Keenen Ivory Wayans

Performer/ Producer/ Show Creator


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three-hour Archive interview, Keenen Ivory Wayans talks about his career as a comedian, writer, and producer. He discusses growing up in New York City with his five brothers and five sisters, and describes honing his comedy skills at an early age. He explains what made him decide to leave college and move back to New York City to become a stand-up comedian at the Improv, and recalls getting his first big break on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He tells of writing his first film script "Hollywood Shuffle," and shares what he learned from the experience. Wayans also talks about the cult-fave movie "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" and its short-lived TV spinoff. He then outlines his acting career and talks of his roles on For Love and Honor and Benson. He describes his relationship with Eddie Murphy and recounts writing/producing the documentary "Eddie Murphy Raw." He details his TV series In Living Color, explaining improv on the show, censorship, working with his family, and the program's legacy. He also comments on the inspiration for many of the In Living Color characters such as "Frenchie", "Homey the Clown", and "Men on Football." Amy Harrington conducted the interview on July 8, 2013 in Los Angeles, CA.

That's the thing about comedy, your intention is to be funny. Once it goes out to the world, you don't know how it's received. And that's the downside of the comedian. 90% of the room laughs-- or somebody may be crying. That's the chance you take."

Highlights
Keenen Ivory Wayans on battling racism with humor at a young age
01:46
Keenen Ivory Wayans on dealing with hot-button, topical issues in the news on In Living Color and handling it with humor
Kennen Ivory Wayans on parody in comedy "once it goes out to the world" you take a chance on whether or not it's deemed as funny or hurtful; on the effect of his "Men on Football" sketch on the Superbowl
02:28
Keenen Ivory Wayans on his view of comedy as pain disguised as laughter
01:15
Keenen Ivory Wayans on the highlight of his career: delivering a speech at a party for Richard Pryor
02:19
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On growing up in New York City with five brothers and five sisters; on living in the projects and what survival skills he took from that experience.
On his family's sense of humor; on dealing with racism at a young age; on realizing he was funny, and deciding to become a comedian after seeing Richard Pryor and the comedians on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson; on beginning to write comedy; on the TV shows that influenced him
On going to college at Tuskegee University in Alabama; on finding out about The Improv and moving back to New York to be a comic; on honing his stand-up act and his "comedy family" at that time; on the comedian's code
On two big career moments: appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and deciding to write his first movie "Hollywood Shuffle" with Robert Townsend; on his movie "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" and its spinoff TV pilot
On playing a dramatic role in the TV series For Love and Honor on NBC; on appearing on Benson; on writing and producing the documentary "Eddie Murphy: Raw"

Chapter 2

On network notes and audience reaction to In Living Colo r; on coming up with ideas and characters of the show
On casting In Living Color; Jim Carrey, David Alan Grier, Kelly Coffield, Damon Wayans, T'Keyah Crystal Keymah, Kim Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Tommy Davidson, Jamie Foxx
On working with his family on In Living Colo r; on the Fly-Girls; on the writer's room, dealing with topical issues, and how improv was used on the show; on drawing inspiration from his own life

Chapter 3

Keenen Ivory Wayans wraps up the story from Part 2 on his "Frenchie" character
On the In Living Color character "Homie the Clown" based on comedian/writer Paul Mooney; on what he loves about each character he created on the show; on his favorite sketches
On dealing with censorship with the network; on some controversial sketches on In Living Color such as the Colt 45 sketch, "Men on Football" and how it changed the rules for the Superbowl halftime show; on leaving the show; on winning an Emmy for In Living Color  and the legacy for the show
On hosting The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show and why he dislike the experience; on his film career with brothers Marlon and Shawn Wayans: on "White Chicks" and other movie projects
On his interest in pop culture movies; on his interest in HDTV and architecture; on his view of comedy; on Richard Pryor
On how television has changed; on the portrayl of African-Americans on TV; on his proudest career moments; on advice to actors and his legacy
Shows

Benson

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on appearing on Benson with Robert Guillaume as Benson's nephew "Clete" in 1986
01:12

CHiPs

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on playing "Robert" on an episode of CHiPs called "Meet the New Guy"
00:21

Cheers

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on one of his first gigs on television appearing on the first episode of Cheers  as "Customer #1"; on working with the cast and crew

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on winning an Emmy for In Living Color and his seven Emmy nominations
03:38

For Love and Honor

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on playing a dramatic role (as "Duke") in the TV series For Love and Honor  on NBC
03:24

HGTV Showdown

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on his interest in architecture; on appearing on HDTV's Showdown  as a judge
00:46

Happily Divorced

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on his interest in architecture; on appearing on TVLand's Happily Divorced  and the cast
01:36

In Living Color

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on the genesis of In Living Color, which premiered on FOX in 1990
02:38
Keenen Ivory Wayans on the network's reluctance about his show In Living Color; the network notes and Wayans' insistence not to change anything
04:51
Keenen Ivory Wayans on In Living Colo r sketches "Wrath of Farrakhan","Homeboys Shopping Network", "Men on Film" and "two snaps up"
03:44
Keenen Ivory Wayans on how In Living Color was different from anything else on television before
01:28
Keenen Ivory Wayans on casting In Living Color  and how the auditions ran
01:55
Keenen Ivory Wayans on the cast of In Living Color  ; Damon Wayans, Jim Carrey, David Alan Grier, Kelly Coffield, 
24:29
Keenen Ivory Wayans on how the Fly Girls came to be on In Living Color; on wanting the dancers to carry a multi-ethnic feel; on some of the Fly Girls (Jennifer Lopez, Rosie Perez)
02:01
Keenen Ivory Wayans on the writers' room on In Living Color; on dealing with topical issues and ethnic, racial, and sexist issues on the show
Keenen Ivory Wayans on how he handled hot-button issues on In Living Colo r with his writing staff; on writing about the riots between the Black and Jewish communities in Brooklyn in a takeoff on "West Side Story"
Keenen Ivory Wayans on dealing with sensitive and political issues on In Living Color: "you gotta be funny"; on offending Oprah Winfrey
03:07
Keenen Ivory Wayans on drawing stories from real life for In Living Color; on using improvisation
Keenen Ivory Wayans on improv on In Living Color; on the sketch "Driving Miss Daisy"; every second take would be improvised and that was usually the take selected for the show
01:11
Keenen Ivory Wayans on a typical production week on In Living Color
00:36
Keenen Ivory Wayans on where the title for In Living Color came from; on the legal issues with the band by the same name
Keenen Ivory Wayans on the importance of music on In Living Colo r; on what contemporary music (specifically hip-hop) brought to the show; on Public Enemy being on the show
Keenen Ivory Wayans on the In Living Color sketch "Brothers' Brothers"
01:07
Keenen Ivory Wayans on the In Living Color  character "Frenchie" and on meeting Rick James while IN character as Frenchie (who was based on Rick James)
03:48
Keenen Ivory Wayans on the In Living Color character "Homie the Clown" based on comedian/writer Paul Mooney
01:18
Keenen Ivory Wayans on  the characters he created on In Living Color 
Keenen Ivory Wayans on an In Living Color sketch about black men being an endangered species; on dealing with censorship at the network
Keenen Ivory Wayans on not trying to deliver a "message" with his humor; on dealing with censorship and getting around the censors
Keenen Ivory Wayans on the lost "Colt 45" sketch parodying Billy Dee Williams on In Living Color
01:36
Keenen Ivory Wayans on the "Men on Football" sketch on In Living Color; parodying Carl Lewis; and the negative response to it
04:53
Keenen Ivory Wayans on why he left In Living Color
02:04
Keenen Ivory Wayans on the legacy of In Living Color
02:06

Jackie Gleason Show, The

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on being heavily influenced by the comedy shows Jackie Gleason, I Love Lucy, and The Carol Burnett Show and how the humor of those shows still has effect over 60 years later
01:11

Keenen Ivory Wayans Show, The

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on hosting The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show; a talk show; on why he did not like the experience
03:25

Saturday Night Live

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on how In Living Color  was inspired by Saturday Night Live; on wanting to create his own version for people who hadn't gotten a shot
00:36

Super Bowl

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on the "Men on Football" sketch on In Living Color; and how it changed the game for the Superbowl halftime show
01:44

Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on first appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carso n in 1983 and what it meant for him personally ("it's like stepping into your dream"); on being asked to sit with Johnny after his act; on what re-living that moment in later years and how that appearance impacted him
04:45
Topics

Celebrities in the News

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on dealing with sensitive and political issues on In Living Color: "you gotta be funny"; on offending Oprah Winfrey and impersonating Arsenio Hall
03:07

Censorship / Standards & Practices

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on dealing with censorship on In Living Color and getting around the censors
02:42
Keenen Ivory Wayans on the lost "Colt 45" sketch parodying Billy Dee Williams on In Living Color and on censors
08:39

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on seeing Richard Pryor for the first time and deciding to become a comedian
02:14
Keenen Ivory Wayans on the biggest change in his career: deciding to make his own movie with writing partner Robert Townsend
Keenen Ivory Wayans on the highlight of his career: delivering a speech at a party for Richard Pryor and on why he wasn't ready to meet him earlier
02:19
Keenen Ivory Wayans on advice to actors
00:56

Emmy Awards

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on winning an Emmy for In Living Color and his seven Emmy nominations

First Big Break

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson; his childhood idol- and what it meant for him personally "like stepping into your dream"; on being asked to sit with Johnny after his act
04:45

LGBTQ

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on the "Men on Football" sketch on In Living Color, parodying Carl Lewis, and the negative response to it
07:02

Memorable Moments on Television

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on improv on In Living Color; on the sketch "Driving Miss Daisy"; every second take would be improvised and that was usually the take selected for the show
00:59
Keenen Ivory Wayans on Public Enemy's appearance on In Living Color and what it meant to have them appear on TV
00:38
Keenen Ivory Wayans on the In Living Color sketch "Brother's Brothers" being based on Tom and Dick Smothers
00:51
Keenen Ivory Wayans on the In Living Color character "Homie the Clown" based on comedian/writer Paul Mooney
01:18

Minorities

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on battling racism with humor at a young age ("Call me Mr. Nigger")
01:46
Keenen Ivory Wayans on how he handled hot-button issues on In Living Colo r with his writing staff; on writing about the riots between the Black and Jewish communities in Brooklyn in a takeoff on "West Side Story"
01:34
Keenen Ivory Wayans on an In Living Color  sketch about black men being an endangered species and on dealing with censorship at the network
02:13
Keenen Ivory Wayans on how the portrayal of African-Americans has changed on TV

Pivotal Career Moments

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on auditioning for The Improv in New York and how the experience changed his life and his comedy
03:09
Keenen Ivory Wayans on his movie "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" and how it changed his career
04:11
Keenen Ivory Wayans on his proudest achievement: "Scary Movie," which he made with his brothers, and his biggest regret
01:17

Pop Culture

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on how the Fly Girls came to be on In Living Color; on wanting the dancers to carry a multi-ethnic feel; on some of the Fly Girls (Jennifer Lopez, Rosie Perez)
Keenen Ivory Wayans on the "Men on Football" sketch on In Living Color, parodying Carl Lewis, and the negative response to it
03:52

TV Theme Songs

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on In Living Color's theme song, written by Heavy D and the Boyz
00:30

Technological Innovation

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on digital technology and the internet

Television Industry

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on the network's reluctance about his show In Living Color; on News Corp's COO Peter Chernin's suggestions; on the network notes and Wayans' insistence not to change anything
04:51
Keenen Ivory Wayans on an In Living Color  sketch about black men being an endangered species and on dealing with censorship at the network
04:55
Keenen Ivory Wayans on how television has changed
Professions

Comedian

View Profession
Keenen Ivory Wayans on finding out about the Improv in New York and changing his life to move back to the city and become a standup; how it changed his approach to comedy
03:09
Keenen Ivory Wayans on the advice his mentor Chris Albrecht gave him about comedy; make it specific
01:46
Keenen Ivory Wayans on the "comedian's code" during his time at The Improv in New York; about stealing jokes
01:48
Keenen Ivory Wayans on his stand-up act then and now
08:03

Producers

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on his movie "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" and how the battles with the film production helped changed his career
03:19
Genres

Comedy Series

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on being heavily influenced by the comedy shows Jackie Gleason, I Love Lucy, and The Carol Burnett Show  and how the humor of those shows still has effect over 60 years later
01:11
Keenen Ivory Wayans on improv on In Living Color; on the sketch "Driving Miss Daisy"; every second take would be improvised and that was usually the take selected for the show
00:59
People

Chris Albrecht

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on the advice Chris Albrecht gave him about comedy; make it specific
01:46
Keenen Ivory Wayans on how he was brought out to L.A by Chris Albrecht at ICM
00:38

Jim Carrey

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on working with In Living Color  castmate Jim Carrey
04:17

Johnny Carson

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on watching The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson every night; confirming his decision to become a comedian
00:24
Keenen Ivory Wayans on appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson; his childhood idol- and what it meant for him personally "like stepping into your dream"; on being asked to sit with Johnny after his act
04:45

Peter Chernin

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on the network's reluctance about his show In Living Color; on News Corp's COO Peter Chernin's suggestions; on Wayans' insistence not to change anything and the support he received from Chernin
04:51

Kelly Coffield

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on working with In Living Color  castmate Kelly Coffield
01:53

Kim Coles

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on working with In Living Color  castmate Kim Coles and some of the challenges she had
00:35

Tommy Davidson

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on working with In Living Color  castmate Tommy Davidson
01:29

Jamie Foxx

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on working with In Living Color  castmate Jamie Foxx and how he got his name

David Alan Grier

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on working with In Living Color castmate David Alan Grier
01:04

Arsenio Hall

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on doing an impersonation of Arsenio Hall on In Living Color
01:23

Rick James

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on the In Living Color  character "Frenchie" and on meeting Rick James while IN character as Frenchie (who was based on Rick James)
03:48

T'Keyah Crystal Keymah

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on working with In Living Color  castmate T'Keyah Crystal Keymah
00:35

Paul Mooney

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on the In Living Color character "Homie the Clown" based on comedian/writer Paul Mooney
01:18

Eddie Murphy

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on how Eddie Murphy played a role in creating his movie "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka"
Keenen Ivory Wayans on writing and producing the documentary "Eddie Murphy Raw"; on working with the comedian
03:58

Richard Pryor

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on seeing Richard Pryor for the first time and deciding to become a comedian
01:47
Keenen Ivory Wayans on the highlight of his career: delivering a speech at a party for Richard Pryor; on Richard Pryor's legacy
04:16

Tamara Rawitt

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on In Living Color's producer Tamara Rawitt and working with her on the show 
02:03

Tom Smothers

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on the In Living Color sketch "Brother's Brothers" being based on Tom and Dick Smothers
01:05

Dick Smothers

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on the In Living Color sketch "Brother's Brothers" being based on Tom and Dick Smothers
01:05

Robert Townsend

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on the biggest change in his career: deciding to make his own movie with writing partner Robert Townsend
03:55

Shawn Wayans

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on working with In Living Color  castmate and brother Shawn Wayans
03:42

Kim Wayans

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on working with In Living Color  castmate and sister Kim Wayans
03:02

Damon Wayans

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on working with his brother Damon Wayans on In Living Color
02:28

Oprah Winfrey

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Keenen Ivory Wayans on dealing with sensitive and political issues on In Living Color: "you gotta be funny"; on offending Oprah Winfrey
01:45

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