myself, Get Out turned out to be one of my favorite movies of all time and Jordan Peele immediately became a household name if he wasn’t already.
Sunken Place Success
Get Out was extremely well received amongst both the critics and audiences by landing a highly coveted 98% on rotten tomatoes and an 85 on Metacritic. At the time of release, there was also speculation that the film could potentially receive some Academy Award nominations. The only problem is that films released very early in the year rarely get nominated for Oscars because they are usually forgotten about by the time the ceremony comes around. But Get Out proved every doubter wrong and stayed a strong contender throughout the year.
The film ended up landing four huge Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actor for Daniel Kaluuya. The film also received nominations from many other lower-level prestigious awards ceremonies and Peele ended up taking home the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay which firmly cemented his name in Hollywood history by becoming the first African American to win the Best Original Screenplay award. After Peele received the Oscar, it was easy to predict he would keep making movies for a while.
Peele Says Bye To Acting
After his success with Get Out, Peele revealed that he secretly always had ideas for horror movies and was dying to make them because he felt as if the genre was dying. On top of that, Peele stated that he enjoys making movies more than acting and will be making four more very unique and different social horror, and thriller movies within the next decade. With this announcement from Peele, it meant two things. The more positive outcome is that we would get four more kick-ass horror movies in the coming years, but unfortunately, it also meant that he wouldn’t be taking any big acting roles anymore and so far he has been true to his word.
From 2017 onward, he’s had limited acting work playing voices in two animated movies: Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie and Toy Story 4, one animated TV show, Big Mouth, and he starred as the narrator in the reboot of The Twilight Zone. In addition to small acting roles, Peele has dabbled in producing shows and movies too. In 2018, Peele received his fourth Oscar nomination for producing the Best Picture nominated film BlacKkKlansman. Other projects Peele has produced after BlacKkKlansman include: Weird City, Lorena, Us, Hair Love, Hunters, The Twilight Zone, Lovecraft Country, Candyman, and The Last O.G.
Peele’s Second Feature Film
In 2019 Peele brought us his second horror film Us. Despite the film not winning as many awards as Get Out, critically, it still received rave reviews and was mostly loved by the general public. The closest it got to receiving an Academy Award nomination was for Best Actress for Lupita Nyong’o. In my opinion, this is still one of the biggest Oscar snubs to date as Lupita Nyong’o gave an incredible performance playing both a concerned mother and a vicious doppelgänger. At the end of the day, Peele gave audiences another entertaining thrill ride that cemented Peele’s name even deeper in Hollywood history.
Peele’s Third Feature Film
This week, Peele’s third horror nightmare will be released to the world. Titled Nope, the film follows California ranch owners as they encounter a shocking discovery that could change their lives forever. From the trailers, this looks like it will be Peele’s biggest and boldest film to date. Expectations are definitely high, but so far Peele hasn’t let us down, so it’s safe to keep the ceiling high with this one.
Besides the two more horror movies that we will be getting from Peele in the future when it comes to his other plans, who knows what he’ll decide to do later down the road. The only thing we do expect is to see him collaborate with Keegan-Michael Key again very soon. Key and Peele have a new animated adventure comedy releasing in late 2022 starring both of them titled Wendell and Wild. In addition, it is rumored that the pair have two comedy movies planned together so don’t expect Jordan Peele’s comedy roots to go away anytime soon.