Its hard to believe it, but Marlon Wayans is 45 years old. That means, if you remember when he first appeared on In Living Color, alongside brother Shawn in The Wayans Brothers, or in the classic urban basketball take Above the Rim, then youre getting up there in age.
Once upon a time, the youngest of ten siblings used physical comedy, facial expressions and absurd imagery to garner laughs. Now, with his new Netflix special Woke-ish, audiences are in for a more mature, thoughtful Marlon Wayans.
@MarlonWayans on how he learns inclusion from his kids. #IMDbLive #Oscars https://t.co/zny00IIvYK
The Wayans have always been able to shine a comedic light on some of otherwise not-so-funny portions of black struggle, and that has been a major source of criticism in the past. Recently, I spoke with Marlon about his transition from simply being a funny person, to becoming a full-fledged comedian.
TSL: Talk about the title Woke-ish.
Marlon: “With the title, I thought about whats been going on in todays society and the content of my special and it was really heavy with whats going on in the world; from politics, to Trump, to African Americans to gay rights. It touched on so many aspects of whats going on and so I thought of the title Woke-ish.”
TSL: In the distant past, there was much criticism of your particular style of comedy. What would you say to those contrarians regarding this new offering?
Marlon: “I would say that theyre small minded and this is actually great for them, for them to not be prejudice and judge something before you try it. I think thats whats wrong with the world nowadays. Start by taking the journey to watch the special, then you can give me your opinion. Whats right about this special is, you dont have to agree, but you still can enjoy yourself.”
Crazy-ish. Loud-ish. Real-ish. Woke-ish. The brand new stand-up special by Marlon Wayans premieres February 27 on Netflix.
TSL: What has the journey been like for you up to this point?
Marlon: “I had to reconstruct myself to do this. Understand, Ive never been the type of guy to do stand up. Its been a long seven or eight-year journey to become a comedian. First and foremost, I had to humble myself in that aspect. I had to be vulnerable and reveal myself. I had to reveal things about myself, my life and my family that most people probably wouldnt want to talk openly about. I had to talk about things from my point of view about the world, racism and life.”
“I had to put myself out there about divisive topics and dare to try to make people laugh, and wake people up at the same time. I grew during this journey because I was humbled in the walk. I remained vulnerable during the process up on that stage. I took my time, I learned patience, I learned how to tell a story. It made me a better writer, it made me a better performer, this whole process and journey has been a reinvention of myself and everything people know me for as being a Wayans, to become my own version of myself. Im just Marlon, and getting to know myself as an individual. In a family that has created a legacy, Im my own self. This is just Marlon.”
TSL: The funny thing is, though you were rarely on stage before this, I always saw you as a comedian.
Marlon: “To be a standup, you gotta get your behind on stage, you have to tour, you have to get out in front of the audience, you have to have specials, you have to allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to be judged. You have to go up there and make people laugh with jokes that are written. You have to see if you can stand by the words and thoughts that you write. Are you that funny? Are you standup funny?”
“Just because you write for movies and TV doesnt mean youre funny. If youre up there doing standup its just you, a mic, a light and a drunken audience with your words and thoughts. Now, once you tour successfully, and you tour internationally, and youve made people laugh everywhere, now youre approaching becoming a comedian.”
TSL: What were some of the motivating factors?
Marlon: “I heard people say Well, Marlon Wayans is not a comedian. Katt Williams, in one of his rants, said I wasnt a comedian. Instead of me taking offense, I said Alright! and I allowed it to motivate me. I have no dislike for him, I didnt disrespect him, I didnt get mad at him, I dont feel no negativity towards Katt or his words, I actually allowed that to inspire me. Im thankful for him having said that about me because it gave me something to prove.”
“He was right. I wasnt a comedian. Now that Ive dropped the special, hopefully people can see the special and maybe now Im a comedian. And if Im not a comedian, then at least Im on my way. I never let words break me. Im always motivated by everything in life. Thats one of the factors that motivated me. Im thankful for that moment and Im thankful to him.”
“Chris Rock heckled me when I was 19 because thats what the big brothers do. That kinda made me not want to do standup for a while. I had to grow thicker skin, and Im thankful to that moment. Im thankful for all the journeys that Ive been through. The bad leads to the good. If youre willing to endure the bad, you can find the good. Just work. On the other side of tragedy comes your greatest moments. I just stayed hopeful, diligent through my work and my process to get better. And everything worked out for me from there. You gotta be fearless.”