How comedy took Marlon Wayans to the next level

Marlon Wayans shares about Netflix’s “The Curse of Bridge Hollow” that he produces and stars in, along with stories about his stand-up comedy and more

Jacket by AllSaints; sweater by John Varvatos

Marlon Wayans has been a global household name for quite some time. He is an actor, producer, comedian, writer and film director. His films have grossed more than USD736 million at the domestic box office and USD1 billion globally. As a stand-up comedian, his shows are constantly sold out, even as he adds new one every weekend. In Wayans’ own words, stand-up is the glue that holds together the fragmented pieces that make up his skillset as an artist—and he’s just continuing to grow and nurture it.

DAMAN: Hi Marlon, awesome to have you with us! How are you doing and what keeps you busy these days?
Marlon Wayans: I’m great. This is a slow time for me. All I have going on is editing my next special that I hope to sell in the next few weeks; I’m putting together my brand-new hour which I’m ready to film in three to six months; I’m promoting my film “The Curse Shirt by John Varvatos of Bridge Hollow” which comes out October14; and I’m currently abouttofilma show for Meta called “Oh Hell No” where people face their fears and phobias on an Oculus VR device.

DAMAN: Not too long ago, we saw your surprise appearance on Peacock’s hit drama series “Bel-Air” as Will’s recently-released father. That episode blew us away, particularly the intense scene between you and actor Jabari Parker. How do you feel now that it’s finally out?
Marlon Wayans: I feel great. The response was amazing, especially from the fans. Rumor has it I was close to getting an Emmy nomination, but fortunately, I don’t live for statues. I live for the performance and accolades from the fans and they loved it. Twitter blew up, Instagram blew up and it went viral. And that’s only two scenes. I actually saw actor Ben Vereen at the airport and he enjoyed it, Will Smith enjoyed it … and it was an absolutely great experience with a great young actor and a great cast. So, I’m grateful to have been a part of it.

Blazer by John Varvatos; T-shirt by AllSaints; pants by Levi’s
Shirt and pants by Ports V; sunglasses by Loewe; shoes by Barollo Italy

DAMAN: In a nutshell, what was it like shooting that episode? Was it hard for you, an actor known best for the referential slapstick silliness that pretty much-defined comedy, to display the kind of raw emotion between a son confronting his absentee father about his lack of involvement in his life?
Marlon Wayans: I prepare for all things I do on an everyday basis. I’ve been preparing for that role and every role that I’ve done and will do since I was four years old. I went to a performing arts high school, took acting in college and continue to take classes when it’s time to work on things. So, I’m prepared for whatever moments come my way. It’s all about preparation. I don’t get nervous; I get excited and do the work. There’s so much the audience has yet to see of me. There’s nothing to it but just to do the work and I have so many more gears and levels to show people and I can’t wait to do it and blow people’s minds.

DAMAN: If we’re not mistaken, you’re also set to appear this year in Netflix’s “The Curse of Bridge Hollow.” Is there anything you can tell us about this title?
Marlon Wayans: The movie is about a family that moves to Massachusetts from New York, and the father and daughter have to band together to save the world from Halloween decorations that come to life. It’s also a step up as a producer for Rick [Alvarez] and me. We had a good budget of USD50M to work with and we got to do special effects.
It’s also one of the first family films we’ve produced. It’s exciting because I’m used to doing R-rated horror comedy but this one is a nice, sweet PG story that makes you feel good. It brings out the fantasy kid in you like when you watch “Gremlins” and “The Goonies.” It’s sweet, funny, and a fun adventure.

Shirt by John Varvatos

DAMAN: Filming for “The Curse of Bridge Hollow” obviously wrapped up quite a while ago. What was your fondest memory of your time working on the movie?
Marlon Wayans: The whole experience of making a movie is fun for me. It’s a lot of work and even the things you hate to do make good memories. The last scene in the movie involved Kelly Rowland and myself being splashed with pumpkin juice all over. That was a terrible memory but we laughed about it. Between “Action” and “Cut” is always fun, but after that, when you get to just sit with people and talk and laugh with Jeff Wadlow who is a fun person to work with, and the entire cast like Kelly, Priah Ferguson, Rob Riggle, Lauren Lapkus and Dave Sheridan who did “Scary Movie” with me. We always cast the most fun people and we’re big fans of their work. It was a good time in Atlanta doing what we love to do: making make- believe believable.

DAMAN: You recently launched The Max Original stand-up comedy special “The Headliners.” This is your second comedy special for HBO Max following the 2021 release of “Marlon Wayans: You Know What It Is.” What makes this one special?
Marlon Wayans: Being able to create a platform to showcase my friends. I’m used to everything being on me and with “The Headliners” it was being a part of and creating something great.
It felt good to be a tastemaker; to curate comedy and people’s taste in their comedy and weave it all together. I finally got to tap into the joy that my brother Keenen had put so many talented people on. I want to continue nurturing that side of me.

DAMAN: After “The Headliners,” you’re also set to launch a comedy special titled “God Loves Me.” Can we talk about this? Or this is still a secret?
Marlon Wayans: It’s still a secret. I don’t know what streamer it will be on. It’s probably my best work because it’s something that has nothing to do with anyone and has everything to do with me. The journey takes place around the slap and it’s my journey knowing all the parties involved, what I felt about it and my opinion on the whole situation. It’s great because I feel like we swept all of it under the rug, so this is kind of a Rubik’s cube approach to the incident. It’s a magical hour and I can’t wait to put it on a streamer.

Coat by Tiger of Sweden; shirt by Ports V; sunglasses by Loewe
Coat by Ports V; T-shirt by XIVI

DAMAN: As someone who has been doing this for quite some time, what do you enjoy the most about doing comedy in front of a live audience?
Marlon Wayans: The rush. There’s no greater high than being on stage in front of a live audience not knowing whether your next joke is going to work or not. It’s skydiving without being that high in the air. I see why a lot of comedians OD—they’re chasing that dopamine rush you get being on stage. Me, when I get offstage, I’ll take some water and go to sleep.

DAMAN: What would you say was the thing that drew you into stand-up? Just what is it about this art form that really appeals to you?
Marlon Wayans: I got drawn into stand-up for several reasons. One, I was always afraid of it. Two, because I was supposed to play Richard Pryor. Three, because I did a movie called “Behind the Smile” with my brother Damon. And four, because I wanted to get better. I’ve accomplished so much in my little career and am just trying to crack that Top 10 list. I have the looks, the acting, the personality, the producing … and now I have the comedy and point of view. Now it’s about creating or waiting for an opportunity to showcase all that I do. I’m going to be a star like no other and stand-up helped take me to the next level.

Coat by John Varvatos; pants by Buck Mason; sunglasses by Loewe; shoes by Barollo Italy
Shirt by Ports V; sunglasses by Loewe

DAMAN: On the other hand, what would you say are the biggest differences between performing in front of a camera and in front of a live audience?
Marlon Wayans: For me, none. The only difference is that there’s no “Cut” with a live audience. There is no “Wait, let me do that again.” If the joke doesn’t work it dies right there and you can’t redo it. You just have to make sure you prepare. When it comes to filming, I don’t like to do a lot of takes.I like to keep it fresh and do something different with each take. Live performances prepare you for when you’re filming and filming prepares you for the live performances. They work hand in hand.

DAMAN: Last but not least, stand-up has been steadily becoming more popular in Indonesia. Do you have any tips or advice you can share for any budding comedians looking to make it big here?
Marlon Wayans: Get on stage and tell your truth. Find what’s funny about the things that hurt you most. Find what’s funny about your flaws, the people in your life that hurt you, affect you and damage you. That’s where your truth lies. If you can find light in your darkest feelings or experiences, then you have the makings of a very successful comedian. Our job is to take our misery and find a smile. Anybody can do that because we all have pain. Dig deep, be truthful and do it with a smile.

Jacket and pants by Levi’s; sunglasses by Loewe; shoes by Barollo Italy