The comedy double act behind Scary Movie, White Chicks and Littleman are coming to Dubai with a new show of stand-up. Rob Garratt talks critics and crass humour with Shawn and Marlon Wayans
Sitting down for a chat with Shawn and Marlon Wayans is not a relaxing experience. In conversation the sibling double act you might remember from cinema hits Scary Movie and White Chicks are as loud, brash and scattershot as their comedy. Growing up in ‘poverty’ in New York, the pair first found the camera alongside their older brothers Keenan and Damon in ’90s American sitcom In Living Colour, before writing and starring in their own show The Wayans Bros. Reaching a worldwide audience with horror spoof Scary Movie (2000) followed by its sequel Scary Movie 2 (2001), the pair broke away from the franchise with 2004’s White Chicks. Now touring a joint stand-up show, the brothers arrive for two consecutive nights in Dubai from Friday June 21. We experience the brothers bicker, backswipe, jest and jive with one another, channelling the comedic camaraderie that’s caught in the best of their cinema.
Here’s how the interview went down.
Where did this idea of a stand-up tour come from?
Shawn: I’ve been doing stand-up since I was 17 years old. Marlon, on the other hand, has been dabbling with it for years but he never really committed to it until he got the part to play Richard Pryor1. That led him to the stage – if he’s going to play the greatest comedian ever, he’s going to have to learn how to do it.
So Marlon, you’re competing with Shawn?
M: No, I go out there and I have fun. I want it to be like a party. I want people to enjoy, to laugh, to think a little bit – not think too much – I’m not going to change the world, but hopefully I’ll change their mood. Then I did my job. I just hope I don’t get arrested in Dubai...
You two are known for explicit material – will you be toning it down here?
M: We don’t got the rules – we don’t sit down like a boxing match and be told ‘that’s below the belt, you can’t say...’ [lists unprintable words]. What can you say and what can’t you say?
S: He’s not the guy to ask, he’s doing the interview dude...
Have you spent any time here in Dubai before?
M: No, I’ve been to the airport and that looked like... a mall. I was like, wow, you don’t need to go anywhere, you can just shop right here and live right here in this place.
You’re clearly very close – is it true you two shared a bed growing up?
S: We shared a bed, we shared hand-me-downs from our older brothers, underwear, all kinds of stuff.
M: I tell you this much though, as close as we are, if I get arrested, Shawn is bouncing, he’s leaving the country.
Shawn, what do you say to that?
S: I wouldn’t do that, I’d come get him. I’ll bail him out – but I’d make him pay me back right then and there.
M: Shawn, if you get arrested, I am outta there man.
You are two of ten successful siblings2. How did one family create so many stars?
M: I think we grew up so poor that everybody said ‘hell, no – I ain’t ever gonna be this poor again. I will never have roaches in my Rice Krispies ever again’. So we all made a pact never to be poor again, so we worked our behinds off.
Shawn, why didn’t you work on Marlon’s latest movie, A Haunted House?
S: There was nothing for me to do. That was a movie that was a single-starring vehicle, it wasn’t a two-fister, I don’t wanna be an extra in it.
M: He hated the script man. Just be honest Shawn, say you hated it.
Well he wouldn’t be the only one, the movie wasn’t exactly a hit with the critics3. [They interrupt each other trying to answer]
S: Yeah but we never get critic love, that’s not where our strength is, our strength is with the audience and the audience doesn’t really listen to anything the critics say.
Still, you’ve won a couple of Razzies4, does that bother you?
M: The funny thing is, I don’t care because we’re in good company – Halle Berry’s won one, Sandra Bullock’s won one – so I’m going to treat it as a compliment – hey, an award is an award.
Why did you decide to walk away from Scary Movie5?
S: The people we were doing it with, it just didn’t work out. They had another vision for it, and we had a funny vision for it.
M: We couldn’t come to a deal, so we said ‘let them go on with their franchise and do what they want to do’. For us, we’ll just create new vehicles and do those – A Haunted House has grossed more than Scary MoVie6. If we had done that [film], and done it the right way, they could have made a boat load with me on that movie. But unfortunately they were short-sighted. It’s a franchise we love and created from scratch, we put hard work and effort into it, and unfortunately for the audience it didn’t turn out the way we’d like it to.
What’s the next parody up your sleeve?
S: I can’t tell you what that is... [laughs] I can’t tell you what that is...
M: The reality is it hasn’t hit us yet, but when it does, we’ll go to the market with it.
1 Marlon replaced Eddie Murphy to play the lead role in forthcoming Bill Condon-directed biopic, Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said?
2 Shawn and Marlon are the fifth and sixth of ten children born to Howell and Elvira Wayans, all of whom have gone on to pursue careers in TV, cinema and comedy. Older brother Keenen, 54, directed Scary Movie, White Chicks and Littleman, while Damon, 52, is the best known stand-up comedian in the family.
3 At the time of press, A Haunted House had a critics’ score of ten percent on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
4 The Golden Raspberry Award, or ‘Razzie’, is an annual award recognising the worst movies released. In 2006 Shawn and Marlon won ‘worst actor’ and ‘worst rip-off’ for Littleman, and have received numerous other Razzie nominations.
5 Shawn and Marlon have had no involvement in the franchise since Scary Movie 3.
6 A Haunted House is reported to have grossed US$40 million [Dhs147 million], with a budget of less than $2 million [Dhs7 million]. This year’s fifth instalment Scary MoVie is reported to have made US $31 million [Dhs114 million] with an estimated budget of $20 million [Dhs73 million].
The Wayans Brothers perform at Dubai World Trade Centre on Friday June 21 and Saturday June 22, 8pm. Tickets, Dhs290-750, from www.timeouttickets.com.