The new BET comedy series "Second Generation Wayans" begs the question: Have there really been only two generations of the professionally funny family that gave us "In Living Color," the "Scary Movie" franchise and "White Chicks"?
"I'm pretty sure there were some really entertaining Wayans before us," said Marlon Wayans. "You know, some hilarious slave Wayans. They could've been in (Quentin) Tarantino's movie ("Django Unchained"). Pickin' cotton, and tellin' jokes. That's us."
At 40, Marlon Wayans is part of the same generation of Wayans that produced Damon, Keenan Ivory, Kim and Shawn.
He has "always been the most talented" of the clan, said George Thomas, film critic for the Cleveland Examiner capable of low comedy, but also of stealing film from the likes of Tom Hanks ("The Ladykillers").
Wayans' latest function in the funny family enterprise is "A Haunted House," an attempt to move on from the "Scary Movies" he helped launch but which the family is no longer a part of. With the "Scary Movie" installments begun as a response to the "Scream" and "Nightmare on Elm Street" franchises growing more watered down, Wayans saw an opening for another parody.
"There's a fine line between that moment when you're a fan of the movie, the first movie in a series maybe, or you're a fan of a genre and the first films in it are the good ones and then the bad ones start coming along and you hate them," Wayans said. "When I see common denominators, common situations, common characters a genre of films or a series of films becomes all the same movie that's when I go 'That sucks.' But it's funny that it sucks."
That's where he figures the "found footage" genre of horror is "Paranormal Activity" and its many imitations.
"By the time the recent 'Paranormal Activities' and the rip-offs came along, I said, 'Wow. White people do some dumb stuff in these freaking movies.
" 'You know what would be funny? If "Paranormal Activity" happened to a black couple. Who would they call? What would go wrong with them.' "
He couldn't do much with the original found-footage horror film "The Blair Witch Project" because "Black people don't camp. We came from Africa. We know what's in the woods."
But what if, say, a black couple had "thug cousins" they could call in a crisis?
"That's what I would do. And that's funny, to me. There are things even a thug is afraid of."
Next up for Wayans is a co-starring role in the comedy "The Heat," with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. He plays Bullock's character's love interest.
"We don't have any love scenes. Or any chemistry, really. But a man's got to have hope."