Monday, June 24, 2024



‘Our comedy has been able to reach a global audience’

Shawn and Marlon Wayans on the worldwide reach of African-American humor

Marlon, left, and Shawn Wayans

One of the most dynamic duos in comedy, Shawn and Marlon Wayans first entered the pop cultural consciousness with small parts in “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka,” their brother Keenen Ivory Wayans’ feature directorial debut.

Soon, the inseparable pair joined the cast of the Emmy-winning sketch comedy series “In Living Color,” going on to create and star in the sitcom “The Wayans Bros.” Running for five years, that series catapulted them into prolific film stardom — in such movies as “Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood,” “Littleman,” “White Chicks,” two installments in the “Scary Movie” franchise and “A Haunted House.”

Now they are bringing their act to the stage, set to perform together live July 27 at the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms casino resort. To discuss that performance and more, the brothers — two in a family of 10 children — gave an exclusive interview to Las Vegas Black Image magazine.

What can we expect from your live show?

Shawn: Marlon and I will touch on a little bit of everything that goes on in life — as well as our own (personal) lives.

Do you think Las Vegas audiences are different than audiences in other parts of America?

Shawn: The Las Vegas audience is very diverse, because you have people coming here from around the country. They come from Detroit, New York, Los Angeles and everywhere. They come from everywhere (to be) in Las Vegas.

What projects are you and Marlon working on?

Shawn: I am in the process of writing a movie, and Marlon is about to start production on “A Haunted House 2.”

Was it a conscious decision for all of the Wayans family members to go into show business?

Shawn: I don’t know about a conscious decision, but when you have a brother like Keenen — who is very influential to the rest of the family, and a great role model that we all looked up to — we became very curious about what he was doing, and wanted to do it, too. We idolized Keenen, that’s how it all happened. He was someone who had a dream, and took a chance. And the rest of the family followed.

“In Living Color” was revolutionary. How do you feel about the transition of black comedy, which now appeals to more integrated television and film audiences?

Shawn: I think it is very cool that our comedy has been able to reach a global audience with movies such as “Scary Movie.” It is really amazing that “In Living Color” set the stage for this to happen. It brought all nationalities together who watched the show. It blazed the trail for … our other projects to happen.

If it wasn’t for “In Living Color,” we wouldn’t have some of our major stars of today, such as Jamie Foxx, Jim Carrey, Jennifer Lopez and the two of you. Will it ever come back to television?

Shawn: No, I don’t think it is going to happen. We have talked about it, but I don’t think so. I wish it would.

How was it growing up in the Wayans’ home in New York?

Shawn: It was great — a lot of fun, love and a lot of laughs. We didn’t have a lot of material things, but we had a lot of laughs and love. It was fun, and I wouldn’t change anything.

Marlon: It was the greatest experience in my life. I wish I could go back and grow up all over again … and again. I had so much fun.

What kind of values and traits did your parents give you to sustain in this business of show?

Marlon: They gave us good work ethic and taught us how to be close as brothers and a family. That helped us work together as we got older. They definitely taught us a hard work ethic, which is the most important thing when it comes to being successful.

Do you see a new wave of new African-American actors, directors and comics coming up in the business?

Shawn: There is definitely a new wave.

Marlon: I don’t see a new wave. It’s hard to see a new wave when we are focusing on our wave. I know there are a lot of funny comics out there — a bunch of funny guys. These same guys think that if they work hard, their careers will eventually lead to movies. But I think it is harder now. It’s back to the days when Robert Townsend and Keenen made the movie “Hollywood Shuffle” with their own money. It wasn’t easy for them.

Shawn: It is a lot harder to do a movie now and get the backing, but there is the Internet now, which reaches audiences from around the world. The Internet is the alternative way to get you right into the consumer’s home. If you have a good head on your shoulders to make something that is interesting, you have access to people now that we didn’t have back in the day.

Out of all the films and television shows you have done, what is your favorite? Which one do you think you will do a sequel for?

Marlon: I would say “White Chicks.” I remember Shawn calling me up at three in the morning to tell me, “I think we should do a movie about two detectives who go undercover as white chicks.” I told him I would call him in the morning and hung up the phone. We developed the concept and characters, and brought it to Keenen — and he liked it.

In the first scene of “White Chicks,” you both play Latino convenience store owners. Was your dialogue scripted or did you both just ad-lib?

Shawn: (Laughs) You can’t script that. We just went into character and played off of each other.

How is it working so closely as brothers?

Marlon: I think you just accept each other for who you are. I am not going to change Shawn and he is not going to change me, but we love each other dearly. It comes down to one word: acceptance. You accept people for who they are — and when you try to change a person, that is when you get frustrated. The reality is, you can’t change people. You have to accept people for who they are … and that’s all. Just because a person doesn’t do what you want, doesn’t mean they don’t love you. That’s their life, and when they are happy I am happy for them.

Shawn: We have fun together — and the older we get, the more we see that we understand the other better. We enjoy being around each other, while also loving what we do.

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