Now this is parallel thinking: “Key & Peele,” “Friends of the People” both imagine the true story behind Urkel on “Family Matters”

All of the talk this week about Saturday Night Live‘s new Tina Turner sketch looking a little too much like The Groundlings new Tina Turner sketch been getting you down?

We have another, better example of parallel thinking in sketch comedy to examine already!

I bet the folks at TruTV and new sketch comedy series Friends of the People are breathing easier knowing that they chose to sneak peek their “Untold Hollywood History” sketch this summer for the TV Critics Association. It’s difficult enough launching a new sketch comedy TV series. Tougher still when a critically-acclaimed sketch comedy show covers similar territory and gets lauded for it with shares across the Internet.

What’s the difference?

For starters, where they’re starting from — it’s commonplace to take a fresh look at a pop culture icon from your own youth, take 20 years of nostalgia and add satire.

Jaleel White’s “Urkel” on Family Matters during ABC’s TGIF years of 1989-1998 qualified as a uniquely megapopular oddity. How did we all fall love with Urkel? How did Urkel even happen? They’re fair questions to ask, and you can go about answering them in different ways. Which, thankfully, Friends of the People and Key & Peele have done.

Friends of the People chose to make it a perverse joke among the sitcom’s writers that backfired on them, with Jermaine Fowler playing Jaleel White, and Fowler’s castmates — Jennifer Bartels, Kevin Barnett, Lil Rel, The Lucas Brothers and Josh Rabinowitz — as the writers. You’ll see this sketch on TV when their show debuts at the end of October on TruTV.

This week’s Key & Peele kicked the idea upstairs with Jordan Peele playing an exasperated Reginald VelJohnson, who thought he was the star of the show as the family’s father, only to be upstaged by Urkel and the drug-induced raving of the network TV executive as played by Keegan-Michael Key.

The real Jaleel White, meanwhile, also played a cameo role in reshaping history this summer for Comedy Central’s Drunk History.

SNL, I didn’t forget about you. SNL actually beat both Friends of the People and Key & Peele to the Urkel well of revisionist historical satire, with this imagination of Drake as Lil Wayne as the original harder-core Urkel we never got to see on TV.

P.S. White himself weighed in just now on Key & Peele’s take on history and his place in it, writing on his Twitter @JaleelWhite:

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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