Twenty-five years after the groundbreaking sketch show left the airwaves in a blaze of controversy and conflict, the cast and crew share never-told behind-the-scenes stories of the series that execs pitched to Keenen Ivory Wayans as a “black ‘Laugh-In.'”
Keenen Ivory Wayans wasn’t looking to do a TV show. In 1988, he was riding high on the success of his cult hit I’m Gonna Git You Sucka and contemplating his next movie. But he took a meeting with a fledgling network called Fox, which made an offer he couldn’t refuse. “They told me I could do whatever I wanted,” Wayans, 61, recalls.
What he wanted was to do a show like Saturday Night Live only much, much edgier. Homey Da Clown, Homeboy Shopping Network, Men on Films — the skits Wayans and his mostly African American cast performed each week pushed the envelope not just of TV’s color barrier but of TV comedy, won an Emmy and incubated the careers of stars Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Lopez.
Today, 25 years after its final episode (May 19, 1994), The Hollywood Reporter tracks down the cast and crew for an oral history of a button-pushing TV landmark.
THE MEETING — “He thought we were going to pitch him a black sitcom”
GARTH ANCIER, FOX ENTERTAINMENT PRESIDENT I kept index cards of promising ideas on a corkboard behind my head. One card just said “black Laugh-In.” We needed someone to bring it to life.
KEENEN IVORY WAYANS, CASTMEMBER AND CREATOR I had done a movie called I’m Gonna Git You Sucka. And it was a big success. And I had set up screenings of the movie for all the studios’ film departments. But Fox didn’t come. Instead they sent the TV execs. And so when I got a call, I thought I was going in to meet with the film side of Fox and instead ended up in a meeting with the network.
I use to love this show! ~Vida
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