The success gene

A look at the Wayans though Shawn and Marlon

DETAILS

The Wayans Brothers
The Laugh Shop Comedy Club
Thursday, November 4 - Saturday, November 6

More in: Comedy

Even a cursory look at the Wayans family would make anyone believe that success is contagious, or at the very least, genetically predisposed. With nine out of 10 siblings working in show business as writers, producers, directors, actors and comedians, it is probably safe to say they are one of Hollywood’s most successful families. From November 4 to November 6, two of the most well-known siblings, Shawn and Marlon, will perform at The Laugh Shop.

Everybody knows that being the youngest in the family has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, the “baby” is spoiled and pampered, and on the other, they may suffer from feelings of inadequacy as they try to measure up to their accomplished siblings. Clearly, this has not been the case with Marlon, the youngest Wayans, who together with Shawn (the second youngest) have gone on to write and star in box office hits including Little Man, White Chicks, Dance Flick and the ubiquitous Scary Movie series.

Despite his success, Marlon can attest to the effects of being the last born. Calling himself “a victim, but also the diehard little brother that everyone still looks after,” he says, “it toughens you up and softens your heart at the same time.”

As with so many other comedians, the inseparable comedic duo Shawn and Marlon got their career jumpstart through the Emmy Award-winning comedy series In Living Color, and got their film debut through their brother Keenen Ivory Wayans’ feature film, I’m Gonna Get You Sucka.

While the family is a household name, the extent of the family’s success and its humble upbringing is not widely known. Some tidbits about the family are that they grew up in New York City housing projects and were once Jehovah’s Witness. Translation: “We didn’t get a lot of Christmas presents,” says Shawn.

Living in such tight quarters, it’s tough to imagine that sibling rivalry and competition didn’t exist, but Shawn maintains the competition was always friendly, and proudly boasts that the four brothers “have never once fought over a girl.”

When a family is larger than life (both figuratively and literally), as is the case with the Wayans family, one expects out-of-control laugh fests around the Thanksgiving dinner table. But the brothers say they don’t have many family reunions. “We couldn’t rent out the coliseum,” jokes Marlon.

Taking into account their background, it is clear they learned to laugh at themselves early on in life. To this day they seem to find humour in their childhood. Growing up with so many siblings, says Marlon, “taught me how to hold tea longer than the average person.” But what may have started as a mechanism to cope with hardship has developed into almost two decades of just plain comedic genius.

With the recent advent of the Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg movies, such as Superbad, Knocked Up and Pineapple Express, sometimes referred to as “dry wit” or “stoner humour,” it is easy to forget that comedians like Shawn and Marlon paved the way for such films by stepping up the level of raunchiness. You may recall the notoriously funny Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, a spoof film of a number of black, coming-of-age “hood” movies such as Boyz N the Hood, Juice, Menace II Society, Higher Learning and Poetic Justice. This parody formula was successfully reproduced with the Scary Movies (only parts 1 and 2 had direct Wayans involvement) and Dance Flick, and has since influenced other similar ventures such as Meet the Spartans.

So what do the Wayans brothers think of Canadian humour? In the context of Canadian icons such as Jim Carrey, Mike Myers and Seth Rogen, the brothers say they cannot identify what typical Canadian humour is. “Those comedians, while geniuses, all have their own style,” says Shawn. But he quickly adds: “I think Canadians prefer a more biting, edgy humour.”

When not starring in movies or on the road performing standup, the brothers can be found hard at work in “The Lab.” When pressed about what “The Lab” is, they say it’s not a physical space, but rather a representation of the idea of creativity and collaboration. In other words, this week, “The Lab” is Calgary.

 



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