Some people have big families. Others have funny families. A select few have famous families. Then there is the Wayans family, which is big, funny and famous, and whose various members (siblings Keenen Ivory, Damon, Kim, Nadia, Marlon and Shawn among them) have managed to leave a mark on comedy and pop culture.
Shawn and Marlon Wayans are arguably two of the most recognizable members of their family, what with their appearances on the legendary '90s sketch comedy show In Living Color, their hit sitcom The Wayans Bros. and in the horror-spoof Scary Movie franchise.
Overall, the brothers say, they have few complaints about being part of such a comedic and successful family.
"The best thing about being a Wayans is you have a ton of fun," Shawn said.
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Said Marlon, "The only bad part is people often confuse you with the wrong guy."
However, Shawn and Marlon did admit that the appeal and hilarity often associated with the Wayans family comes with a certain expectation to deliver the goods no matter what project they decide to tackle.
"It put a fire under our a--," said Shawn, 41. "It made us live up to the precedent that was set."
"I think it is a blessing because we really had to earn our way," said Marlon, 39. "It's harder to learn in the spotlight. We had to mature comedically quickly."
Shawn and Marlon co-wrote and co-starred in comedies including 2004's White Chicks and 2006's Little Man, but they started to take different directions. Shawn spent a good portion of his time on the road, doing stand-up. Marlon already had ventured away from solely comedic roles with a critically acclaimed supporting part in the 2000 addiction drama Requiem for a Dream. He was a full-on action star as Ripcord in the 2009 blockbuster G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.
For the past two years, though, the pair have shared the stage doing stand-up comedy in clubs across the country. Their tour will bring them to Comedy Off Broadway in Lexington this week. Those who come out will see two acts in different stages of development.
Shawn has paid his dues on the road. His first-ever stand-up special, for which no air date has been set, will wake people up to Shawn's comedic skills, Marlon said.
"He's one of my favorite comedians," Marlon said.
"That's cute, man," Shawn responded.
Marlon's experience onstage began only two years ago, when he was cast to play comic legend Richard Pryor in a planned film and wanted to get his feet wet.
"I was going to play a great and I wanted to know what the hell the journey was," Marlon said.
The film's future is uncertain, but Marlon says he is certain he's found a new calling. Now, on the road with Shawn, he gets notes and feedback from his more experienced sibling and creative collaborator while trying to develop his own voice.
"I think I'm funny, but I don't think I've tapped into the best of me," Marlon said.
"You'd think he's been doing it for 10 years," Shawn said. "Marlon's like a baby that talks early. He's advanced in comedy."
If you don't find these two Wayans brothers on the road, you'll find them in their self-described "lab," where the two work on creating various film and TV projects. Many of these creations have the potential to be on television or in a movie theater, but Shawn and Marlon have a work ethic that leaves nothing to chance.
"It's not like we kick back in a cushy office getting our feet rubbed, like, 'Ah, let's create,'" Shawn said. "We ain't resting at all."
"It takes time before everything you do is great. Nobody bats 1,000 percent," Marlon said. "You just get better at swinging."