The family Wayans is a comedy juggernaut. From spoof movies to sitcoms to stand up, the Wayans have developed their brand of humor for more than three decades, and for the first time, the brothers Keenen, Damon, Marlon and Shawn will be performing together on an upcoming nationwide comedy tour.
But before then, Shawn Wayans is warming up his stand-up with a performance at the Laughs and Draughts comedy and beer tasting festival Saturday at Coachman Park in Clearwater. Julian McCullough and Boomer Nichols also are scheduled to perform.
In full disclosure, I watched Don’t Be A Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood
nearly every weekend in high school. The videocassette almost broke. It was the first thing I mentioned to Shawn before asking these questions:
What attracted you to comedy?
"I’ve always been into comedy. I was the class clown. My brothers were always funny. My whole family was all about comedy… We didn’t have a bunch of other stuff going on so we found our own fun and it stayed with us over the years. We had a passion for hearing the laugh… I didn’t know I was going to be a comedian until my brother (Damon) became one… He showed us what to do with that thirst to make people laugh.”
You have written, acted, do stand up, produce. Do you have a preference? What do you like about the different aspects of entertainment?
"I love them all. I feel like stand up is the most liberating. You get to do whatever you want. Writer, director, star, studio... It’s not like all the other art forms where you have a committee that you have to answer to… Stand up is the comedy gem. That’s where you go to exercise your comedic muscle… It gets you in shape to do all the others. That’s the foundation to be at your A-game… It's a grind. It’s a high and it’s a really cool art. I love it.”
How do you determine/develop your material?
"It comes from everywhere. I just have my antennas up and whatever I see is funny, from television to newspapers to my children to my girlfriend. Wherever it is my antenna is up and I’m ready to write down my experience and turn it into something funny.”
What is your advice to an up and coming comic or comedy writer?
"Give up hope. Look at me, dreams are for suckers. Ain’t no future for you. And don’t think about getting no job Trey.” (citing a part of a speech from Don’t Be a Menace)
"I say focus on the craft. Learn as much as you can… If you want to be a writer, read books, take classes, go intern for a writer... You get to see and get hands-on experience in what the process is in creating something from start to finish. You have to be aggressive. You have to be tough. It’s not easy. The harder you work, the harder you grind, the better off you will be at the end of the day.”
"And you have to keep the idea of being successful in perspective… Everyone is not going to get to the top right away. If you can get to the part where you are making a living doing what you love, you are successful — everything else is gravy."
When you were coming up, did you see yourself having the success you have had?
"When I was coming up, my objective was I just wanted to be a funny comedian who could pay his bills doing comedy. Then I wanted to be an accomplished sitcom writer… then produce a movie… These are all goals I set for myself. I sacrificed a lot of my life… I’ve been beasting for a minute."
Who are some comedians or entertainers that influence you coming up/currently?
"We grew up watching all of the classics... Dean Martin, Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Abbott and Costello... all of those old time guys. We used to sit around watching those shows all day long. Watching guys like that. As it pertains to back in the day.. a lot of early influences… Richard Pryor became the guy. Then Eddie Murphy... as we got older… As we move on to today.. dudes like Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock. Bill Burr.”
Why bring your act to Clearwater?
"I’ve been to Tampa before. Done Improv.. nice crowd, the people there are listeners. People told me about this festival and it sounded pretty cool. I think (Julian McCullough) the opening act is funny plus I’m getting warmed up... Me, Damon, Keenen, Marlon are doing stand up all together… I’m taking gigs to stay in shape.”
"We've worked in movies but all four of us haven’t done something like this since In Living Color... Live stand up and it’s the first time we have all done something together. We're not on stage together but we’re all there.”
What do you like to do when you are in the Tampa Bay area?
"When I'm in Florida I like to lay out by the pool take in the sun and relax. It’s very relaxing down here. Sometimes you guys have the perfect weather."
Haunted House 2 (which Wayans produced) is out now. What’s next for you?
"Working on a tv pilot and some other really fun things but we can’t talk about that yet.”
Race is at the root of many of the jokes you make, why? Ever feel like you might have taken a joke over the edge?
"We touch on everything. Race is a part of our life. It is what is. You can let it affect you in a depressing way or you can find humor in it, and our job is to find humor in everything…
“Here's the line when it ain’t funny… The line comes when it ain’t funny. Now you crossed the line. It's all timing too. Time is very important…”
Can you say Don’t be a Menace to South While Drinking Your Juice in The Hood Three Times fast?
“Don’t be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice, Don’t Be A Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice, Don’t Be A Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice.”
Not too easy is it?
“Now you do it and click your heels together.”
Click here for details about the Laughs and Draughts Comedy Beer Tasting this Saturday.
Jared Leone is a freelance writer in the Tampa Bay area. He can be reached at email@example.com or follow @Jared_Leone on Twitter.