Homey Don’t Play That!: The Story of In Living Color and the Black Comedy Revolution by David Peisner tells the tale of the formation, rise and dissolution of In Living Color. Peisner masterfully lays the groundwork for the success of In Living Color with the history of Black Comedy. This was a time when a lack of representation combined with the newness of stand up comedy to create a kinship among rising Black comedians. As they set their sights on fame like that experienced by Richard Prior, they honed their skills on stages in New York and Los Angeles. Some, Damon Wayans, were able to take his stand up one step farther.
Peisner also highlights the childhood and tight familial connectivity of the Wayans’ family. Keenan, Damon, Kim, Marlon, Shawn and their other five siblings all grew up in a small apartment in the boroughs of New York. Understanding how close they were as children and how they utilized that familial bond to deal with their economic and social struggles brings to light some of the many reasons that Wayans siblings work so well together.
The book further does justice to the lasting importance of In Living Color. The list of stars that started on In Living Color continues to weave through television, movies and music today. Not only did stars like the Wayans siblings come into the light on In Living Color but also Jim Carey and Jamie Foxx. Rosie Perez and Jennifer Lopez were Fly Girls. And, In Living Color highlighted hip-hop artists like Heavy D who wrote the theme song, Queen Latifah and Flavor Flav, Public Enemy and Ice Cube, and L.L. Cool J.
I remember when In Living Color debuted on television in 1990. This was when the Fox network was new and I was growing up in Springfield, Illinois. So, of course, I watched The Simpsons because every kid in every Springfield everywhere was out to prove that the Simpson family lived in their Springfield. In Living Color came on and I was hooked. My friends and I still say catch phrases we learned from David Allen Grier’s Men on Film, Jim Carey’s fire Marshall Bill and, of course, Jamie Foxx’s Wanda. In fact, every time I see a lone pickle in a jar I think of Damon Wayan’s Anton Jackson.
If you have never seen In Living Color, the comedy holds up better than the Fly Girl’s outfits. Of course there are a great many things that would never be acceptable to say on television today but the timing and deliver is still hilarious to witness. This book covers many of the controversies that were experienced through the years as well as the in-fighting and eventual departure and dissolution of the show. I appreciated the depth of coverage the author offers as well as his neutral point of view. In fact, he often gives one dramatic or pivotal argument four or five different people’s recollections.
I highly recommend this book if you are interested in the history of comedy, the importance of representation in entertainment or if you were a fan of the show. I listened to it as an audiobook and found that it was difficult to keep all of the players straight. Also, the narrator had some unnatural pausing in his delivery that upset the flow of information. Still, these small issue should not stop anyone from enjoying this fantastic book.
Tell me, please!
Have you seen In Living Color? Any favorite memories?