Wayans' World: Marlon Wayans Is Set to Take on the World With His Newfound Passion: Standup Comedy

Marlon and Shawn Wayans may be the baby siblings of a clan that also includes Keenen and Damon, but it is they who are presenting the world with the next generation of big-boy comedy. Together they've created a mini-empire of memorable parodies like Scary Movie, Don't Be a Menace, and the mind-blowingly trippy flick White Girls. Nowadays, with their standup, these two are, firsthand, bringing Wayans-original comedy to the country. On Friday, they appear at the West Palm Beach Improv.

We had a chance to talk with Marlon, who just completed working on a movie tentatively called Smart Ass. He's also producing a TV show starring two of his nephews and is taking a less jokey role with Sandra Bullock in The Heat. He discussed growing up in a talented family, checking out J.Lo's butt on In Living Color (which he fondly referred to as "comedy college"), and what it's like being a black man playing a white woman.

New Times: Our web editor wanted me to mention that White Chicks is one of his favorite movies of all time. Do you have other White Chicks groupies?

Marlon Wayans: White Chicks doesn't have groupies; White Chicks has a crazy cult following. It's kind of scary, 'cause everywhere I go, White Chicks is the one movie that everybody wants us to do a sequel to.

Did you feel weird about doing white face? That's not something that's been done very often. Except by, I guess, Eddie Murphy.

It wasn't so much white face. That's old-school terminology. I don't think of it as white face, black face. I think of funny as funny, and I don't mind wearing a dress and making comedy. You do what you've gotta do to sell a joke. There's no vanity in comedy. That's what my brother always says. When it comes time to do that stuff, it's just a transition that you make; it's just a decision that you make. I think race is something scared people put on things. For me, it's about exploring the race, exploring the gender, and coming up with the common thread, which is laughter.

Although it's called White Chicks, the movie played on some of the racial things, but really it was a gender-specific film. It was a culture clash, and that's what we kind of played on. It was universal. And I didn't look at it as much as, let's attack white people or let's make fun of black people. It was more or less, we tell jokes, and we are equal-opportunity offenders. Everybody gets a little of everything, so we all feel good.

So, will there be a White Chicks 2?

I don't know. I would say I would love to do a sequel to that, but it was so much work. It's hard being a white woman when you're a black man.

You gained a lot of critical acclaim for your role in Requiem for a Dream. Do you plan on doing any dramatic roles or indie films?

Absolutely. At my core, I'm an actor. Standup is something I just picked up in the last two years. Actually, acting brought me to standup. Because I was supposed to play Richard Pryor in a Richard Pryor movie. So I don't know what's going on with the movie right now. I just know that I love standup, and I started out wanting to play a great, and now I want to be a great. That movie is a deep, dark drama. In the meanwhile, I'll prepare, and, for me, I just want to be versatile and do a little bit of everything. I'm doing a role in the Paul Feig movie right now (The Heat). It's not a completely hilarious role.

Do you remember Jennifer Lopez from your In Living Color days?

Oh, yeah. How could you forget? I was 19 years old, and I would look down. I would stand in the back when they were saying good night, and you can look at me looking dead at her ass, going, "Wow! That looks great!" I felt like Magellan, like, "The world is round! The world is round!" But nobody believed me. I was like, look at how thick her ass is. Everybody was like, "Ahhh, nah." People thought big asses were hot. I was like, that is incredible. Then Puffy was Columbus, 'cause he actually discovered it. I was like, hey, I told you the world was round.

Who was the biggest ham out of all ten of your siblings? You're all so talented. It must have been pretty noisy at home.

I think we all wanted it. That's what's interesting. I think we're all pretty desperate. The most desperate would probably be me and Kim. We'd probably set ourselves on fire for the joke.

Is there anything you can't joke about?

I don't think there's any topic that's taboo. Comedians struggle to do one thing: to tell the joke that makes the whole world laugh. Some people may get offended, but over time, you manicure and you work a joke for a while. You massage it. You figure out how to tell that same joke but at an angle that everybody can appreciate it and enjoy and laugh at it.

Nowadays, comedians get in trouble with people YouTubing their act or YouTubing them early. It's like look, that's the first thought. And so over time, working with different audiences around the country, you will learn to tell that joke in a way that makes everybody laugh. Until a comedian films a special or puts it out there and goes, "Hey, I'm ready for you to see this," I don't think you should judge his material.

With all of those siblings, do you have a built-in audience at home?

Yes and no. With my family, it's a tough crowd. Like with Damon, he can perform in front of a hall, and we damn near booed him like it was the Apollo. He was, "Man, like, you made me want to quit." We killed his self-esteem!

Last time you were in Miami, you compared it sort of to a vagina. What do you think about West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale?

I like Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach more than I like Miami. It's a little bit more untapped. Miami's a filthy place; everybody's been there. Every rapper's done been through it. You go down on a girl in Miami, you say, "Hey, I taste 2 Chainz! Wait a second! Is that the Heat?"

I remember seeing you guys at Opium like ten years ago. So you've been partying in Miami as long as I have. What's your craziest South Beach memory? Everybody has one.

One year, me and my brothers rented out the Versace mansion for a week for New Year's. It was the time of my life. What happens in the Versace mansion stays in the Versace mansion. When we left the Versace mansion, the guy from Men in Black was standing out there with that little thing that erases your memory.

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Liz has her master’s degree in religion from Florida State University. She has since written for publications and outlets such as Miami New Times, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Ocean Drive, the Huffington Post, NBC Miami, Time Out Miami, Insomniac, the Daily Dot, and the Atlantic. Liz spent three years as New Times Broward-Palm Beach’s music editor, was the weekend news editor at Inverse, and is currently the managing editor at Tom Tom Magazine.
Contact: Liz Tracy