A quarter century. That's how long Marlon Wayans has been in the comedy business. It's a jarring stat from the youngest of the prodigious Wayans brothers, but he's taken his time creating — and learning to control — his distinctive form of funny, and has grown up along the way.
Wayans comes to The Comedy Zone Feb. 5th-7, and he's ready for the Queen City. "I love Charlotte audiences," he says. "They laugh like hell out there."
Despite his hyper-active image, the 42-year-old father of two says he's always been calmer in his personal life than on stage. "I spend personal time meditating, I pray. I'm not religious, but I try to tap into my best me, and find that consistent, constant peace so that when I'm with myself I'm on vacation. Dang, sounds like you're talking to Keenan, don't it?" he jokes about his older brother's Zen-ed out reputation.
"Whatever comes my way, not to say things won't hurt, but I've learned when I listen to the universe, God doesn't have to speak so loudly ... I'm gonna tweet that!" Wayans has 1.7 million followers on Twitter, though he calls it "brain-fuck city" and says he doesn't take it seriously.
Wayans has been working hard lately. In 2014 he wrapped eight episodes of reality comedy competition show, TBS' Funniest Wins, where he took 10 comedic hopefuls and brought celebrity comics to coach them in live standup and skits. The winner, Sydney Castillo, received $100,000 and a show on Wayans' digital network WhatTheFunny.com, which he co-created with Funny Or Die co-founder Randy Adams. The same spring, he released Haunted House 2, which he wrote and starred in. Per usual for a Wayans film, the movie was panned by critics, but at over $50 million drew a decent box office and a comparison, for Wayans, to "Jerry Lewis at his most manic" from the Village Voice.
Wayans counts both Lewis and Charlie Chaplin among his comedy heroes, and his humor, while juvenile enough to border on puerile, executes with such balls-out silliness that he's often able to drag even disapproving sourpusses along for the ride.
"I have to be both pre-apologetic and unapologetic. 'Sorry if I offended you, now fuck you and sit your ass down.' 'Cause I gotta say what I gotta say; I'm not going to be muzzled," he says of his comedic style. "People come to see a real point of view. As a comedian, it's our job to attack these issues that a lot of people are scared to talk about."
Wayans' unbridled sense of humor recently got him in a spot of trouble when Pierre Daniel, an extra in HH2, sued him. Daniel claimed he suffered racial harassment on the set when Wayans tweeted a side-by-side pic of him with cartoon character Cleveland Brown and captioned it, "Tell me this n**** don't look like ... this n****!!!"
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge agreed with Wayan's assessment, citing similarities in hair, weight, etc., between the actor and the animated character, and furthermore upheld Wayans' right to comedic improvisation. The court dropped the suit in early January.
"Our first amendment is freedom of speech," Wayans says in response to the case. "But no good deed goes unpunished. All I did was try to give the guy a good scene, upgrade him. That's OK, I love him anyway."
It's a remarkably even keel response from the scion of one of the country's prime trash-talking families. But Wayans has mellowed some in his maturity. The youngest of 10 siblings — half of them famous entertainers in their own rights — Wayans grew up meeting comedic stars before he reached double digits. He acted on In Living Color, the seminal sketch comedy show produced by his brother Keenan in the '90s, and co-starred in The Wayans Brothers with Shawn Wayans until 1999. Since then, he's produced, written and starred in the Scary Movie and Haunted House franchises and White Chicks. He's co-starred opposite Sandra Bullock and Jenny McCarthy in The Heat and Tom Hanks in Lady Killers. He's a professional, man.
Wayans says his process has evolved over the years. Comedy is still "very frightening, comedy is no joke," he says, but where he once leaned heavily on his considerable talent for physical comedy, he now prefers a slightly different presentation. "I start with a hypothesis, and it can be interesting, or offensive but it gets them interested, hooks them in. Then I prove the theory. I'm still very physical onstage; I'm not moving away from that, but the approach is different. Now, I say the joke before I show it to you."
He just finished a national tour called The Wayans Brothers with Shawn in 2014. Being on the road keeps his creative instincts sharp, useful in dealing with the occasional heckler who comes along.
"I rarely get heckled," Wayans says. "But the audience paid to go on a journey with you. It's not where they want to go, it's where you take them... Sometimes I get a drunkard. They just want attention; sometimes you give it to them, sometimes you want to play, and other times you kick them out. My thing with hecklers is this: Be respectful to the audience. It's not your show. OK, you spend 20 years on stage crafting your material, book the venue and have your stage. Otherwise..."
Wayans says he's currently writing three screenplays, which he plans to produce. Despite his lauded dramatic turn in 2000's Requiem for a Dream with Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly, Wayans says these new works are all humorous.
"They're all comedies; I'm being faithful to my first love right now," he says, but he won't give much more detail than that. "Hollywood is a funny place; you start talking about all you got, then it falls through and you ain't got nothing. I ain't jinxing nothing."