The Wayans Family is a true entertainment dynasty.
Damon burst onto the scene with a brief run on Saturday Night Live in the '80s, Keenan Ivory created the seminal sketch comedy series In Living Color, which opened the doors of diversity on television and made stars of his brothers. Marlon has produced and co-written big-tent comedy films for decades now (everything from Scary Movie to Fifty Shades of Black), and even nephew Damon Wayans Jr. has made quite the name for himself with great work on sitcoms New Girl and Happy Endings.
In an industry not just full of talents, but full of other Wayanses, how has Shawn Wayans kept his career interesting and satisfying? A little bit of everything seems to be the answer.
He has starred in box-office hits, with successful leading roles in Little Man, White Chicks and the cult hit Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. He's written just as many films, including the first two Scary Movie films and, most recently, 2009’s Dance Flick. But perhaps most important, Shawn has been hitting the mikes and keeping his stand-up comedy a priority for more than 20 years.
“Stand-up’s not easy!” the comic explains. “It’s never boring; there’s always excitement with new people coming to see you. The high you get from making people you don’t know laugh is impossible to explain, this jolt of energy. You’ll get out of shape if you don’t do it – you’ll go from being Kobe when he’s in shape to now Kobe with his shirt on.”
With an upcoming run at the Houston Improv from August 24 to 27, and a full calendar looking ahead, the 46-year-old is keen to get his act working right for a potential special in the near future. “I like the Houston Improv; it’s a good room – a big room," Wayans says. "You feel like you’re in concert, as opposed to the more intimate comedy settings. It’s interesting, because space is all about how a room is designed. Some are designed to feel bigger than they are, and some can make it feel like you’re talking to 30 people. My act is constantly evolving and changing, constantly putting stuff in and taking other stuff out. And I’m having fun with the process and hopefully putting together a solid hour.”
As he polishes the act, some of the fun for Wayans is in the actual writing process. “Time is your friend with new material. You gotta try it out, see if it works, then sit back to think of how you make it better," he says. "I like to write it down, then in the room see if I can get inspired and go off the cuff; both of those things make it work. Sometimes your best material comes from the moments you can’t plan. I like to surf.”
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Beyond the clubs and stadiums of the stand-up world, Wayans has a secondary passion he’s enjoying – creating content his kids can enjoy. “I’m working on bringing back my kids' cartoon The Boo Crew, which [is] basically Charlie Brown meets Fat Albert with a hip-hop twist," he says. I’m putting a third special out after the first two, Sneaker Madness and A Boo Crew Christmas, hit Amazon a few years back.”
Also featuring brother Marlon and sister Kim, David Alan Grier, Countess Vaughn and the late, great Charlie Murphy, the Boo Crew's return will be great, guarantees Shawn. “You get to put on your parent hat when making these. For me, this is the type of show I grew up with and learned a lot of valuable lessons as a young boy watching my cartoons," he says. "I feel like right now in the landscape of children’s TV, we don’t have much of that. So I wanna put something out there that’s fun and something to laugh at, but also give ’em a lesson at the end of the show. Every episode there’s a song about what they learned. It’s cute, fun and educational!”
Shawn Wayans is scheduled to perform August 24-27 at the Houston Improv, 7620 Katy Freeway. For information, call 713-333-8800 or visit improvhouston.com. $25.