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December 08, 1994 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1994-12-08

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6- The Michigan Daily -- Weekend etc. - Thursday, December 8, 1994

'Low Down' with Keenan Ivory Wayans

"It's not like I try to reinvent the
wheel," said actor-filmmaker Keenan
Ivory Wayans in a recent interview,
"I just try to take what's familiar and
give it some spice."
Spice, indeed. From his momen-
tous entry into the stand-up comedy
circuit of the early '8os through the
success of cult films like "I'm Gonna
Git You Sucka" through the recogni-
tion garnered by his TV show "In
Living Color," Wayans has managed
to build a career that, while filled with
nothing but spice, is broad enough to
have scattered itself to the four winds.
Where would we be without the
comedic stylings of Keenan Ivory
Wayans? Who else could have brought
us the hearty laughs of "I'm Gonna
Get You Sucka?" From the first time
he tossed Damon Wayans and
Kadeem Hardison down the stairs to
Dawnn Lewis' "CRAMPS!!" to Jack
getting his own background music to
follow him around, "Sucka" was an
all around riot. Who could forget Jack
taking the woman he met in the bar up
to a hotel room, and watching as he let
her "get a little more comfortable" by
removing everything from her dress
to her prosthetic leg? Who wasn't

laughing when she started hopping
after him as he made his hasty retreat?
Wayans' talent for comedy writ-
ing wasn't lost after his first stab at
feature film-making. His touch could
be seen in many of the sketches done
each week on his Fox television show
"In Living Color." Wayans tackled
the belly-laugh issues such as dis-
crimination against people who have
large butts on their heads, and posed
many an intellectual point to ponder,
such as what would happen if Mike
Tyson and Mohammed Ali were to
try to raise a child together.
His latest film, the action-comedy
"A Low Down Dirty Shame," finds
him teamed up with Jada Pinkett, star
of last year's "Menace 2 Society" and
the recently-released "Jason's Lyric."
"I wanted this to be about a guy who
plays by his own rules, has his own code
of honor," said the die-hard Richard
Pryor fan, "I thought about how to
make that transition from television
into mainstream film and this is it."
The film concerns an ex-private in-
vestigator named Shame, who has fallen
from grace and now has his own private
company, which tends to propagate
suicide missions. Jada Pinkett plays
Peaches, his sidekick. Says Wayans of
the film: "It's about loyalty, betrayal,
a~~- -1ms aw

love. All universal themes. Somepeople
may not like it but it won't be because
they don't get it."
The same may be said of Wayans,
who left behind a potential engineer-
ing degree and lifestyle topursue show
business. "I knew I wanted to be a
comedian, I just didn't know how.
Once I figured it out, I was able to
really get somewhere." He sights his
early-on, one-man stand-up work as
incomparable training for his current
job as something of a one-man pro-
duction team.
He also sights these experiences
as justification for helping the careers
of a number of his younger siblings.
"I practice nepotism, but only with
the ones who are talented. There's 5
more at home who you don't see," he
said laughing.
Jada Pinkett began as a dancer. A
prominent role on the TV series "A
Different World" got her started.
Unlike many young female actors,
particularly those of color, Pinkett
has been given the opportunity to
play a wide variety of characters.
"There are more opportunities com-
ing in for all woman," said Pinkett
carefully, "I think that White women
have had their share. Slowly but
surely, Black women are being rec-
ognized for their talents and box-of-
fice draw. Studios are beginning to
focus more on black filmmakers."
"Yet, any movie could be cast
differently than it is," pointed out
Wayans, "Whether something is about
tragedy, comedy, gangs or drugs does
not limit it to one ethnic group. Film-
makers have to get beyond categoriz-
ing themselves as Black filmmakers.
So do studios and so does the media."
Wayans feels that "The real key is
to prove that your work is quality so
that people will back whatever it is
that you do. You can have (Black run)
companies, but if you can't finance
films, ultimately, you're going to be
in a partnership with the studios. It
doesn't matter if our agendas are the
same. I use it all to my advantage"
"I'm a product of the 7s,
Wayans says, "fortunate enough to
come up in a generation where you
were taught that you could be any-
thing and that you can take control of
your own destiny. Yet, even with suc-
cess, you constantly have to prove
yourself. That's just the nature of the
business. You can never take it for
granted. You gotta get out there and
do your thing."
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"500 titsofchess books
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S. i~. a1

Wayans showcases his many talents in "A Low Down Dirty Shame."

A lot of vacant kids are shown in the is photo. No bacon or 'eh' jokes, please.
S 1C
nd.S lkea'Vacanit Lot'h



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Canada 0 Canada, where would
our sore TV eyes be without you? You
took our generation of early '80s mo-
ronic TV losers and gave us Michael J.
Fox. You took our generation of late
'80s moronic TV losers and gave us
Mike "Wayne's World" Myers. You
took our generation of early '90s neu-
rotic TV losers and gave us the coolest
thing to hit cable since the repeatdouble
showings of the "Private School"/"Pri-
vate Resort" marathon, namely "The
Kids in the Hall." And now, in what
some may consider your most gener-
ous boon to date, you've given us "The
Vacant Lot," the self-proclaimed "'Res-
ervoir Dogs' of comedy," and
America's latest Canadian export. What
a bargain.
"We like American audiences," said
castmember Nick Mckinney in a re-
cent group phone interview, "They're
" DE- i
Ftness 5tudto N:
+ Boutiqu

a lot more receptive than Canadians.
Whether they like you or hate you,
they're not shy about letting you know."
Nor are the Lots' castmembers. 27-
year old Rob Gfroerer, 29-year old
Paul Greenberg and 29-year old Vito
Viscomi met at college in Toronto and
began performing in areaclubs almost
immediately. "We had no experience,"
said Gfroerer, "We just watched alotof
TV." "Then they met me and I really
pulled them up from the ground and
made them into what they are today,"
said Mckinney.
What they are today is one of the
bolder, more interesting comedy
troupes to appear on television (attn:
MTV's "The State"). Skits range from
the Jesus in school sequences-Jesus
sucks at home economics but watch
him in the speed swimming sequences
-to an evil attackonBalkieandLarry
of "Perfect Strangers," who sing a
cheesy song about getting laid and then
accidentally kill themselves - to the
constant barrage of pseudo music vid-
eos, including "Pamper Me," in which
a guy just wants to know the extent of
his girlfriend's admiration. "No, re-
ally, put me in diapers, pamper me,"
the guy sings to a montage sequence of
himself in various pamper-clad poses.
What sets "The Vacant Lot" apart
from groups like "The State" is their
pure, non-gimmicky approach to easy-
access comedy. "We don't have an
agenda that we're trying to fill," said
Viscomi, "we just want to entertain
people and have a good time."
While the "Saturday Night Live"
and "Kids in the Hall" connections are
apparent - "Lot" producer and dis-

coverer Lorne Michaels also produced
and discovered the other two groups -
"The Vacant Lot" is arguably both
more daring and more tasteless than
either of the other two. There are count-
less severed limb references.
When asked how they managed to
snag the attention of the prominent
LorneMichaels, Mckinney replied "We*
sent him a severed head."
In addition to being the group's
most vocal member and resident wise-
ass, Mckinney is perhaps best known
for being the brother of "that other
Mckinney," Mark, of "Kids in the Hall"
So, what is it about Canada?
"Nothing," replied Grfoerer.
Do Americans have misconceptions
about Canadians?
"They think that it's very cold here
and that we're all obsessed with the
weather," said Viscomi.
"They think we're strange," said
"And they think that we're all really
dumb, when really, just I am," con-
cluded Grfoerer.
Although they swear that their fa-
vorite "Muppet" is Bill Clinton, the*
"Vacant gang is relatively serious
about their work. "We've been together
for seven years and we want to keep
working together," said Grfoerer.
"I was a taxidermist," said Viscomi
"and n'ow I'm acomic. How couldI go
It would appear that the self-pro-
claimed "Canadian Fab Four" are as
whip-smart as they are smart-alecks 0
"I remember after one of our live
shows," said Mckinney fondly, "an
enraged woman came up to me and
said that using a real dead chicken in a
skit was wrong, that someone could
have eaten that chicken. Well, yes, but
it still would have been a dead chicken."




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