Art Streiber photographed comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele for this past Sunday’s New York Times Magazine cover story, “Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead?,” on Wharton professor Adam Grant’s theories on altruism. He also directed a video, “The Generosity of Key and Peele Is Not to Be Believed,” in which the comedians take workplace generosity to a hilarious extreme, with the simple gesture of bringing someone a cup of coffee leading to a fiercely genial battle to see who could be more giving.
“Directing the comedy duo Key and Peele became a tennis match of great ideas bouncing all over the studio,” says Art. “We could have shot that scene for hours.”
Arem Duplessis, the design director at The New York Times Magazine, and Art gave Key and Peele a basic structure for the scene “and then let them loose,” says Art. “It was improv with parameters: We needed to keep the one-upmanship about the workplace, and each gesture had to be made in the guise of being ‘nice,’ of being a giver.
“I wanted to make it clear, through their body language and facial expressions, that each of them was slightly peeved at having to accept a gift from the other, and delighted when they one-upped their officemate.”
Art and his team had to move quickly from the stills portion of the shoot to the video part, a transition that went swiftly and smoothly with the help of lighting designer Eric Larson and DP Adam Grossman. Eric built “one giant light source” that flipped easily from strobes to hot lights, and Adam locked down Art’s 35mm still camera so that when the camera was flipped over to motion, he could add “two ‘floating’ over-the-shoulder cameras to frame closeups of Key and Peele’s reactions to each other,” explains Art.
“The shoot was seamless, and Key and Peele were hilarious!”
Arem Duplessis, design director, The New York Times Magazine
Kathy Ryan, director of photography
Joanna Milter, deputy photo editor
Art Streiber, photographer
Elaine Browne, creative producer
Arem Duplessis, producer/The New York Times
Art Streiber, director
Adam Grossman, camera and editing, Good Dog Media
Stanley Gonzales, sound
Eric Larson, Lighting design and second camera