Are you a fan of the Wayans Brothers? These talented (and hilarious!) siblings have been delighting audiences for decades on both the big and small screens. From iconic sketch comedy characters to hysterical parody movies, they’ve left an indelible mark on the world of entertainment. Here, we take a close look at the entire Wayans family.
What Are The Wayans Brothers Most Known For?
Comedy is definitely in the Wayans Brothers’ blood—they’ve been making people laugh for as long as they can remember. Back in 1995, Damon Wayans told The Baltimore Sun that he and his siblings used to play a game called “Make Me Laugh or Die” when they were kids.
“We’d sit there and you’d act the fool and everyone would try not to laugh,” he explained. “If you lost, you’d have to die. To die was to go in a room and pour my father’s beer out, knowing it was his last one.”
Those early comedy instincts clearly served the brothers well once they grew up. In 1988, Keenen Ivory Wayans wrote, directed, and starred in the blaxploitation parody film, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka. The movie was both a commercial and critical success, and got the attention of executives at a brand-new network called Fox.
“At that time, Fox wasn’t even a network,” Keenen told The Hollywood Reporter in 2019. “They were a startup. And I really didn’t have interest in that because I wanted to pursue film. But they said to me, ‘You know if you come here you can pretty much do anything you want to do.’ And I said, ‘Well, let me think about it.’ And then I kind of sat and said, ‘If I am given an opportunity like this, what would I do?’ So I started to put together the show for the idea.”
That idea became In Living Color, the breakthrough sketch comedy show that helped launch the careers of stars like Jim Carrey and Jennifer Lopez, as well as a handful of Wayans siblings. It also produced some of the decade’s most iconic and memorable characters. Remember Fire Marshal Bill? Or Homey D. Clown?
While the show was an enormous hit, its edgy nature initially made the network nervous—until they saw how audiences reacted to its bold and outrageous humor.
“We were doing something that people hadn’t seen yet,” Keenan said in 2019. “[Network executive] Barry Diller … said we couldn’t do [the black gay parody] ‘Men on Films.’ He was worried it was going to be offensive, blah, blah, blah. And I called Barry and said, ‘I understand your concern. But do me a favor. At least come to the rehearsal and see it on its feet.’ He said OK. He came down. He watched the rehearsal. And it was like a bomb went off in the studio audience. People were stomping their feet and clapping and laughing. Barry stood there watching. His face didn’t move. But then he turned to me and said, ‘OK,’ and he left. So we were able to do it.”
Keenan kept things all in the family during In Living Color’s four-year run. Five Wayans family members (including himself) were cast members on the show, and one worked behind the scenes as a production assistant. But did you know that there even more famous Wayans?
How Many Wayans Brothers Are There?
All told, there are five brothers in the uber-talented Wayans family.
The youngest of the Wayans siblings, 48-year-old Marlon is probably best-known for his hilarious turn as of Shorty Meeks in Scary Movie and Scary Movie 2. He also appeared alongside brother Shawn in White Chicks and co-starred with Shawn on the WB sitcom The Wayans Bros., which ran from 1995 until 1999. He has Keenan to thank for giving him his first big break in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka and including him in the cast of In Living Color.
Born on January 19, 1971, Shawn also made his debut in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka. He was a cast member on In Living Color and The Wayans Bros., and starred alongside Marlon in White Chicks, which he also wrote and produced. And if the rumors are true, he may be getting ready to work on White Chicks 2!
Damon became one of the most well-known Wayans Brothers during the In Living Color years, thanks to unforgettable characters such as Homey D. Clown, Blaine Edwards, and Handi-Man. The 60-year-old comedian went on to star in the ABC sitcom My Wife & Kids from 2001 until 2005, and the Fox show Lethal Weapon (based on the film series) from 2016 until 2019.
Keenan Ivory Wayans
One of the first Wayans Brothers to hit it big, Keenan was responsible for creating some of the sibling’s pioneering projects, including I’m Gonna Git You Sucka and In Living Color. The 62-year-old also directed Scary Movie, Scary Movie 2, White Chicks, and Little Man, and has served as a producer on many other Wayans Brothers endeavors.
The oldest of the Wayans Brothers, Dwayne was born on August 22, 1956. Though he has primarily stayed out of the spotlight, the writer and film score producer got his start as a production assistant on In Living Color. He’s written music for a number of his brothers’ TV shows, including My Wife & Kids, Marlon, and The Underground.
There Are 10 Wayans Siblings Altogether
In addition to the five Wayans Brothers, there are five Wayans Sisters—Deidre, Kim (who appeared on In Living Color), Elvira, Nadia, and Devonne (known as Vonnie). The siblings were raised in New York City by their parents, Howell, a supermarket manager, and Elvira, a homemaker and social worker. Though the large family struggled financially as the Wayans kids were growing up, their bond was strong and they were always there to support each other—and make each other laugh.
When Elvira Wayans passed away in the summer of 2020 at the age of 81, Marlon took to Instagram to pay tribute to his family’s matriarch.
“Losing you shattered me into 1000 pieces. I’m putting myself back together piece by piece. You will always be my glue. Miss you. Today i celebrate for the both of. In the midst of this hurt… i just love you ma. #missyou i accomplished so much, made you so proud… but now i got angel to lift me. #loveofmylife#bdaygotl shit ma, i gave you all my bdays… wth do i do now ???? millions of weetahs sugtas and homies #myfirstmylastmyeverything rest well.”
There’s A Second Generation of Wayans Stars
The Wayans Brothers have continued to keep their star power in the family with a brand new generation of funny family members. There was even a 2013 show that aired for one season on BET that was called Second Generation Wayans. The autobiographical comedy-drama starred Damien Dante Wayans and Craig Wayans, nephews of the OG Wayans Brothers. They played fictionalized versions of themselves struggling to break into show business and start a production company.
Damien told Oprah Winfrey that creating a show loosely based on their lives was an easy decision.
“It was one of those things where people kept asking the question: what’s it like being a second generation?” he said. “We didn’t want to do a reality show, so we sat back and said there’s a lot of funny in this. There’s a lot of good, a lot of bad, a lot of ups and downs. And we figured, what’s the best way than to script it?”
In addition to Damien (son of Elvira) and Craig (son of Deidre), the next wave of Wayans includes Chaunte Wayans (daughter of Elvira) and Damon Wayans Jr. (son of Damon), who is best known for starring in Happy Endings and New Girl. In the early days of Damon Wayans Jr.’s career, he performed stand-up under the name “Kyle Green” to avoid the pressure of being part of the Wayans family and earn his laughs. However, the stage name didn’t stick when audience members realized who his dad was.
That’s what we call a true family affair!