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Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, June 29, 2000

Wayans’ world

Comedian Damon Wayans
takes a break from an ABC
project to do a Hawaii show

By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin


Stand-up is like the Internet, according to comedian Damon Wayans. "A lot of people are doing it but not a lot of people know what to do."

Wayans is one of those who knows what to do and is adamant about what he wants to do in all aspects of his career. He's best known for his three seasons working as a performer and writer on the Emmy Award-winning comedy-variety series "In Living Color," but he's also starred in and produced films, is the author of "Bootleg," and has had almost 20 years experience doing stand-up comedy.

Wayans will be flying out here for a Saturday night one-nighter at the World Cafe and says he still finds doing stand-up comedy challenging and stimulating.

"Doing film, there's always another take. Stand-up is always in the moment. You're only as funny as the last joke and you feel that sense of danger where the audience could turn at any second. You get into that zone (and) it's do or die," said Wayans in a telephone interview from Los Angeles.

Although it's his fame as a comedian that brings him to Hawaii, Wayans shows a serious side when he talks about the television show he's developing for ABC, scheduled to debut as a mid-season replacement series in November. The working title is "Damon."

"I've actually put every other project on hold because I want this to be great. I want to really focus for two years in terms of writing and making sure that the stories reflect the characters. It's about the dynamics of family and exploring relationships today and how you have to negotiate."

"The premise of my show is about a guy who got married young, cheated on his wife, and she hasn't forgiven him. It's about him trying to right that wrong but at the same time the balance of power in the house has shifted. There was a time when he called all the shots and she went along with it but now she doesn't trust him."

He wants the show to go beyond the "wunza" shows in which each character represents a stock viewpoint or stereotypical ethnic group, as in "wunza" black, "wunza" feminist, "wunza" a gay choreographer.

"It all starts with your concept. If your concept itself is stereotypical you lose all the humanity. The problem that we've had -- and black people are guilty of doing this (too) -- is they come in with a strong concept and no one takes the time to ask how they can make it a human story as opposed to something stereotypical."

Wayans, who grew up with nine brothers and sisters and has a large extended family, hopes to pull together as many ideas as possible and tell what he describes as "universal" stories.

"If it's a story about a father and his daughter, that's universal. If his daughter is dancing and he's trying to get that new dance, that's still universal. It's finding what's human and what's universal because then you have what Cosby had, which is a show that transcends race.

"We live in the suburbs but my son wants to be a rap artist and thinks he's Tupac. You have kids with $50,000 educations speaking ebonics because that's how popular it is. As a parent, how do you deal with that?"

Wayans says his solutions include the Bible, spending "quality time" with his children, and administering a little "tough love" when necessary.

"You look at the kids today that are lacking discipline and fear of authority, and that's because not enough parents are taking that foot to that ass.

"I don't want my kids to be that scared of me but I want them to fear displeasing me."

Wayans will be seen in a upcoming Spike Lee film that addresses some of those issues. He described Lee's "Bamboozled" as the story of a black writer whose serious work is rejected by the network he's on contract with and who then tries to get his contract terminated by writing an obviously unacceptable stereotype-laden "minstrel show." The network execs love the show, the network picks it up, and it becomes a huge hit.

"He's torn between his first success and basically selling his people out, so it's a really interesting movie. It's very current because right now there's a controversy over the lack of good black programs and black actors -- minorities period -- in network television. It's going to be very controversial."

In concert

Bullet Who: Damon Wayans and Hawaiian Ryan
Bullet When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Bullet Where: World Cafe, 1130 North Nimitz Highway.
Bullet Tickets: $18.50 pre-sale or $22.50 at the door; $30 VIP Mixer includes food, drinks and an autograph session. Minimum age 18.
Bullet Call: 599-4450 or

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