If something you are watching on television (or in a movie) makes you laugh out loud, that is special.
For the past couple of weeks I have been watching, and thoroughly enjoying, the first four of the five seasons of “In Living Color,” the sketch comedy show that ran from April 15, 1990 to May 19, 1994 on the Fox Network.
I say “the first four” because the fifth season was a dud due to the fact that the people responsible for the show’s existence and who played such key roles in making it all work, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Damon Wayans, Kim Wayans, etc. — from the first family of comedy — had left and the void was “unfillable.”
Younger brothers Shawn and Marlon had also been part of the fun, and later had a hit TV show of their own. They also starred in movies.
Keenen Ivory Wayans and Damon Wayans created “In Living Color,” produced by Ivory Way Productions in associaion with 20th Century Fox Television, and wrote for it and were among its stars.
Granted, this was not the first ensemble comedy sketch show. There had been, for example, the great, highly influential and equally groundbreaking — and still funny — “Laugh In” in the 1960s.
But in keeping with this being in another time and place, “In Living Color” was different. It had an urban flavor — even though the cast was not 100 percent Black — and there was the belief that more was possible than had been done on television previously.
And we can’t forget the show’s hip-hop elements. Heavy D & the Boyz were the perfect choice to rap the intro in seasons one and two.
Not since “Laugh In” had one show introduced so many performers who became major stars, including Keenen Ivory Wayans, Jim Carrey, Damon Wayans, Jamie Foxx (an Academy Award winner for “Ray”), Tommy Davidson, Kim Wayans, David Alan Grier and Kim Coles.
Others were just as outstanding and should have become bigger stars, such as T’Keyah Crystal Keymah and Kelly Coffield.
Jennifer Lopez is a magastar today, not to mention an “Amerian Idol” judge, but back in those days, starting with the third season, she was one of the fast-stepping “Fly Girl” dancers.
The “In Living Color” sketches and characters were priceless.
Who could ever forgetKeenen Ivory Wayans as Arsenio Hall, Mike Tyson or Billy Dee Williams? Jamie Foxx as the unattractive but full of confidence Wanda? (And the very talented Tommy Davidson was the perfect “victim.”)
Jim Carrey and Damon Wayans as corrupt preachers Rev. Dr. Carl Pathos and Rev. Ed Cash? David Alan Grier as Calhoun Tubbs, the old blues singer who insulted people in his songs? Kelly Coffield as Andrea Dice Clay, a “feminized” send-up of foul-mouthed comedian Andrew Dice Clay?
Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier as Blaine Edwards and Antoine Merriweather, the over-the-top effeminate, and naughty, arts critics? Kim Wayans as the well-meaning but often unsanitary waitress? Jim Carrey as the steroid-addicted female bodybuilter Vera de Milo?
Keenen Ivory Wayans as the obnoxious but fun-loving, Jheri curl-wearing Frenchie, wearing clothes as outdated as the dances he liked to do? Damon Wayans as Anton Jackson, the filty, potty-mouthed drunk, homeless man? Kim Coles as Downtown Julie Brown?
T’Keyah Crystal Keymah as the stereotypical, rude tour guide LaShawn? Kim Wayans as the gossipy Benita Buttrell? (“I’m not one to gossip so you didn’t get it from me.”) Kim Wayans and David Alan Grier as Mr. and Mrs. Brooks, the old couple who were “still together” after many years but were always insulting, and trying to kill, each other?
Damon Wayans, Kim Coles, T’Keyah Crystal Keymah and Tommy Davidson as the hard-working Jamaican Headley family? Kelly Coffied as Magenta Thompson, th acting school teacher who got insulted and slapped around in every scene? Or Damon Wayans as the mean Homey the Clown, who was working as a clown as part of his work release program?
“In Living Color” also featured an array of popular recording artists of the day, including En Vogue, Jodeci, Kris Kross, MC Lyte, Mary J. Blige, Public Enemy and Arrested Development.
Not surprisingly, “In Living Color” ran into a lot of problems with the censors.
The series is available on home video and has been in syndication via various sources.
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