Marlon Wayans on the Moment: "I Just Fell in Love with the Art of Standup"
The Wayans family is to comedy what the sun is to the Earth. They've been such a consistent force in that, sometimes, you can forget they're there. Then all of the sudden, you turn your head and you're blinded. Everything they've done for comedy comes flooding at you at once.
The youngest member of the Wayans clan, and one of the brightest reminders of their power, is Marlon Wayans. And, actually, the sun might not be the best metaphor for Marlon, because the sun will stop burning one day. I'm not convinced Marlon ever will.
If his previous credits on projects like In Living Color, The Wayans Bros., Scary Movie, and White Chicks aren't enough for you, then just look at what he's doing right now.
Marlon is currently touring and performing standup with his brother Shawn. The sequel to his independently released movie, A Haunted House, comes out on April 18. He has a new talent competition coming to TBS called Funniest Wins. And the winner of that competition will get their own series on his brand new sketch comedy website whatthefunny.com that he founded with he founded with Funny or Die co-founder Randy Adams.
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If you still want more Marlon, go ahead and follow him on Instagram, Twitter, or just go see him and his brother, Shawn, perform at the Fort Lauderdale Improv February 20 through 23.
New Times: So you were the youngest of ten kids. Ten kids is way too many kids in a normal family. I can't imagine ten Wayans running around. What was it like to grow up in that environment?
Marlon Wayans: Picture Cirque du Soleil, except we're not that flexible. It's like a circus, but there was no ringmaster. Picture the monkey cage at the zoo -- if you gave them all Red Bull, and there was no zookeeper.
That sounds like a lot of broken dishes.
Dishes? I wish we had dishes.
The youngest kid generally plays the role of the funny one. It's kind of their job to break the tension and make people laugh. Was that you, or was it hard to stand out with that many funny people in one family?
I think we all had our chance at being the baby. So we all got a chance to play that role. I think we all at some point were one of mom's babies, so at some point we all got to be the clown. It's funny because in my childhood, as I was growing up, every class I would go to -- because we all went to the same junior high and elementary school -- whenever I would come to the first day of school they'd go, "Oh, no. Another Wayans? Oh God."
I remember you telling the story of the first time Eddie Murphy came to your house with your brother, Keenen, and you and Shawn started making fun of his pants. Even the biggest comedian in the world wasn't safe. Was that just the way you were raised? Everyone was fair game?
That's just the way we were raised. Snapping on people, that was our form of telling you we loved you or respected you. Kind of like how a little boy pulls a girls hair. We did that, but with jokes. But Eddie's pants did cost more than literally everything we had in our house.
Did you know that at the time?
No. And they were still ugly as hell.
When you were trying to break in to the comedy industry and first starting out on In Living Color, did you find being Keenen's brother helped or hurt you?
I think it helped me in terms of getting me started, but it hurt me in terms of people expecting a degree of expertise from me and Shawn. By the time Keenen and Damon came out, they had time to grow as artists. You know, they had 16, 20 years in the bank. And me and Shawn, we were brand new. We had no bank to withdraw from. All we had was our childhood and our funny and our instincts. But along the way, we learned and crafted and became respectable artists.
We were just kids, man. Everybody was against us. Nobody believed in us. They were like, "I ain't writing for Keenen and Damon's corny-ass brothers." And this was Keenen and Damon talking. So, it made us have to prove ourselves, and it made us have to work four times as hard. We had to create our opportunities. And I honestly wouldn't change it. It made me better.
Did you eventually earn the respect of those people?
You know, by the time we did to it was too late. We had moved on, and the regimes changed, and we were out of that situation. But by the time we finished with The Wayans Bros. I think we earned our keep. And with Scary Movie, Don't Be a Menace, White Chicks, and Little Man we became partners with Keenen because we earned our way.
So right now you're focusing on standup?
I focus on a lot. Doing standup with Shawn is one of the things I'm doing. Standup is the art form that's really making me grow at the most rapid pace. It's definitely helped me a lot, and I'm so mad I didn't do this way earlier on in my career.
You tried it early on in your career, but it wasn't until you were supposed to play Richard Pryor in a movie that you really took to it. Why do you think you stuck with it the second time around?
I'm a performing arts high school kid. So I think that the actor in me is the thing that brought me to the stage. And I was doing standup for a purpose, to play one of the greatest comedians ever. So it was an artistic journey for me. I was going complete method. I don't know what happened with the Pryor role, but one day I just built up an act and I went to perform for the first time at a sold out show -- about 300 people -- and I got a standing ovation. My first show. And I was like, "Wow." I stepped outside of my body, and I just remember kind of seeing myself from the back with my hands raised in the air and the lights coming towards me and I could see the bodies in the crowd, and I was like, "Wow."
In that moment, it was like an out of body experience. I was like, "Man. I belong here." And ever since that day, I just fell in love with the art of standup. And I used standup to make me better in every other thing I was working on. Whether it be producing, writing, acting, it's just making me better. I'm loving it.
You and Shawn never go on stage at the same time, right?
We shared a bed for 16 years -- we are not sharing a stage. We are actually talking about doing an all Wayans tour with me Shawn, Keenen, and Damon, but right now it's me and Shawn. Sometimes Shawn and Keenen go out. But me and Shawn never go on stage together. Maybe at the end of the show, but rarely will you ever catch us on stage at the same time. I'd annoy the shit out of him. He would punch me in my chest on stage.
Can you tell me a little about the other projects you're working on? I heard a rumor about a second White Chicks.
I hope, man. That's one of the movies that all of our fans want us to do a sequel of. We're trying to make it happen, but we'll see. Hopefully it will. But coming out in theaters on April 18, I have A Haunted House 2, which is a sequel to Haunted House, a movie I did for 2.7 million independently that grossed over 65 million worldwide. So I'm looking forward to that. It's got a great cast: Jaime Pressly, Cedric the Entertainer, Affion Crockett, and Gabriel Iglesias. I also have a digital comedy network called whatthefunny.com that's launching this week. It's free content. We have an app for it, and it's got a lot of funny sketches, so please check it out.
Do you think black comics and urban comedy are underrepresented in the internet comedy world?
Well, in every medium, I think it's always going to lack some color. It's getting better, but the reality of it is a lot of the people that write the checks aren't of color. They don't get it. And I don't blame Hollywood, I don't blame venture capitalists, I don't blame TV studios. I never place blame. I always accept it, because that's what's going to make me grow. What I've got to do is figure out how to pitch it to them in a way that they can understand it, and that they can trust it. In Living Color is a show that would have probably never gotten on the air if Fox didn't take a chance. They don't understand how to tell a joke to that urban audience. We have a gift, and we've always had a gift. And it's just trying to convince the people who write the checks to buy into that. Over time they will.
I don't cry and say, "Oh, we're not represented!" If we're not represented, guess what, we have whatthefunny.com, and I'm going to make sure that we are represented. I'm going to make sure that we have a plethora of diverse talent. I don't want people coming up and saying, "Hey, where are the white people?" I want everybody to be represented. Because the jokes are urban, and there's just a certain flavor -- a certain temperature and sound wave that affects urban people. You know, it's a high note. And I know how to sing it. I've been doing this 20-something years, and hopefully with whatthefunny.com and my movies and television shows -- I hope that I service that audience, because I'm from that audience.
See Shawn and Marlon Wayans perform at the Fort Lauderdale Improv February 20 through 23. Tickets cost $35.00.
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