skip navigation
Keenen Ivory Wayans

Keenen Ivory Wayans

Up
Down

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (0)

Recent DVDs

 
 

I'm Gonna Git You Sucka... This1988 hilarious parody of blaxploitation films stars Keenen Ivory Wayans, who... more info $14.98was $14.98 Buy Now

Scary Movie DVD Do not watch this film alone. No one will hear you scream...with laughter!... more info $9.98was $9.98 Buy Now

Scary Movie 2 DVD These folks haven't met a scary movie they can't poke fun at. In this hilarious... more info $9.98was $9.98 Buy Now

Little Man DVD Comedy comes in all sizes, even two feet. That's how tall criminal Calvin is in... more info $14.99was $14.99 Buy Now

A Low Down Dirty Shame... "A Low Down Dirty Shame" (1994) is an explosive action-comedy from Keenan Ivory... more info $9.99was $9.99 Buy Now

Little Man Blu-ray MORE > $9.99 Regularly $9.99 Buy Now blu-ray



Also Known As: Keenen Wayans Died:
Born: June 8, 1958 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: producer, TV talk show, director, screenwriter, actor, comedian, McDonald's manager

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

As the head and founding member of the multi-talented Wayans comedy empire, Keenen Ivory Wayans blazed a trail as a comedic actor and stand-up performer in the early 1980s. Though he made strides with guest-starring roles on several popular television shows, Wayans quickly became frustrated with the dearth of meaty comedic roles for African-American actors. He partnered with comedian Robert Townsend to channel his frustrations by co-writing the scathing and hilarious satire, "Hollywood Shuffle" (1987), which parodied the real-life challenges he faced trying to make it in show business. From there, he directed his first feature, "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" (1988), which showcased his talent for satire - particularly on issues affecting African-American culture. But Wayans made his biggest impact on the small screen with "In Living Color" (Fox, 1990-95), a groundbreaking, controversial and downright hysterical sketch comedy show that broke down racial stereotypes while introducing the world to Jim Carrey, Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier. Though he left after its third season and achieved greater success with features like "Scary Movie" (2000), Wayans nonetheless built his legacy and family's comedy...

As the head and founding member of the multi-talented Wayans comedy empire, Keenen Ivory Wayans blazed a trail as a comedic actor and stand-up performer in the early 1980s. Though he made strides with guest-starring roles on several popular television shows, Wayans quickly became frustrated with the dearth of meaty comedic roles for African-American actors. He partnered with comedian Robert Townsend to channel his frustrations by co-writing the scathing and hilarious satire, "Hollywood Shuffle" (1987), which parodied the real-life challenges he faced trying to make it in show business. From there, he directed his first feature, "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" (1988), which showcased his talent for satire - particularly on issues affecting African-American culture. But Wayans made his biggest impact on the small screen with "In Living Color" (Fox, 1990-95), a groundbreaking, controversial and downright hysterical sketch comedy show that broke down racial stereotypes while introducing the world to Jim Carrey, Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier. Though he left after its third season and achieved greater success with features like "Scary Movie" (2000), Wayans nonetheless built his legacy and family's comedy dynasty on the back of arguably the best sketch comedy show of the 1990s.

Born on June 8, 1958 in New York, NY, Wayans was raised in a Harlem tenement as one of 10 children by his father, Howell, a supermarket manager, and his mother, Elvira, a homemaker - both of whom were devout Jehovah's Witnesses. In order to gain the attention of his parents, Wayans developed a talent for performing. Unfortunately for him, most of his siblings did as well. While attending Seward Park High School, he worked as a manager of a McDonald's before graduating in 1975. Wayans moved on to college at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, where he earned a scholarship and studied engineering. During his first summer off from school, Wayans performed stand-up comedy at the Improv in New York City, which led to the young performer quitting school his sophomore year to pursue a risky comedy career. He relocated to NYC, where he honed his skills on the local circuit. After moving to Los Angeles in 1980, Wayans worked the Improv and Comedy Store. In short order, Wayans established himself as a bright, rising comic with an acerbic wit that challenged established conventions.

Wayans' talent behind the microphone was recognized early on by NBC, which signed the comic to a development deal. After making his television debut on the long-forgotten pilot for "Irene" (NBC, 1981), he had a small guest appearance on the first season of "Cheers" (NBC, 1982-1993). Wayans soon made his feature debut as an anonymous comic in "Star 80" (1983), director Bob Fosse's look at the murder-suicide surrounding Playboy centerfold, Dorothy Stratten (Mariel Hemingway). He ventured into the drama side of television with his first regular series role, playing one of several army recruits in a crack military unit on "For Love and Honor" (NBC, 1983-84). After the short-lived series came and went, Wayans' career entered into a lull. But he emerged with a vengeance when he collaborated with fellow comic Robert Townsend to write, produce and appear in "Hollywood Shuffle" (1987), a biting satire made on a shoestring budget about the compromises made by an aspiring African-American actor (Townsend) trying to make it in Hollywood. Though the project was Townsend's baby, it nonetheless gave Wayans an opportunity to finally expand his horizons.

Wayans again collaborated with Townsend, serving as producer on "Robert Townsend and His Partners in Crime" (HBO, 1987), an hour-long variety show that featured stand-up comedy, music and sketches. Also that year, the two partnered for "Eddie Murphy Raw" (1987), the famed comedian's concert film that was written by Wayans and directed by Townsend. Looking to strike out on his own, Wayans wrote, directed and starred in "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" (1988), a hilarious satire of 1970s blaxploitation films that followed a mild-mannered man (Wayans) who seeks revenge for the death of his brother - who died from wearing too many gold chains - with the help of his old neighborhood friends (Isaac Hayes and Jim Brown). While also introducing brother Damon Wayans and sister Kim Wayans with small roles, the cult success of "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" helped propel Wayans into the limelight. In 1990, he executive-produced a pilot "Hammer, Slammer & Slade" for ABC, which was derived from the film. Though the episode aired, the series was never picked up.

Wayans quickly parlayed the success of "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" into a groundbreaking and often controversial sketch show, "In Living Color" (Fox, 1990-94), which irreverently skewered racial, political and cultural issues - particularly black stereotypes, which exploded on air through hilarious exaggeration. "In Living Color" introduced numerous characters and sketches, including "Homey D. Clown," an ex-convict-turned-clown for children's parties, which spawned the catchphrase "Homey don't play that;" "Men on Film," which starred two flamboyantly gay film critics; "Fire Marshall Bill," in which Jim Carrey was an accident-prone safety instructor; and "Handi Man," where Damon Wayans played a handicapped superhero who battled crime while drooling over himself. The latter sketch created the most controversy, with advocacy groups claiming insensitivity toward people with disabilities. But it also proved to be one of the best remembered of the bunch. Meanwhile, "In Living Color" forged the Wayans comedy empire, which included brothers Damon, Shawn and Marlon, and sister Kim. The show also was a proving ground for such non-Wayans as Jim Carrey, David Alan Grier, Jamie Foxx, former Fly Girl Jennifer Lopez and choreographer-turned-actress Rosie Perez.

Despite the show's success during the first few seasons, Wayans grew increasingly upset with the network's constant censorship - the most infamous being a sketch where he played Billy Dee Williams in a mock Colt 45 commercial, which ended with Wayans moving in on a woman passed out on his piano, implying that he was about to date rape her. The skit aired only once and was never seen again, even when the episode was released on DVD years later. Adding fuel to the fire was Wayans' increasing dissatisfaction with FOX rerunning previous episodes without his consultation, which he felt would decrease the syndication value later on. So after the third season, Wayans departed the show, while the rest of his family trickled out by the end of the fourth. A year later, "In Living Color" was off the air for good. After a brief spell out of the limelight, Wayans returned to the feature world by writing, directing and starring in "A Low Down Dirty Shame" (1994), a parody of "Shaft," in which he played an ex-cop with a troubled past who is tracking down the criminal responsible for him being kicked off the force. Instead of using typical exaggeration prevalent in his previous work, Wayans instead employed standard genre conventions and narrative structure.

Wayans returned to his hard-punching satirical roots to take on the popular 'hood films of the 1990s - namely "Boyz N the Hood" (1991) and "Menace II Society" (1993) - with "Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood" (1996). Despite an interesting premise ripe for Wayans' satirical treatment, the film fell flat with audiences and critics. After starring alongside a bloated and pacified Steven Seagal as the comic sidekick in the action thriller "The Glimmer Man" (1996), Wayans returned to television as the host and star of a late-night talk show, "The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show" (syndicated, 1997-98), which blended the standard talk format with sketches and comedy while featuring the all-female band, Ladies of the Night. The show was unfortunately short-lived, though Wayans rebounded by writing and starring in the action-thriller "Most Wanted" (1997), playing a soldier on death row recruited for a top secret mission. He struck box office gold when he directed "Scary Movie" (2000), which deftly spoofed the new wave of teen slasher flicks like "Scream" (1996) and "I Know What You Did Last Summer" (1997). Also written by and starring younger brothers Marlon and Shawn, "Scary Movie" took in over $150 million at the box office, making it, at the time, the biggest hit of his career.

Since "Scary Movie" made an unexpectedly large sum of money, Wayans went back to the well to direct the inevitable sequel, "Scary Movie 2" (2001), which offered more of the same and took in less than half of its predecessor's box office receipts. Though two more installments were made, Wayans had, by this point, divorced himself from the franchise. Meanwhile, he collaborated with Marlon and Shawn once again, directing the pair in "White Chicks" (2004), in which they played two FBI agents forced to go undercover as a pair of white, blonde heiresses. Though the idea of two black guys masquerading as two white women may have seemed funny on paper, the result on film was nothing short of abominable. Both Marlon and Shawn looked more like circus freaks than high-class socialites, making one wonder how anyone could have been fooled by their get-ups, while the gags often descended into cheap stereotypes without any greater purpose. Nonetheless, "White Chicks" proved a success at the box office despite near universal derision from critics.

Wayans returned to the director's chair with "Little Man" (2006), an even more repulsive and obnoxious comedy about a littler person (Marlon Wayans) who poses as baby in order to steal a diamond from a couple (Shawn Wayans and Kerry Washington) desperate for a child. A direct rip-off of the old Bugs Bunny cartoon, "Baby Buggy Bunny," where "Babyface" Finster pretends to be a baby to recover money from Bugs' rabbit hole, "Little Man" ran afoul of most critics, who seemed to enjoy calling the comedy "abysmal," "forgettable" and "unfunny." But once again, the film defied the odds and took in over $100 million in both domestic and international box office. "Little Man" did have the dubious honor of receiving six Golden Raspberry Awards and winning three, including one for Worst Remake or Rip-Off. Wayans returned to his more satirical roots with "Dance Flick" (2009), starring a new generation of Wayans - Damon Wayans, Jr. and Craig Wayans, son of sister Deirdre. Though a little late to the party, "Dance Flick" poked fun at the once-popular trend of dance films like "Save the Last Dance" (2001).

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Little Man (2006)
2.
  White Chicks (2004) Director
3.
  Scary Movie 2 (2001) Director
4.
  Scary Movie (2000) Director
5.
  Low Down Dirty Shame, A (1994) Director
6.
  I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Dance Flick (2009)
3.
 Scary Movie (2000) Slave
4.
 Most Wanted (1997) James Dunn
5.
 Glimmer Man, The (1996) Jim Campbell
7.
 Low Down Dirty Shame, A (1994) Shame
8.
 I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988) Jack Spade
9.
 Hollywood Shuffle (1987) Donald; Jerry Curl
10.
 Star 80 (1983) Comic
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1978:
Performed at the Improv in New York during his summer vacation from college
1979:
Moved to New York after leaving college and worked the stand-up comedy club circuit
1980:
Moved to Los Angeles and eventually worked at the Los Angeles Improv and the Comedy Store
1981:
Signed a development deal with NBC
1981:
Made TV acting debut in the NBC sitcom (pilot), "Irene"
1983:
First film appearance, Bob Fosse's "Star 80"
1983:
Was a series regular on "For Love and Honor" (NBC)
1987:
First feature as co-screenwriter (with director Robert Townsend), "Hollywood Shuffle"; also acted
1987:
Debut as a producer (also co-writer), "Eddie Murphy Raw"
1987:
TV debut as producer, "Robert Townsend's Partners in Crime" (HBO)
1988:
Feature directing debut, "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka"; also wrote and acted
1990:
Co-created (with brother Damon) the sketch comedy series, "In Living Color" (FOX); also wrote, produced and co-starred with several siblings
1990:
Signed exclusive movie and TV deal with 20th Century-Fox
1992:
Ended his film and TV deal with 20th Century Fox to protest censorship of "In Living Color" and to protest Fox's decision to rerun first season episodes without his consultation; left the show at the end of the third season, but remained the executive producer through the fourth season
2006:
With brothers Shawn and Marlon created, "Thugaboo," (Nickelodeon) a series of animated children's shows that follows the misadventures of nine kids growing up in the inner city
2006:
Directed brothers Marlon and Shawn in the comedy, "The Little Man"; also co-wrote
1994:
Wrote, directed and starred in the action film, "A Low Down Dirty Shame"
1996:
Produced the film, "Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood," starring his brothers Marlon and Shawn
1996:
Co-starred with Steven Seagal in the action film, "The Glimmer Man"
1997:
Hosted the syndicated late night talk-show, "The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show"
2000:
Directed the horror parody, "Scary Movie," starring his brothers Shawn and Marlon
2001:
Once again directed brothers in the sequel, "Scary Movie 2"
2001:
Had a recurring role on the ABC sitcom, "My Wife and Kids"; created by and starring brother Damon
2004:
Co-wrote (with brothers Marlon and Shawn) the comedy, "White Chicks"; also produced and directed
2006:
Directed his brothers Marlon and Shawn in the direct-to-video, "Little Man"
2009:
Produced and co-wrote the comedy spoof, "Dance Flick"; directed by nephew Damien Dante Wayans
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Tuskegee University: Tuskegee , Alabama -
Seward Park High School: New York , New York - 1975

Notes

"On 'Saturday Night Live' they've been [satirizing famous Blacks] for years. Murphy [Eddie Murphy] did Jesse Jackson and Bill Cosby. That [represented] a single point of view on a show. "In Living Color" it is like having eight or nine Eddie Murphys on the show, so the point of view is different. Now for the first time, you have black creators behind works that represent black people. So when it's coming from the source, you don't have to worry about the criticisms and uproars from the community. I know what's offensive. I know how far to go. I know who is sort of sacred and who isn't. I mean, I have the pulse of the folks that I'm having fun with."---Keenen Ivory Wayans quoted in Emmy Magazine, January 1991.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Daphne Polk. Together since 1989; married on June 16, 2001; filed for divorce April 30, 2004.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Howell Wayans. Supermarket manager. Jehovah's Witness.
mother:
Elvira Wayans.
brother:
Dwayne Wayans. Actor. Born c. 1957; production assistant and cast member of "In Living Color"; oldest brother.
brother:
Damon Wayans. Actor, producer. Born 1960; cast member, "In Living Color"; born with clubfoot and underwent several operations; fourth of ten children; began stand-up carrer in 1982; directed Joyce Irby's video "She's Not My Lover" (1989); has four children.
sister:
Kim Wayans. Actor. Born in the 1960s; cast member, "In Living Color"; won a scholarship to Wesleyan and graduated cum laude after writing a book of short stories for her senior thesis.
sister:
Deidre Wayans.
brother:
Shawn Wayans. Actor. Born c. 1971; cast member, "In Living Color"; ninth of ten children.
brother:
Marlon Wayans. Actor. Born July 23, 1972; entered Howard University c. 1991; joined the cast of "In Living Color" for the 1992-93 season.
daughter:
Jolie Ivory Imani Wayans. Born in July 1992.
son:
Keenan Wayans Jr.
daughter:
Nala Wayans.
daughter:
Bella Wayans.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute