WHAT: The return of Barack Obama’s anger translator Luther on last night’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
WHO: The inimitable Keegan-Michael Key
WHY WE CARE: George Carlin. David Foster Wallace. Molly Ivins. There’s an endless well of lost voices sorely missed at this moment in American political history. Perhaps one of the most missed perspectives of all, however, is one that is still with us: former President Barack Obama. More specifically, though, a lot of Key and Peele fans are missing the voice of Obama as filtered through his personal anger translator, Luther. For five seasons, Keegan-Michael Key played the volatile id to the buttoned-up ego of Jordan Peele’s impeccable Obama on the groundbreaking sketch series. Key’s character brought to the surface the explosive emotions many guessed lay simmering beneath the president’s eminently composed exterior. Appreciated by the parody subject himself, the Luther project reached its pinnacle with Key and Peele bringing him to the 2015 White House Correspondent’s Dinner, where the president “used” him. With both the sketch show and Obama retired from their former positions, though, the character sadly disappeared into the ether. Until now.
Key appeared on last night’s Colbert to promote his performance in Hamlet this summer at the Public Theater in New York City, and the new Netflix series Friends From College. Since Colbert is a resourceful host, however, he took advantage of having the conjurer of Luther in the studio. He invited Key to summon the chaotic character over to the guest couch to translate some Obama quotes from the Trump era. What follows is five eruptive minutes of “Luther” railing on the Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (“I’d say you people make me sick but I couldn’t afford that because I have no insurance now”) and Trump’s promise of building a border wall (“I spent eight years tearin’ down walls and this mother[bleep] wanna put a wall up.”) It’s a much-needed fix for Key and Peele fans in withdrawal.
Best of all, though, this appearance might not be a one-off.
“I thought I was on forced retirement, but it looks like Obama still needs me,” Luther concludes at the end of his segment. “So I am back!”
Not a moment too soon, either.