In Living Color premiered in 1990, which means this year marks the 10th anniversary of the Wayans clan as comedy dynasty. And the family celebrated in the traditional way: with a brotherly flank attack on entertainment that reaffirmed the family as the Barrymores of badass laughs. While Shawn, 29, Marlon, 27, and head brother Keenen Ivory, 42, were slaying audiences with Scary Movie, Damon, 40, was teaming with Spike Lee for the satire Bamboozled. (Plus, the 2001 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival will include an In Living Color reunion.) It was an appropriate rebirth for these Manhattan-raised sons of a Jehovah’s Witness. (”Kinda like the preacher’s daughter turns out to be a ho — the preacher’s sons all became sick individuals,” reckons Marlon.)
The Wayans renaissance actually began in 1999 when the brothers persuaded Miramax’s Bob Weinstein that they could spoof the current crop of teen horror movies like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. After bringing in Scary Movie, costarring Shawn and Marlon, for around $19 million, Keenen watched it hoot past its July competition with a $42.3 million opening weekend, and climb to a stunning $157 million — making it the largest opening ever for a film directed by an African American.
The box office blowout set the stage for Shawn and Marlon’s September turn hosting the MTV Video Music Awards, the most-watched cable entertainment show of the year and, according to Shawn, ”the hardest gig around — you just go out and ride the roller coaster.” In October, as Damon played an Ivy League-educated TV executive in Spike Lee’s flick, Marlon (to bookend his slapstick sidekick performance in Dungeons & Dragons) took a rewarding stretch into drama as a Coney Island drug addict in Darren Aronofsky’s corrosively brilliant Requiem for a Dream. ”It was like therapy,” he says. ”I cried about stuff that hurt me years before. It was great expression.”
Not a moment too soon. The brothers are working full-time to get a Scary Movie 2 script in the can (”Blair Witch 2 bombed, so we can’t use that,” grumbles Marlon), and they’re also cowriting — and may supply voices for — Roaches, an animated comedy that Shawn promises “will definitely hold a mirror up to our society.” Now, that sounds like a really scary movie.