Twenty-five years after the finale of “In Living Color,” creator and star Keenen Ivory Wayans still knows that his groundbreaking show took big chances to make television history.
Speaking at a sold-out Tribeca Film Festival panel honoring the sketch comedy series on Saturday, he said that “the intent of the show was to include everybody. Everybody is going to laugh.” However, he also noted that “you can only be as good as the time period you live in…with the information you have. So, that is what we tried to do. We wanted everybody to go, ‘Man that’s messed up, but that is funny as hell.’”
Cast member David Alan Grier reflected on how the show transcended the comedy genre to become a movement for inclusion, years before such initiatives were being made. Prior to this show, Grier said, “all white executives, they would look at us with blank faces and say, ‘Why would you do a sketch about that?’” But with “In Living Color,” “we would talk about a character from our perspective. … This was the first time that we were encouraged to mind our own culture in a different way. … That was the uniqueness.”
After a screening of the cutting-edge pilot that highlighted scenes from “Men in Film” and “Homeboy Shopping Network,” Wayans could not help but chuckle over how there were as many laughs on the screen as there were behind the cameras, especially when it came to odd rules from Standards & Practices.
“What we would do is we would put things in that we didn’t want to be in there, and then we would laugh really hard at the table reads at rehearsals,” he said. “And, the censor would get really nervous and say, ‘You can’t say that. You have to come up with something else.’ One time the guy comes over you cannot say ‘kayak city,’ no, so can we say ‘toss your salad?’ ‘Yeah, yeah that is fine.’”
Stirring up controversy and having fun while doing it made the audience give “two snaps” and a round of loud claps for the reunited cast, which also included Shawn Wayans, Kim Wayans and Tommy Davidson.