Say the name Marlon Wayans and everyone has a different point of reference. Perhaps you most remember the handsome 43-year-old comedian-actor-producer from the Scary Movie franchise with his brother Shawn or their 1990s TV show The Wayans Bros. Or you may recall his dramatic turn in 2000’s deeply disturbing Requiem for a Dream with a shudder.
Wayans, however, says the characters he’s played that people most want to come up and talk to him about are Shorty Meeks from Scary Movie, Loc Dog from Don’t Be A Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood and Marcus Copeland from White Chicks. (He notes he’d be open to putting on the White Chicks makeup again for a sequel, if that were to happen — no promises.)
Most likely you were first introduced to Wayans and his comedic genius family through the groundbreaking early ’90s sketch comedy show In Living Color. “That was the show you had to go home and watch,” Wayans says. “Stop what you’re doing and go watch.”
The show, created by older brother Keenen Ivory Wayans, boasted a cast of five Wayans siblings along with actors like David Allen Grier and Jim Carrey. Marlon was the youngest of 10 siblings. “That was ‘comedy high school’ for me,” says Wayans from a car ride between gigs. “That cast was ridiculous; everyone went on to do such great things.”
Marlon is no exception and he continues to expand his oeuvre. His brand-new sitcom, Marlon, loosely based on his own life as the “an inappropriate dad that’s the biggest kid himself,” was just picked up by NBC and should begin airing in early 2017.
The show mirrors much of Wayans’ home life. “I’m the most inappropriate dad ever,” he says. “I probably showed them Don’t Be a Menace when they were like, 4 or 5 years old.” His kids are now 14 and 16 and his daughter is interning at his company. “She wants to be a writer-actor-producer like her daddy but she wants to make good movies,” he says with a laugh.
Throughout his own long career in movies and television, Wayans has maintained a live stand-up comedy act to keep up the “journey of getting better, the journey of expression … trying to keep discovering the funny and to stay in the creative,” he says. “The more you do it, the better your instincts get. For me, this journey is about trying to make my way towards one day, hopefully, being a legend.”
He’s set to break in Ventura County’s newest comedy venue for three straight nights this month. Oxnard’s Levity Live at The Collection opens with back-to-back Wayans sets July 29 through July 31.
Kicking off the new Levity Live club with a beloved member of the Wayans family made perfect sense, says Levity Live Comedy Club/Copper Blues Rock Pub and Kitchen owner Robert Hartmann.
“I’m fortunate that we have a lot of great friends in this industry. Having [Marlon] opening it up — the Wayans brothers have been huge supporters of our company overall,” says Hartmann.
Hartmann’s company owns clubs up and down California, including the Improv in Irvine, Hollywood and more along with the brand Levity Entertainment, for which Oxnard will be the second store. He says that given that New York and Los Angeles are key comedy markets, it was a natural extension to open a new club just north of L.A. as another spot for comedians on tour.
And Hartmann knows the comedy industry. He’s been in it since 1986, first as a doorman who worked his way up. He says that back when he started, it seemed as if all comedy clubs he went to were low-ceilinged, cramped spaces, had poor lighting, small stages and generally bad food.
So he’s set out to do something different for the live comedy experience. He says that in staging, lighting and video alone he’s spending a half-million dollars. And then there’s a big food upgrade.
“The world has changed dramatically. People’s expectations when they plan a night out is no longer the typical burger and fries type of establishment,” he says. “The time and effort we invest in food and service, and the types of venues we build from the experience of walking in has to be comparable to any great restaurant.”
The new club will have its own full-service restaurant but there’s also the adjacent Copper Blues (Copper Blues opens in late August), which is being billed as a “rock pub” that will serve food and beer and will host live music.
In the coming months, the Levity Live calendar is filling up with television-, film- and Netflix-known acts like Jon Lovitz, Mo’nique and Ali Wong, but Hartmann says not only will it be bringing in well-known comedians, but it’ll have alternative programming with YouTube stars, Vine stars, Instagram stars, gamers, singers and more. And with that come more digital requirements, a challenge it met with a $100,000 giant video monitor.
“We try to take the experience of live comedy to another level,” says Hartmann.
“What I love about comedy is that what you see on that stage cannot be replicated. Coming in and experiencing something live in the moment, it’s something I fear we as a society are losing. You know everyone’s on their phones now, but that live experience, that human interaction in the showroom is key to our success.”
Marlon Wayans will be at Oxnard’s brand-new Levity Live, 591 Collection Blvd., July 29-31. For more information, go to www.oxnard.levitylive.com.