Wayans, Keenen Ivory 1958–
Keenen Ivory Wayans 1958–
Comedian, actor, talk show host, screenwriter, producer, director
The career of Keenen Ivory Wayans spans many segments of the entertainment industry. Starting out as a stand-up comedian, Wayans soon realized that he needed to enhance his skills. In an interview with Aldore Collier of Ebony, Wayans remarked, “I will never get tired of doing comedy. Writing and directing are things I didn’t really see myself doing. I only wanted to be a performer, a comedian. But because of the scarcity of projects, I realized that I would have to write.” His credits include writing, producing, directing and starring in motion pictures such as Most Wanted, and the Emmy-winning comedy show In Living Color. Wayans is highly ambitious, proclaiming to People magazine in 1990 that he wanted to be the next Aaron Spelling or Steven Spielberg.
A Family of Comedians
Keenan Ivory Wayans was born in Harlem, New York, the second of ten children born to Howell and Elvira Wayans. He received the name Ivory in honor of one of his grandfathers. The family moved to the predominantly white Fulton housing project when Wayans was six, where they encountered racism from a local police officer and local children. Faced with such hostility, Wayans’s parents created a family environment that promoted self-esteem. Wayans has attributed the genesis of his comedic talents to this family environment. Howell Wayans was a Jehovah’s Witness and did not allow his children to associate with other neighborhood children, so the Wayans siblings entertained each other at the dinner table. Wayans recalled to Dinitia Smith of New York, “Anything that happened that day, that’s what the jokes were about. We’d start snappin’ on each other. Everybody had a twisted sense of humor. We cracked jokes about your most painful experiences. A lot of it had to do with being alienated, being different from other kids. Repression—that’s where it came from.” Inspired by Richard Pryor, Wayans decided at an early age that he wanted to become a comedian. Because he shared a bedroom with two of his brothers, Damon and Dwayne, Wayans often retreated to the privacy of his bedroom closet, where he dreamed about becoming an entertainer.
While he was a student at Seward Park High School, Wayans had a reputation as a class clown. He often
At a Glance…
Born June 8, 1958, Harlem, New York; son of Elvira and Howell Wayans; single; children: two. Education: Attended Tuskeegee Institute, late 1970’s.
Career: Performed stand-up comedy at prominent clubs in New York and Los Angeles; appeared in small movie and television roles, early 1980’s; co-wrote and co-starred in the movie Hollywood Shuffle, 1987; writer for Eddie Murphy Raw, 1987; directed, wrote and starred in I’m Gorina Git You Sucka, 1988; created, co-starred in television show, In Living Color, 1990-92; starred in A Low Down Dirty Shame, 1994, Most Wanted, 1997; starred in late-night talk show The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show, 1997-98.
Awards: Emmy Award for In Living Color for outstanding variety music or comedy program, 1990.
Addresses: Office —The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show, 7095 Hollywood Blvd. #1280, Hollywood CA 90028. E-mail—[email protected]
partnered with his brother Damon, and the two developed numerous comedy routines to entertain friends and family. Some of these routines became regular features on the Fox network television show, In Living Color During his high school years, Wayans worked 70 hours a week as a manager at McDonald’s and took great pride in helping his parents financially and providing new toys and ice-cream treats for his younger siblings. Although his grade point average suffered because of the long working hours, he still earned a scholarship to study engineering at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. However, Wayans left Tuskegee Institute and returned to New York City to pursue his dream to become an entertainer.
Wore Several Shoes
While in New York, Wayans appeared at the famous comedy club, The Improv, and met comedian Eddie Murphy, who declared, “I thought I was the only funny black guy in New York. Now I see there are two.” In 1987, he collaborated with Murphy in the writing of the film Eddie Murphy Raw. While working at The Improv, he also met writer and director Robert Townsend. In 1987, he collaborated with Townsend on the motion picture Hollywood Shuffle
Hollywood Shuffle tells the story of struggling actor Bobby Taylor, who is unable to find a respectable African American film role. Eventually, he accepts the role of a pimp in a blaxploitation movie. The white producers and directors of the film coach the black actors to act more “black.” Taylor experiences a crisis of conscience and gives up the high-profile role rather that portray a Hollywood stereotype. Hollywood Shuffle. was well-received by film critics, but Wayans’s role in creating the film was rarely mentioned.
In 1988, Wayans released his first film, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka This film parodied the popular blaxploitation films of the 1970s and poked fun at Hollywood stereotypes of African Americans and other ethnic groups. Wayans explained to People, “I wanted to do something that was true to its ethnicity but not restricted to it. That’s important to me as a black filmmaker because I feel that our society is painted to be more racist than it is.” Although I’m Gonna Git You Sucka received excellent critical reviews, Wayans deeply resented the way that United Artists marketed the film. Fearing that white audiences would reject I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, United Artists only distributed the film in predominantly African American neighborhoods. Wayans strongly believed that I’m Gonna Git You Sucka had cross-cultural appeal. Reacting to UA’s marketing strategy, Wayans told Betsy Sharkey of American Film, “With Sucka,[UA] never got beyond the fact that it was black. There are times when you ask yourself, ’What does a black man have to do?’” Wayans did not allow this disappointment to destroy his confidence. He invited Fox network executives to view the film and they were so impressed that they offered Wayans the opportunity to develop his own comedy show, In Living Color.
Wayans has described In Living Color as “in your face” comedy. Featuring four of Wayans’s siblings, Damon, Kim, Marlon, and Shawn, In Living Color became extremely popular and ranked as one of the top twenty programs on television during the early 1990s. However, the show also created its share of controversy. Skits such as “Men on Film,” and “The Homeboy Shopping Network” offended some viewers. “Men on Film,” which featured two gay black film critics, was criticized for perpetuating stereotypes of gay behavior. “The Homeboy Shopping Network,” featuring two black men selling their stolen wares on a home shopping channel, was criticized for stereotyping young black men as criminals. In response to his critics, Wayans explained to Smith of New York, “In Living Color shows people different sides of black life and black culture. It’s important that I do it honestly. I don’t just show the black bourgeoisie or professionals—or criminals. I try to show every side of black life.” Continuing on the same theme, Wayans remarked to Lynda Wright of Newsweek, “If the show picked on only one group, I could understand people being uptight. But we get everybody.”
Wayans won an Emmy Award for In Living Color in 1990 in the category of outstanding variety, music, or comedy program. Despite the show’s success, Wayans and the Fox network became embroiled in a disagreement regarding the airing of reruns of the show. This disagreement led to the departure of Wayans from In Living Color. Upon leaving the show, Wayans concentrated his efforts on resuming his film career.
After years of focusing primarily on comedy, Wayans expanded his repertoire to include action-adventure roles. He told Ebony, “I like action and I like comedy. So I took both of them together as my style. It gives me more diversity. It is moving away from the spoof sort of style that I’ve done. I’ll never be tired of comedy…” In 1994, Wayans produced and starred as private investigator Andre Shame in the film A Low Down Dirty Shame. He co-starred with Jon Voight in the 1997 film Most Wanted, which received mixed reviews.
Developed a New Talk Show
In the summer of 1997, Wayans returned to television as the host of the late-night talk show, The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show. This show competed not only with well-established shows such as The Tonight Show and The Late Show with David Letterman, but with the UPN network program Vibe. Vibe and The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show are both geared toward the same young, ethnically diverse, and musically oriented audience. By being exposed to a national audience on a daily basis, Wayans has had the opportunity to utilize his writing, directing, and performing skills. Although his show received good reviews, it was cancelled in 1998.
Keenen Ivory Wayans lives in Los Angeles. He works out regularly with weights, enjoys chess, and is a member of both the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild.
Contemporary Authors, volume 140, Gale Research Inc., 1993.
Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, volume 17, Gale Research, 1998.
American Film, July/August 1989.
Ebony, Dec 1994.
New York, October 8, 1990.
People, Dec 31, 1990.
—Amanda Bersford McCarthy
Wayans, Keenen Ivory 1958- (Keenen Wayans)
Wayans, Keenen Ivory 1958- (Keenen Wayans)
Born June 8, 1958, in Harlem section of New York, NY; son of Howell (a supermarket manager) and Elvira (a homemaker) Wayans; brother of Damon Wayans (an actor, writer, and producer), Kim Wayans (an actress), Marlon Wayans (an actor), Dwayne Wayans (an actor), and Shawn Wayans (an actor); married Daphne Polk, June 16, 2001 (separated, 2004); children: Jolie Ivory Imani, Nala, Keenen, Jr., Bella, Daphne Ivory. Education: Attended Tuskegee Institute.
Office—Wayans Brothers Entertainment, 8730 West Sunset Blvd., Suite 290, West Hollywood, CA 90069. Agent—William Morris Agency, 1 William Morris Pl., Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Manager—Lisa Suzanne Blum, Modus Entertainment, 8730 Sunset Blvd., Suite 290, West Hollywood, CA 90069.
Actor, director, writer, and producer. Wayans Brothers Entertainment, West Hollywood, CA, principal. Began career as a standup comedian, working at comedy clubs from the Improv in New York City to the Comedy Store in Los Angeles; appeared in commercials for KFC fried chicken restaurants, 1984, and Pepsi soft drinks, 1998. Worked as a manager at a McDonald's restaurant as a high school student.
Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild of America, Writers Guild of America.
Emmy Award (with others), outstanding variety, music, or comedy series, 1990, Emmy Award nominations (with others), outstanding writing in a variety or music program, 1990, 1991, 1992, Emmy Award nominations (with others), outstanding variety, music, or comedy series, 1991, 1992, Emmy Award nomination, outstanding individual performance in a variety or music program, 1991, and Nova Award, most promising producer in television, Golden Laurel Awards, Producers Guild of America, 1992, all for In Living Color; BET Comedy Awards, outstanding writing for a box office movie (with others) and outstanding directing for a box office movie, Black Entertainment Television, both 2004, for White Chicks.
Television Appearances; Series:
Recruit Duke Johnson, For Love and Honor, NBC, 1983-84.
Host and member of ensemble, In Living Color, Fox, 1990-92.
Host, The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show, syndicated, 1997-98.
Judge, HGTV Summer Showdown, Home and Garden Television, 2008.
Television Appearances; Specials:
Motown Thirty: What's Goin' On!, CBS, 1990.
A Laugh, a Tear, syndicated, 1990.
Story of a People: The Black Road to Hollywood, syndicated, 1991.
A Comedy Salute to Michael Jordan (also known as Los Angeles and Chicago Salute to Michael Jordan), NBC, 1991.
The Best of Robert Townsend & His Partners in Crime, HBO, 1991.
A Party for Richard Pryor, CBS, 1991.
The Real Malcolm X, 1992.
Comic Relief V, HBO, 1992.
In Censors We Trust, E! Entertainment Television, 1993.
(In archive footage) Mo' Funny: Black Comedy in America, HBO, 1993.
Canned Ham: Scary Movie, Comedy Central, 2000.
Inside TV Land: African Americans in Television, TV Land, 2002.
Eddie Murphy: The Making of "Delirious," MyNetwork, 2007.
Television Appearances; Pilots:
Ray Brewster, Irene, NBC, 1981.
Recruit Duke Johnson, For Love and Honor, NBC, 1983.
Host and member of ensemble, In Living Color, Fox, 1990.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
(As Keenen Wayans) First customer, "Sam's Women," Cheers, NBC, 1982.
Roberts, "Meet the New Guy," CHiPS (also known as CHiPs Patrol), NBC, 1982.
Benson "Clete" Hawkins, "Summer of Discontent," Benson, ABC, 1986.
Raymond Jackson, "The Runner Falls on His Kisser," Hill Street Blues, NBC, 1987.
Professor Lawrence, "War of the Words," A Different World, NBC, 1987.
Soul Train, 1989.
Himself, "Darker than Me," The South Bank Show, 1994.
The Chris Rock Show, 1997.
"Talk Shows," Dennis Miller Live, HBO, 1998.
Ken Kyle, "A Little Romance," My Wife and Kids, ABC, 2001.
(In archive footage) "Ice Bullet, Exploding Toilet, Who Gets Wetter?," MythBusters, The Discovery Channel, 2003.
"The ‘Grammy’ Goes to Camp: You're a Star & Kids Are Helping Kids," In the Mix (also known as In the Cutz), Urban America Channel, 2006.
Television Guest Appearances; Episodic:
The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, NBC, 1983.
The Oprah Winfrey Show (also known as Oprah), syndicated, 1996, 2004.
The Rosie O'Donnell Show, syndicated, 1998.
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, NBC, 2001.
The Big Breakfast, Channel 4, 2001.
Sunday Morning Shootout (also known as Hollywood Shootout and Shootout), AMC, 2004.
Today (also known as NBC News Today and The Today Show), NBC, 2004.
Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:
MTV's 1990 Video Music Awards, MTV and syndicated, 1990.
The 5th Annual American Comedy Awards, ABC, 1991.
Host, The American Music Awards, ABC, 1991.
The 43rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards Presentation, Fox, 1991.
Presenter, The 6th Annual Soul Train Awards, syndicated, 1992.
Presenter, The 44th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, Fox, 1992.
Presenter, Soul Train Comedy Awards, syndicated, 1993.
American Comedy Honors, Fox, 1997.
Presenter, The 1998 World Music Awards, ABC, 1998.
Presenter, 12th Annual American Comedy Awards, Fox, 1998.
Presenter, BET Comedy Awards, Black Entertainment Television, 2004.
2006 BET Awards, Black Entertainment Television, 2006.
Television Work; Series:
Creator, executive producer, and director, In Living Color, Fox, 1990-92.
Executive producer, The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show, syndicated, 1997.
Creator and executive producer, Thugaboo: A Miracle on D-Roc's Street, 2006.
Television Work; Pilots:
Creator and executive producer, In Living Color, Fox, 1990.
Executive producer, Hammer, Slammer, and Slade, ABC, 1990.
Creator and executive producer, The Life and Times of Marcus Felony Brown, VH1, 2008.
Television Work; Specials:
Producer, Robert Townsend and His Partners in Crime, HBO, 1987.
Executive producer, The Best of Robert Townsend & His Partners in Crime, HBO, 1991.
Comic, Star 80, Ladd Company/Warner Bros., 1983.
Donald/Jerry Curl, Hollywood Shuffle (also known as Robert Townsend's "Hollywood Shuffle"), Samuel Goldwyn Company, 1987.
Eddie Murphy Raw (also known as Raw and Raw: The Concert Movie), Paramount, 1987.
Jack Spade, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1988.
Shame, A Low Down Dirty Shame (also known as Mister Cool), Buena Vista, 1994.
Mailman, Don't Be a Menace (also known as Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood), Miramax, 1996.
Detective Jim Campbell, The Glimmer Man (also known as Glimmerman), Warner Bros., 1996.
Gunnery Sergeant James Dunn, Most Wanted, New Line Cinema, 1997.
Amistad II Slave, Scary Movie, Dimension Films, 2000.
Cameo, Scary Movie 2 (also known as Scarier Movie), Dimension Films, 2001.
The Black List: Volume One, HBO Documentary Films, 2008.
Why We Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy (documentary), Codeblack Entertainment, 2008.
Coproducer, Eddie Murphy Raw (also known as Raw and Raw: The Concert Movie), Paramount, 1987.
Director, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1988.
Director, A Low Down Dirty Shame (also known as Mister Cool), Buena Vista, 1994.
Producer, Don't Be a Menace (also known as Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood), Miramax, 1996.
Executive producer, Most Wanted, New Line Cinema, 1997.
Director and (uncredited) producer, Scary Movie, Dimension Films, 2000.
Director, Scary Movie 2 (also known as Scarier Movie), Dimension Films, 2001.
Producer and director, White Chicks, Sony Pictures Releasing, 2005.
Producer and director, Little Man (also known as Perfect Gem & Valuable), Sony Pictures Releasing, 2006.
Appeared in the music video "Just the Two of Us" by Will Smith.
In Living Color, Fox, 1990-92.
The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show, syndicated, 1997.
(With Townsend) Robert Townsend and His Partners in Crime (comedy), HBO, 1987.
In Living Color, Fox, 1990.
Hammer, Slammer, and Slade (also based on his screenplay I'm Gonna Git You Sucka), ABC, 1990.
(With Robert Townsend) Hollywood Shuffle (also known as Robert Townsend's "Hollywood Shuffle"), Samuel Goldwyn Company, 1987.
Opening sketch (with Eddie Murphy and Townsend), Eddie Murphy Raw (also known as Raw and Raw: The Concert Movie), Paramount, 1987.
I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1988.
(With Townsend) The Five Heartbeats, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1991.
A Low Down Dirty Shame (also known as Mister Cool), Buena Vista, 1994.
Most Wanted, New Line Cinema, 1997.
(With Xavier Cook, Andy McElfresh, and others) White Chicks, Sony Pictures Releasing, 2005.
(With brothers Marlon Wayans and Shawn Wayans) Little Man (also known as Perfect Gem & Valuable; also based on story by Wayans), Sony Pictures Releasing, 2006.
Contributor of foreword to In Living Color: The Authorized Companion to the Fox TV Series, by Nelson George, Warner Books, 1991.
Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Volume 66, Gale, 2005.
Contemporary Authors, Volume 140, Gale, 1993.
Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 18, Gale, 1998.
George, Nelson, In Living Color: The Authorized Companion to the Fox TV Series, Warner Books, 1991.
Newsmakers, Issue Cumulation, Gale, 1991.
Ebony, December, 1994, p. 86.
Entertainment Weekly, June 30, 2006, p. 27.
Hollywood Reporter, January 25, 1989.
Newsweek, July 9, 2001, p. 54.
New York, October 8, 1990, pp. 28-35.
People Weekly, November 15, 1999, p. 196.