By Alex Berry, Ancient History, Third Year
From Key & Peele (2012-2015), to Get Out (2017), to BlacKkKlansman (2018), Jordan Peele’s impressive career is establishing him as a global household name, known not only for his comedy but also his success as a writer, director, and producer. The recipient of several Academy Award nominations, he has been nicknamed ‘this generation’s Hitchcock,’ and it is a personal honour to share my birthday with one of the greats.
Born in 1979, Peele was raised by his single mother, Lucinda Williams on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York City. The son of a black man from North Carolina and a white woman with roots in the Colonial United States, Peele was no stranger to the controversy of race, something he would later explore and involve in his career.
After dropping out of the prestigious Sarah Lawrence College in New York to pursue a career in comedy, Peele joined performance troops ‘Boom Chicago’ in Amsterdam, and ‘The Second City’ in Chicago, adding to an impressive alumni list including comedy heroes, Steve Carell, Mike Myers, and Tina Fey. He established a comedic presence in 2003 when he joined ‘Mad Tv’, in which he starred from its ninth season to its thirteenth. Here it is said that he demonstrated natural chemistry with Keegan-Michael Key, with whom he would later found the comedy sketch series, Key & Peele.
There is no doubt that Peele is a successful comedian, but behind the sketch shows and celebrity impressions, there is a talented director and producer, to whose work we were lucky enough to be introduced, in 2017 when he wrote, directed and produced horror/thriller Get Out, starring Daniel Kaluuya and Bradley Whitford.
Receiving four Academy Award nominations, including Best Director and Best Picture, Peele picked up not only an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay with this directorial debut, but also the respect and recognition of his peers in the film industry. A frightening but entertaining study of racism in the USA, Get Out demonstrated Peele’s ability to combine well-timed humour with sinister horror themes, showcasing his advanced skills as a filmmaker, and manipulating the way we perceive this horror genre.
In his second film Us (2019) Peele continued to exhibit his talent, and further fuel interesting discussions surrounding horror films. From the film’s title being an ambiguous representation of the United States (U.S.) and the pronoun ‘us’ Peele emphasised the haunting idea of ourselves being our own worst enemy. With another impressive star-studded cast (Lupita Nyong’o, Elizabeth Moss) Us received critical acclaim and massive success at the box office, with the film’s complex ending sparking up interpretative debates among film scholars and horror fans alike.
Before Us Peele co-produced Spike Lee’s 2018 black comedy film BlacKkKlansman. Another raving success with the Academy this adaptation of Ron Stallworth’s memoir, The Black Klansman, accruing six Oscar nominations and securing Peele’s legacy as a respected and successful name in the industry. Peele has been earmarked for future production roles in remakes of horror classics, Candyman (1992), and The People Under The Stairs (1992).
In terms of his personal life, not much is publicly known about Peele’s family, however we can imagine that he will be spending his birthday with his wife and child. Now, American sit-com fans will be thrilled to learn that Peele is in fact married to Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013-) star Chelsea Peretti, with whom he shares a son – this child will surely grow up to be hilarious?
Coming up to his 42nd birthday, it really does feel that Peele has firmly etched out his comfortable position in the industry as one of the most clever and unique directors of our generation. A thought provoking conversation starter and creator of rich, authentic, frightening terror, Jordan Peele is certainly one to watch.
His films beg to be watched more than once, in order to catch hidden moments and understand the important messages disguised by classic, timeless horror tropes of gore and jump-scares. We should certainly look forward to his future work, as it is likely to catch us out, make us laugh, and also frighten us about the true horror that exists in all of us – the perfectly unique essence of a Jordan Peele film.
Featured: IMDb, Comedy Central, Universal Pictures, Mark Ralston
Do you enjoy the work of Jordan Peele?