The Wayans family is one of the biggest and most successful celebrity families in Hollywood. Making their mark in the early ‘80s, the first generation of Wayans includes 10 siblings born to Howell and Elvira Wayans. Growing up in humble beginnings the siblings developed a knack for comedy and screenwriting, with second-born Keenan Ivory Wayans blazing a trail that his siblings could follow, IMDB reports.
He got his start doing stand-up comedy, eventually making the move from New York to Los Angeles to explore more film opportunities. He earned one of his first writing credits on Eddie Murphy’s Raw (1987), finding his big break as a writer and actor on Robert Townsend’s 1987 blaxploitation film, Hollywood Shuffle. Keenan’s ingenuity as a comedian and his unique storytelling helped lay the foundation for the family’s work, landing a huge deal in 1990 with the burgeoning Fox network.
His iconic sketch comedy series, In Living Color, was a trailblazing platform that opened the doors for a generation of talent including Jamie Foxx, Jim Carey, David Alan Grier, Tommy Davidson, and Jennifer Lopez. The show also became a family act, showcasing the work of his siblings Kim, Damon, Shawn, and Marlon Wayans. While Keenan eventually left the show due to issues over creative control, his impact on the television and film industry continued, producing and starring in several big films of his own including the 1994 classic, A Low Down Dirty Shame.
His siblings continued to take the reins as well, writing, producing, and starring in their own major films while simultaneously producing hit television series like The Wayans Bros. (1995 - 1999), starring the youngest siblings, Marlon and Shawn, and My Wife and Kids (2001 - 2005) starring Damon. Many of the shows continued to amplify other Black talent and became cultural staples in the community, featuring the likes of John Witherspoon, Anna Maria Horsford, and Tisha Campbell. Most of the shows involved the 10 siblings as screenwriters or producers, earning them countless awards and honors for their work.
In addition to their contributions to television, the Wayans Family are also the brains behind blockbuster films like the Scary Movie franchise, White Chicks, Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, and Major Payne. Their unique brand of comedy is evident in all their works from sitcoms to sketch comedy and beyond. Not to mention, their horror spoofs like Scary Movie and A Haunted House helped to usher in a new subgenre of film and their boundary-pushing content has shaped the landscape of television and paved the way for generations of Black creatives.
As the second generation of Wayans family members rise to prominence, you can see how lasting the family’s legacy truly is. Their success has opened numerous doors for Black entertainers, stretched the limits of comedy, and expanded representation on and off camera. By telling authentic stories that resonated with the culture, the Wayans family has forever changed the world of television and film and cemented their place as cultural icons.
Cover photo: In Living Color: The Wayans Family’s revolutionary impact on television & film/Photo Courtesy of Fair Use Images