Comedians, take a page from the Damon Wayans playbook: Hire a mime and bring your stand-up to the next level.
"I’m approaching it like an athlete, trying to be more physical," says Wayans. "First comes getting the body in shape."
Wayans, grandfather four times over, turns 50 this September, but says he feels 21. "The other comedians go, ‘Man, you look so young up on stage!’ because I’m actually moving around and doing characters, impressions and acting out stuff. Reminiscent of the old school."
The fountain of youth has been discovered, and mimes bear its revitalizing nectar in their sweat. And in case you’re worried that water granting immortal life strips the imbiber’s sense of humor, worry not: Wayans’ new material doesn’t disappoint.
"I was talking about how nowadays people don’t deal in greatness. We deal in mediocrity," says Wayans. "We’ve got corporations selling art and they don’t care about integrity." Then, in his best De Niro impression, Wayans lets it rip. "If they could, they’d have Robert De Niro doing commercials being like, ‘You talkin’ to me? You talkin’—you can’t be talkin’ to me because your phone is outta minutes. AT&T. ‘"
Wayans enjoys using celebrities for his routine as clever takes on impressions. "I’m just trying to have as much fun up there as possible," says Wayans. "And have, like, Katharine Hepburn for restless leg syndrome."
Despite a stand-up special last year that Wayans called a "misfire," he continually aims to get out of his own head and back into his body. "I try to go back to the fun of doing stand-up as opposed to feeling like you have this voice and you have to say something and people don’t care," says Wayans. "We’re all going to hell, might as well laugh on the way there." Except Wayans, who is immortal.
Wayans has come a long way since Mo’ Money and Blankman. Following his four-year hit show, In Living Color, in 1990, Wayans found television success a second time with My Wife and Kids in 2001 before finally returning to sketch comedy with Showtime’s The Underground in 2006.
As writer, director and actor for The Underground, Wayans really tested his limits. "It was a huge undertaking," says Wayans. "But when you have the freedom to do anything, sometimes you just want to test that freedom. And that doesn’t really produce great stuff. It produces irreverence, but controversy kills now. It doesn’t sell."
Anti-controversy has been Wayans’ stance the past several years, believing that being dirty isn’t what comedy’s about for him anymore. "Where’s the jokes about Haiti?" asks Wayans. "There are none. I don’t want to be that guy trying to find humor in people’s demise. Before, when the world was in denial, my job was to hold up the mirror and go, ‘Nah, it’s not that happy.’ Now that people are really down and depressed, it’s my job to make them laugh. My job is to help you get away."
And we’ll go with you, Mr. Wayans—but only if you’ll donate that mime’s body to science.
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