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‘I Was Raised In Black Hollywood’: Marlon Wayans Reflects on How Black Comedy Legends Like Eddie Murphy Influenced His Career

Marlon Wayans was seemingly always destined for comedic greatness.

The youngest of the über-talented Wayans crew wasn’t born into a Hollywood legacy family, but it’s certainly the reality he and his siblings have created. As part of a family of ten — eight children including Marlon and parents Elvira and Howell — being raised in a two-bedroom apartment in New York City, Marlon says he always knew he wanted to act and to make people laugh. And so he did, starting out with his family and before the age of 10 some of Hollywood’s most beloved comedians. 

Marlon Wayans and Eddie Murphy. (Photo: @marlonwayans/Instagram)

Reminiscing on his upbringing and the access he had to rising Black stars of the ’80s — thanks to the eldest Wayans brothers, Keenan and Damon, finding success with their own comedic endeavors in Los Angeles — he always knew his limits surpassed the sky.

“I was raised in Black Hollywood. [You] talk about Black excellence and the Black Pack, I was raised in comedy clubs. Robert Townsend was like a big brother to me, he started the second revolution of Black films, I was hanging out with those guys,” he explained last week on the podcast “Street You Grew Up On” created and hosted by actress Kerry Washington.

“Eddie Murphy, I was at his house. Eddie Murphy came to my projects, Eddie Murphy was like a big brother to me. Chris Rock was like a big brother to me — all these guys I grew up with. I mean I met Isaac Hayes, and I was on the set of ‘I’m Gonna Git You Sucka.’ I met Whitney Houston. I grew up around this, so it was nothing for me to go do it, I always had the confidence,” he continued. 

In previous interviews and on social media, Marlon has recounted the story of Murphy visiting the projects to speak with Keenan. Marlon, only 9 at the time, fondly recalls Murphy being a good sport and allowing him and Shawn to test out jokes on the “Raw” stand-up comedian. 

“He let me and my brother Shawn talk about his cow skin pants (which by the way cost more than everything in our entire apartment …including us),” he wrote in a 2018 Instagram post. “That was the first day I ever felt famous. Love Eddie Murphy forever alway a big brother, a friend and The GOAT.”

When it came to shaping the future and career he and his comedic partner, brother Shawn Wayans, saw for themselves, the “Marlon” show star said there was no greater blueprint than the one his brother Keenan had laid out.

“My brother taught us to dream with no ceilings. He said, ‘and don’t put, don’t let them put the Black hat on you. I want you to take that cap off that they try to twist on yo’ head and I want your dreams to go outside yourself, outside this world, outside of any areas that people try and put on you outside your skin color. I want you to dream and dream big. You can play anything from an alien to a superhero to whatever you want, you don’t just have to play a gang member or a slave,’” he recalled.

“And that’s how we was taught, and that’s how we always try to write. We wrote so much that we flipped it on him. ‘Imma play white. How bout a white woman?’” he added, humorously alluding to his and Shawn’s hit movie “White Chicks.”

While Keenan has remained a fixture behind the scenes since the family’s comedy sketch show “In Living Color” concluded in 1994, Marlon and his brother Shawn have brought millions to the box office with films such as the first installments of “Scary Movie” and “Little Man.” And just like his older brothers, Marlon, 49, has found his footing where it all began: on the road testing out material in front of fans at comedy clubs.

“I started doing stand-up 12 years ago, and I just haven’t stopped,” he told “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon while also revealing that being heckled by Chris Rock and Eddie early on his career was admittedly a deterrent from him takinG the stage for two decades. 

“I’m going to pay them back because they’re all getting old,” he said. “When about 10 years, 12 years from now, when Chris is old and senile and he’s onstage trying to find it, I’m like, ‘How about some jokes, you Black, skinny b—? Where are the jokes? Look in your Pamper.’”


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