Shawn and Marlon Wayans Talk In Living Color, Richard Pryor, White Chicks 2, and More

Though they spent years in the comedy shadows of older brothers Keenen and Damon, the younger duo of Shawn and Marlon Wayans (there's ten Wayans siblings in all, in case you're keeping count) have stuck together as a duo, writing and performing on TV's The Wayans Brothers and in films like Scary Movie, White Chicks, Little Man and Dance Flick. They were also a big part of In Living Color, the groundbreaking 1990s sketch comedy show created by Keenan.

Shawn and Marlon are arguably the most successful comedian of the family, as most of their flicks have raked in some serious scrilla at the box office. They're currently doing gigs at clubs, including a four-night appearance at Stand Up Live in Phoenix this weekend, in order to hone their comedic craft and help Marlon prepare for his (rumored) role as the legendary Richard Pryor in an upcoming bio-pic.

The Wayans Brothers spoke with Jackalope Ranch about their comedy, their family life, and other topics. 

Do each of you do individual sets or perform stand-up comedy together?
Shawn Wayans: Nah, its an individual thing. Marlon goes up first and I'm second.

What type of humor do you guys specialize in?
Shawn: Honest, observational humor. Everything from life to music and sports, everything that's going on in our world.

What's the deal with White Chicks 2? Will is ever be made?
Shawn: White Chicks 2 is chilling right now. It didn't get cancelled, it's just on the backburner right now. We've been working on a couple of movies and television projects we're developing.

You both worked on In Living Color back in the 1990s, right?
Shawn: I was there from day one when it started, and then Marlon came on after a couple three years after it started.

Did you know that the show was going to make as big an impact as it did?
I was a kid back then and I just knew I'd never seen anything like it. I didn't know what kind of impact it was going to have, I just knew that it was something special.

What was it like growing up in a family filled with comedians?
It was awesome, it was fun. They were a little older than me and Marlon, but they were always great big brothers to us. They were working and treated me and Marlon to all the stuff they didn't get when they were little.
Marlon Wayans: When you grow up in a house full of legends, there's always someone to look up to. It was a blessing. It's better then growing up in a house full of crackheads (laughs).

Was it hard not to go into another career besides comedy when your older brothers are Damon and Keenan Ivory Wayans?
Shawn: It was hard to actually become a comedian. It was an easy choice, but it was hard thing to do.
Marlon: There were several factors. It was actually intimidating. I told Shawn when we started, "What the hell am I doing?" You realize that everyone has their own voice and their own point of view. It actually makes it harder to be a comedian when your brothers are Damon and Shawn and Keenan, because you might get the opportunity, but the expectation is far greater.

Did it seem like you were living in their shadow?
I never really felt like I was living in their shadow because we were kids when they were starting. We just looked up to them, we really learned from them, and worked really hard to become who we are.
Marlon: It's not a competition. We're not trying to become the greatest of the Wayans family. We just do things how we do it. For us its just about doing the work. The rest is for people to judge.

Marlon, are you still going to play Richard Pryor in the upcoming bio-pic of his life?
You know, we'll see. There are so many things that could happen in this industry that could throw that off. But as of now I am gonna play Richard Pryor. In the meantime, I'm just preparing by doing stand up and learning and growing as a comedian. So I'll be ready and make the most of it.

Is there a lot of pressure playing one of the most groundbreaking comedians of all time?
The pressure's in the work. If you're willing to do the work, you can do anything. For me, it's all about preparation. I've been preparing first and foremost by getting my ass on tour and learning to be a stand up, learning the journey, learning the skill set. How to craft a joke or how to put together a set. It's probably the most method [acting] I've ever done in my life. I love stand up so much, I someday hope to be one of the greats.

Shawn and Marlon Wayans are scheduled to perform at Stand Up Live, 50 West Jefferson Street, from Thursday, September 22, to Sunday, September 25. Show times vary. Admission is $35. Click here for more info.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.