This Day In History: June 8th
With a career spanning more than three decades, Keenen Ivory Wayans has been humoring audiences with his satire as a multi-talented comedian, actor, writer, director and producer. In addition to creating success for himself, he became a driving force behind the careers of his younger siblings Damon, Kim, Shawn and Marlon.
Keenen Ivory Wayans was born on June 8, 1958, in Harlem, New York. He was born into a family of ten children and is the second oldest child. Wayans received an engineering scholarship to Tuskegee University but decided not to complete the program during his last year in order to pursue a comedy career.
He drew inspiration from Richard Pryor but was unable to gain the status he desired by performing in New York City comedy clubs. Wayans decided to relocate to Los Angeles and managed to land small roles in film and television. However, in 1983 Wayans became a recurring character on a short-lived military series, For Love and Honor. Soon after, Wayans had the opportunity to earn writing credit on Eddie Murphy Raw (1987).
Working with Eddie Murphy helped Wayans’ popularity to increase. The same year, Wayans was part of the hit film, Hollywood Shuffle (1987), which was a satire depicting the struggles faced by black actors in Hollywood. He followed up with his directorial debut film, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988). By the 1990s, Wayans was offered his own show with Fox, and it opened the door for him to create an original comedy sketch show, In Living Color.
The Emmy award-winning show was similar to Saturday Night Live, but the cast was people of color and the content was bolder. It lasted for four years, and became an avenue for talents such as his siblings, Jamie Foxx, Jim Carrey and Jennifer Lopez. Despite being the show’s originator, Wayans left the show in 1992 and his siblings followed.
After his departure, Wayans appeared in films such as A Low Down Dirty Shame (1994), which he wrote and directed. He even produced The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show (1997), but the show was short-lived. By the 2000s, Wayans worked behind the camera more and provided audiences with classic satire films like Scary Movie (2000), Scary Movie 2 (2001) and White Chicks (2004). He continues to add to his credits by working on projects such as the TBS comedy, The Last OG, starring Tracy Morgan and Tiffany Haddish.