Chatting about comedy with Marlon Wayans
Some families are all redheads or wear glasses. Some are all athletes or outdoors folk. Some pass down their noses, ears, eye color or a particular laugh. In the case of the Wayans family, a flair for the showbiz spotlight is their special trait that seems to be the dominant gene.
In a family with ten kids – five boys and five girls – every member of the Wayans clan has gone into some section of show business, namely the comedy side. Being funny is a family affair, and now four of the five brothers – Keenen, Shawn, Damon and Marlon – bring together their comedic skills for a duo of stage shows on Wednesday, July 23 and Thursday, July 24 at the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino Expo Center.
Before then, OnMilwaukee.com got to chat with the youngest of the foursome Marlon – the star of the "Scary Movie" franchise (the actually funny early installments), "White Chicks," the recent "A Haunted House" spoofs, "The Heat" and the host/main creative mind behind the new TBS comedy competition show "Funniest Wins" – about living amongst comedians and his comedy inspirations.
OnMilwaukee.com: What's it like being on tour with your brothers like this?
Marlon Wayans: It's like being little, except for you're big. (laughs) They still got me being the baby boy. No matter how old I get, they're always like, "Hey, get me some water." And then I gotta go get all four waters.
OMC: I'm assuming there's a good amount of pranking and playing around on this tour between all of you guys?
MW: No pranking. Kind of like the U.S. and Russia having a nuclear war, so we don't prank. We just try to keep it friendly and crack jokes.
OMC: How was it like growing up in a house like that, where all of you guys have grown up and become comedians and funny guys?
MW: It was always fun because we always knew what we wanted to be. We were just funny people, and then my brother set out to go do it, and we all kind of followed. But we just lived in a fun house, and we'd always look at the worst situations and go, "What's funny about that?"
OMC: What was the moment for you when you realized that being funny was something that you could do for a legitimate career?
MW: You know, I think when I saw my brother (Keenen) on Johnny Carson on TV in 1983. When I saw Keenen on the TV, I was like, "Wow, I can do this for real?" And that kind of crystallized the fact that I could make my dreams turn into reality, with hard work and dedication.
OMC: Were your brothers your biggest comedy influences, or were there other comedians who really influenced you?
MW: I was very blessed to grow up in a house among legends, so definitely my brothers. But I love Richard Pryor. I love Eddie Murphy. Abbott and Costello, Charlie Chaplin, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, Art Carney and Jackie Gleason. I'm just an old school kind of guy. Lucille Ball.
OMC: Well, those old Abbott and Costello comedies and Chaplin silent comedies hold up remarkably well.
MW: I think they benefited from the style of storytelling. In silent films, you have no dialogue; it's just story. It's so important that you understand that you need story and heart in order to have funny. Comedy's not just Silly Putty; it's well thought-out and crafted together.
OMC: What kind of material can people expect from you guys? And will you all be on the stage at the same time, or a one after the other situation?
MW: One after the other. We shared a bed for 20 years; we ain't sharing a stage too. We come out at the end, sit down and talk with the audience, but for the most part, it's going to be four different acts. You're going to hear everything about life to love to sports to religion to sex to kids to a little bit of everything.
OMC: You're also now hosting "Funniest Wins" on TBS.
MW: I produce it, I created it and I judge. I play the host part, but it's much more involved than just hosting. I created that forum so that I could take all of the stuff that I've learned over the years and apply it to this next generation. Comedy is coming from so many different angles right now. It's not just about stand-up; it's about digital shorts and roasting and musical parody. It's challenging these comedians to be funny in every arena possible. The funniest will win $100,000 and their own show on my digital comedy network What the Funny.
OMC: Was that the main motivation for the show, the explosion of comedy worlds nowadays?
MW: Yeah, because a lot of comedians look at the Viners and go, "What do those guys know?" Those guys most know something because they have four million followers. It's just about teaching each other respect for each other's craft and allowing yourself to go into places that you're not comfortable.
OMC: Why do you think comedians have that hang up on new comedy avenues?
MW: Because they're scared. New territory scares people. I used to just do movies and TV, and then I started doing stand-up, and it was scary. The whole reason why I didn't do stand-up all of those years, when you break it down, was fear.
OMC: How did you get past that fear?
MW: Just by doing it. Not being afraid. I had no choice; I was going up for the role of Richard Pryor, and I was like, "If I'm going to play the greatest comedian ever, I need to get my ass on stage." So I started doing stand-up.
I don't know what happened with the movie, but I got bit with the bug. I just love doing stand-up. I just love it. I love making people laugh with my point of view. It's helped me as a writer, it's making me a better performer and it making me just overall better. That's what it's all about, this journey. It's just about growth. We're all preparing for moments. You're preparing for your greatest moment, and depending on how hard you study and how hard you work, that'll determine how long your reign at the top will be.
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