Shawn Wayans had plenty of in-house influences, with older brothers Keenen Ivory and Damon and younger brother Marlon competing for laughs at the Wayans’ family home.
Even after Keenen Ivory launched Shawn’s acting career by hooking him up as a DJ on the early 1990s TV show “In Living Color,” Shawn was intense about pursuing a career in stand-up comedy.
The most influential advice about comedy came from outside the family.
“Most of the guys I came up with are doing quite well,” said Wayans, who got up on stage and told jokes for the first time at age 17. “Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle – they’re doing fine. Rock was older, he used to take me out to comedy clubs and school me on the game.”
After doing sets in his budding-comedian days, Wayans wanted to hang out at the club, enjoy the attention of fans and soak up the atmosphere. Rock would have none of that.
“He said, ‘Go home and write!’ ” Wayans said, dialing up a raspy-voiced Rock imitation. “He would always say, ‘Screw the club! I’m a nobody! That means you’re nobody to the nth degree! Now go home and write.’
“Over time, I really understood it.”
The comedy-is-a-business message resonated over the years. So here Wayans is, after starring in (and writing) TV shows like “The Wayans Bros.” and movies like “White Chicks,” still doing his live comedy.
There have been rumors over the last few years about “White Chicks II,” though that project has yet to launch. “White Chicks” was one of Shawn Wayans’ biggest hits, grossing $70 million. “Scary Movie 2” was slightly higher, at $71 million – less than half of the Wayans’ 2000 blockbuster, “Scary Movie,” which scared up $157 million in the U.S. and an estimated $278 million worldwide.
“Little Man,” in 2006, had a mediocre U.S. box office haul of $58 million. The Wayans music parody “Dance Flick,” from 2009 was a dud, failing to top $30 million.
Fortunately for Shawn Wayans, he has his stand-up comedy as a fall-back. And the former comedy prodigy has matured into a savvy veteran. Asked to compare his comedy style now to when he started, Wayans gave a scornful laugh.
“It’s a whole ’nother ballgame,” said Wayans, 46. “Nobody is the same comedian they were at 17 – and if you are, you need to quit.”
Wayans, who has been off the big screen for more than five years, has big plans for the remainder of the year: “More standup. Creating some more TV stuff,” he said. “And writing some films.”
As Chris Rock would say, time to “Go home and write!”
When: 8 p.m. & 10:15 p.m., Sept. 15; 7 p.m. & 9:15 p.m., Sept. 16
Where: Punch Line Comedy Club, 2100 Arden Way, Sacramento
Info: 916-925-8500; http://www.punchlinesac.com