When you think about Damon Wayans (and you are of that "certain age") you no doubt think of stand-out characters like Homey the Clown, Anton Jackson, and Handi-Man from In Living Color. Some of you might even think about Major Payne, The Last Boy Scout, or My Wife and Kids.
Whatever you know the name from, this man has paved the way for many by dipping his toes in a lot of roles but this incredibly talented Wayans is also keeping his stand-up roots intact by headlining the Irvine Improv this weekend. Before the big shindig goes down October 23rd through 26th, we talked to Damon and found out that he dips those little tootsies in arenas well beyond the stage and screen.
OC Weekly (Ali Lerman): I read an interview with you from 2010 and you said, "There was a point where controversy sold. Now, controversy kills." Four years later, how do you feel about the offensiveness card being played?
Damon Wayans: I think artists have become afraid of being persecuted in the media. My take on it is, it feels like there is a 24-hour news cycle. It's not 24-hours of news. 24-hours of news is Armageddon. It's like you have one story that they beat the crap out of and right now, it's Ebola. People take one thing someone says and drag it over the fires. In comedy, it's hard for a heckler to actually throw off a comedian because the comedian has the microphone. He's louder so he has a bigger voice. The media is louder than the comedian because they have an even bigger voice. Artists have taken the path of least resistance like, I'll just do what people want and won't ruffle feathers. There was a time when Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor lived to ruffle feathers, and that's really our job. Now it just seems our job has become a lot harder. Our job is that of a provocateur. We're here to make you think and question our thought processes. The beauty of America is that you can have a voice to think, disagree, or challenge someone. When did we all start thinking the same about everything? That's not good for America.
I 100% agree with you. It's wild because a lot of the things you did on "In Living Color" then would ruffle tons of feathers now. Life has certainly changed.
We take ourselves way to serious now. Like I said, it's the 24-hour news cycle and, they're competing with Twitter. How can anyone show the news with something that's instant? You can't even gather the facts and now, it's not even about having the facts! I always tape myself when I do stand-up just in case someone tries to take what I say out of context.
Have you always done that?
I've been recording myself since 1992. I did it in all audio because I didn't really have the technology back then. I used to record myself back then just so I could remember because with some jokes, you forget how you did it the next day. So it was good for reference. But now, ever since Michael Richards, it's to cover my ass. [Laughs.]
I can see that being a good insurance policy just in case. So I hear that you are quite the techie and that you've developed a few smart phone apps. When did you get interested in that process?
Yeah I have "Diddeo," which is a video making app where you can make music videos on the fly. It's basically like a pocket studio. You can take your favorite song and pair it with your favorite memory and always keep that. It's really sexy. I also have one called "Flick Dat" which lets you take any of your contacts and turn them into business cards. With the business cards, you can take a picture of anything and make it into a card. That way you never run out of business cards. I came up with the idea when I was going to all of these digital conferences and I was running out of business cards and what was worse was, I was bringing home a drawer full of business cards and I didn't know what was what. So with Flick Dat, you can flip the business card over in the phone and write down notes so you'll remember who that person was and what you talked about. You can also flick your business card to email, Twitter, Facebook...all of that. I have a new one called "RockFella" coming out that is also going to be pretty awesome.
I'm all in on Flick Dat. I need that in my life pronto. I know you did some dates with your brothers recently and I noticed that you're also doing some 90-minute sets. Are you gearing up to tape a new special by chance?
I was thinking about doing a special, but it has to be special, you know what I mean? That's the goal though. In LA it's hard to work more than 20 minutes and I can't really sculpture what I want and play around. We're painting pictures and it takes time. When they rush you and say "give me a quick fifteen" it's like, what? But here's the thing, it's easy to do fifteen and kill. It's ego gratification. The big boys do 90 minutes. Can you keep me entertained for 90 minutes? Can you make me give you a standing ovation and not just because I want to get the hell out of there but because the show was that good? That's what the big boys do.
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I totally get it. I'm looking forward to a special so pretty please do one but also, I can't wait for you to come to Irvine. It'll be my first time ever seeing you live.
Well this is the first time in a really long time that I'm actually excited about doing stand-up. The journey has been hard and that's how I know it's good. I've been doing it for about a year and half again trying to get ready, and it wasn't right. A lot of times people reach a certain level and they start hiring writers to write their stuff so they can pump out comedy faster and they start treating it like it's music, but it's not. You're supposed to shoot your special, take time off, enjoy your life, observe, and then go back in with a point of view. My point of view is my own and I'm talking about raising children, them being ungrateful, and I wish I would've known they'd be like that when they were babies because I would've saved all of my love for those who love me. [Laughs.] I'm also talking about being diabetic, the doctors telling me I need to take insulin, and being that I'm from New York, I know a drug deal when I see one. I talk about Obama and what he's dealing with, society and how it's changed, you know, I'm pushing the envelope but a lot of it's based off of my life. I'm turning the camera in and not out.
Check out Damon Wayans at the Irvine Improv October 23rd through 26th, 31 Fortune Drive Irvine, CA 92618, (949) 854-5455. For tickets go to www.Improv.com. For more info and to pick up his apps go to Damon's website www.akabe5.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter @DamonKWayans.