For this week’s “Things That Bring Back Memories” post, I am going to pick something in the topic of “TELEVISION” and go with “In Living Color“. This television show, which aired on FOX, started in 1990, and was over in 1994. It was a Saturday Night Live type of show, with different skits and amazing actors. This show seemed to launch the careers of so many. It cracks me up that you can see just a picture of one of the characters, and immediately burst out laughing, because you know what they did!
It was a great show that, when you look back, helped so many to start or continue their television and film careers. For those of you, who are either too young, or just don’t remember it, here’s a video of some of the reasons that we enjoyed watching the “In Living Color” shows so much:
So, did you ever watch this show when you were younger? or have you seen it on TV later in life? Let me know what you thought of it, and if you have any memories of it in your life!
More Info on the Show:
In Living Color is an American sketch comedy television series that originally ran on Fox from April 15, 1990, to May 19, 1994. Brothers Keenen and Damon Wayans created, wrote and starred in the program. The show was produced by Ivory Way Productions in association with 20th Century Fox Television and was taped at stage 7 at the Fox Television Center on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. The title of the series was inspired by the NBC announcement of broadcasts being presented “in living color” during the 1950’s and 1960’s, prior to mainstream color television. It also refers to the fact that most of the show’s cast were black, unlike other sketch comedy shows such as Saturday Night Live whose casts were mostly white. It was controversial due to the Wayans’ decision to portray African-American humor from the ghetto in a time when mainstream American tastes regarding black comedy had been set by more upscale shows such as The Cosby Show, causing an eventual feud for control between Fox executives and the Wayans’.
Other members of the Wayans family—Kim, Shawn, and Marlon—had regular roles, while brother Dwayne frequently appeared as an extra. The show also starred the rising stand-up comic Jim Carrey alongside previously unknown actor/comedians , Jamie Foxx, Tommy Davidson, David Alan Grier, and T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh. Additionally, Dancing with the Stars judge and choreographer Carrie Ann Inaba, and actress and pop music star Jennifer Lopez, were members of the show’s dance troupe The Fly Girls with actress Rosie Perez serving as choreographer. The show launched the careers of Carrey, Foxx, Davidson, Grier, Keymáh, Inaba, and Lopez and is credited with bringing the Wayans family to a higher level of fame as well. It was immensely popular in its first two seasons, capturing more than a 10-point Nielsen rating; in the third and fourth seasons, ratings faltered as the Wayans brothers fell out with Fox network leadership over creative control and rights. The series won the Emmy for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series in 1990. The series gained international prominence for its bold move and its all-time high ratings gained by airing a live, special episode as a counter-program for the halftime show of U.S. leader CBS’s live telecast of Super Bowl XXVI.
In announcing its debut, Fox described In Living Color as a “contemporary comedy variety show”. In its preview, the Christian Science Monitor warned that its “raw tone may offend some, but it does allow a talented troupe to experiment with black themes in a Saturday Night Live-ish format.” Keenen Ivory Wayans said, “I wanted to do a show that reflects different points of view. We’ve added an Asian and a Hispanic minority to the show. We’re trying in some way to represent all the voices. … Minority talent is not in the system and you have to go outside. We found Crystal doing her act in the lobby of a theater in Chicago. We went beyond the Comedy Stores and Improv’s, which are not showcase places for minorities.”
The first episode aired on Sunday, April 15, 1990, following an episode of Married… with Children. The first episode was watched by 22.7 million people, making it the 29th top show for the week. The Miami Herald said the show was as “smart and saucy as it is self-aware” and “audacious and frequently tasteless, but terrific fun”. The Philadelphia Inquirer called it “the fastest, funniest half-hour in a long time”. The Seattle Times said it had “the free-wheeling, pointed sense of humor that connects with a large slice of today’s audience”. The Columbus Dispatch described it as a “marvelously inventive” show that has “catapulted television back to the cutting edge”.
The series strove to produce comedy with a strong emphasis on modern black subject matter. It became renowned for parody, especially of race relations in the United States. For instance, Carrey was frequently used to ridicule white musicians such as Snow and Vanilla Ice, who performed in genres more commonly associated with black people. The Wayans themselves often played exaggerated black ghetto stereotypes for humor and effect. A sketch parodying Soul Train mocked the show as Old Train, suggesting the show (along with its host, Don Cornelius) was out of touch and only appealed to the elderly and the dead. When asked about the show’s use of stereotypes of Black culture for comedy, Wayans said, “Half of comedy is making fun of stereotypes. They only get critical when I do it. Woody Allen has been having fun with his culture for years, and no one says anything about it. Martin Scorsese, his films basically deal with the Italian community, and no one ever says anything to him. John Hughes, all of his films parody upscale white suburban life. Nobody says anything to him. When I do it, then all of a sudden it becomes a racial issue. You know what I mean? It’s my culture, and I’m entitled to poke fun at the stereotypes that I didn’t create in the first place. I don’t even concern myself with that type of criticism, because it’s racist in itself.”
Prominent Skits Included:
- “The Homeboy Shopping Network”, featuring Damon and Keenan as streetwise criminals operating an unlicensed, Home Shopping Network-style shopping network out of the back of their van to sell stolen goods.
- “Fire Marshal Bill”, featuring Carrey as an incompetent, dangerously inept fire marshal
- “Men On Film”, featuring Damon and Grier as effeminate black film critics with exaggerated physical motions, such as “Two snaps up”.
- “Homey D. Clown”, featuring Damon as a misanthropic, verbally abusive clown doing demeaning entertainment gigs for low pay as part of his prison release program
- “East Hollywood Squares”, featuring many of the cast in a ghetto parody of the game show Hollywood Squares
- “Benita Buttrell”, featuring Kim Wayans as an untrustworthy neighborhood gossip
- Parodies of Arsenio Hall (who was popular on his own show at the time) by Keenan
- “Calhoun Tubbs”, a blues singer (played by Grier) who sang extremely short songs (about 10 seconds each) at the slightest provocation
Some of the Stars:
Keenen Ivory Wayans (Host) was born June 8, 1958, in New York City, son of Howell Wayans, a supermarket manager, and his wife Elvira, a homemaker and social worker. His father was a devout Jehovah’s Witness. He grew up in Manhattan’s Fulton housing projects. Wayans attended Tuskegee University on an engineering scholarship. He entertained his friends at college with made-up stories about life in New York. One semester before graduation, he dropped out of school in order focus on comedy. During his first set performing at The Improv in New York, Wayans met Robert Townsend, who helped him learn about the comedy business. Wayans moved to Los Angeles in 1980, where he worked as an actor. He had a regular role as a soldier on a television series named “For Love and Honor”. Townsend wrote, directed, and starred in the movie Hollywood Shuffle; Wayans was co-star and co-writer. The movie’s success allowed him to raise the money to make I’m Gonna Git You Sucka. Fox Broadcasting Company approached Wayans to offer him his own show. Wayans wanted to produce a variety show, similar to Saturday Night Live, with a cast of people of color that took chances with its content. Fox gave Wayans a lot of freedom with the show, although Fox executives were a bit concerned about the show’s content prior to its television debut. Wayans and his brother Damon, Sr. created, wrote, and starred in the show, called In Living Color, an American sketch comedy television series that originally ran on the Fox Network from 1990 to 1994.
Jim Carrey (Various Roles) was born January 17, 1962 in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, to Kathleen, a homemaker, and Percy Carrey (1927–1994), a musician and accountant. He has three older siblings: John, Patricia, and Rita. He was raised Roman Catholic. Carrey lived in Burlington, Ontario, for eight years, and attended Aldershot High School. In a Hamilton Spectator interview (February 2007), Carrey said, “If my career in show business hadn’t panned out I would probably be working today in Hamilton, Ontario at the Dofasco steel mill.” When looking across the Burlington Bay toward Hamilton, he could see the mills and thought, “Those were where the great jobs were.” He is a Canadian American actor, comedian, impressionist, screenwriter, and film producer. He is known for his highly energetic slapstick performances. Carrey first gained recognition in 1990 after landing a recurring role in the sketch comedy In Living Color. His first leading roles in major productions came with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994), Dumb and Dumber (1994), The Mask (1994), and Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995), as well as a supporting role in Batman Forever (1995) and a lead role in Liar Liar (1997). He then starred in The Truman Show (1998) and Man on the Moon (1999), with each garnering him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor. In the 2000’s, he gained further recognition for his portrayal of the Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), as well as Bruce Almighty (2003), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004), Fun with Dick and Jane (2005), Yes Man (2008), Horton Hears a Who! (2008) and A Christmas Carol (2009). In the 2010s, he has starred in Mr. Popper’s Penguins (2011) and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013). In 2013, he appeared in Kick-Ass 2 as Colonel Stars and Stripes. Controversially, he retracted support for the film two months prior to its release. He issued a statement via his Twitter account that, in light of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, “Now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence.” Carrey reprised his role as Lloyd Christmas in Dumb and Dumber To (2014).
Damon Wayans (Various Roles) was born September 4, 1960 in Harlem in New York City, the son of Elvira, a homemaker, singer and social worker, and Howell Wayans, a supermarket manager. He has five sisters, Elvira, Vonnie, Nadia, Kim, Diedre, and four brothers, actors Marlon Wayans, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Shawn Wayans, and Dwayne Wayans. He was club footed as a child. This attribute would also be given to his character in My Wife and Kids and his character on the cartoon series Waynehead. Wayans attended Murry Bergtraum High School. He is is an American actor, comedian, writer and producer, member of the Wayans family of entertainers. Wayans performed as a comedian and actor throughout the 1980’s, including a yearlong stint on the sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live, although his true breakthrough came as a co-creator and performer on his own sketch comedy show, In Living Color, from 1990 to 1992. Since then he has starred in a number of films and television shows, some of which he has co-produced or co-written, including The Last Boy Scout and Major Payne, and the sitcom My Wife and Kids.
David Alan Grier (Various Roles) was born on June 30, 1955 in Detroit, Michigan, to Aretas Ruth, a schoolteacher, and William Henry Grier, a psychiatrist and writer. He trained in Shakespeare at Yale University, where he received an MFA from the Yale School of Drama. Grier began his professional career on Broadway as Jackie Robinson in “The First”, for which he earned a Tony nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Musical and won the Theatre World Award (1981). He then joined the Broadway cast of “Dreamgirls”, before going on to star opposite Denzel Washington in “A Soldier’s Play”, for which both actors reprised their roles in the film adaptation titled A Soldier’s Story (1984). He appeared in Robert Altman’s Streamers (1983) as “Roger”, a role for which he won the Golden Lion for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival (1983). His television work is highlighted by a turn as a principal cast member on the Emmy Award-winning In Living Color (1990) (1990-1994), where he helped to create some of the show’s most memorable characters, “DAG” (2000-2001) and “Life with Bonnie” (2002-2004), for which he earned Image and Golden Satellite nominations. David also created, wrote and executive-produced a show for Comedy Central called Chocolate News (2008). Grier also won America’s votes as a smooth, debonair, and outrageously irreverent contestant on ABC’s smash hit, Dancing with the Stars (2005), in 2009. But Grier didn’t hang up his dance shoes just then – he later appeared in the Wayans Brothers’ spoof movie, Dance Flick (2009), which hit theaters in May 2009.
Jamie Foxx (Various Roles) was born Eric Marlon Bishop in Terrell, Texas, to Louise Annette Talley and Darrell Bishop, who worked as a stockbroker and had later changed his name to Shahid Abdula. His mother was an adopted child. When her marriage to his father failed, his maternal grandparents, Mark and Estelle Talley, stepped in and, at age 7 months, adopted Jamie too. He has said that he had a very rigid upbringing that placed him in the Boy Scouts and the church choir. During high school, he played quarterback for his high school team and was good enough that he got press in Dallas newspapers. He studied music in college. He released a music album in 1994, “Peep This”, and sings the theme song for his 1999 movie, Any Given Sunday (1999). However, in 1989, his life changed when a girl friend challenged him to get up onstage at the Comedy Club. In fact, he says he took his androgynous stage name because he learned that women got preference for mike time on open stage nights. That led to his being cast in Roc (1991) and In Living Color (1990) and ultimately to his own WB network TV series. He has a daughter, Corinne Foxx, born in 1995, who lives with her mother.
Did You Know?
After seeing Keenen’s 1988 blaxploitation parody, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, Fox’s network executives told Wayans “that I could do anything I wanted, and that’s what set the wheels turning,” he recently recalled to Details. He decided he wanted to do his version of Saturday Night Live.
Whereas Dancing With the Stars judge and choreographer Carrie Ann Inaba was a Fly Girl from the beginning and left at the end of season three, Lopez didn’t make her In Living Color dancing debut until September 22, 1991, during the third season premiere. The same night, Jamie Foxx was introduced as a new cast member.
You may know the longtime comedy writer (who wrote for In Living Color) as the star of the Chappelle’s Show sketches “Ask a Black Dude” and “Negrodamus.” After the writers followed Keenen’s orders to mess with him, Mooney said, “Oh, homey don’t play that!” Damon Wayans and the writers worked from there.
Knowing Carrey from The Comedy Store and from working together on the movie Earth Girls Are Easy—Damon was Zeebo, Carrey was Wiploc—Damon strongly urged Keenen to hire him. It took a while to match Carrey’s financial demands, and Thomas Haden Church was almost cast instead before a deal was made.
During the fourth season, Fox began to show episodes from previous seasons without permission, diluting the value of In Living Color before its upcoming syndication deals. Wayans was so furious that he hid a tape of a fully edited new episode above the ceiling panels in his office so nobody from the network could get to it. Eventually he gave up and left the set for good.
Both old and new cast members were set to star in a reboot of the series, only for the project to be canceled in 2013. Keenen said the reason for the cancellation was because he didn’t believe a full season’s worth of quality material was possible. However, a comedian who was set to become one of the new cast members said that Damon Wayans changed his mind and decided not to come back, leading to the shutdown.
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Oh yeah, I remember this! Definitely brings back memories 🙂
So much talent came from this show – I loved it!
I dont remember this show. I guess I was to busy with raising babies then.
Yeah, Tara – that’s a bit more important! 🙂
Wow.. I have never watched this show. Now, that I know some of these actors as well as I do now though I’m surprised I never dived into watching it. It NOW sounds like a good show to watch, but when it was on TV it sounded stupid.
It was definitely a weird one, but back in the day not much was on, so we watched this. It was a crack-up!