Damon Wayans – star of “In Living Color,” “My Wife and Kids,” films like “Major Payne,” and one of the sillier siblings in the Wayans comedy dynasty – is now answering to Damon Wayans Sr.
But Wayans, who returns to standup at The Comedy Zone this weekend, doesn’t mind “taking second stage” to his oldest son, who stars as Coach on Fox’s “New Girl” after a run as a regular on ABC’s critically acclaimed but canceled “Happy Endings.”
“Junior is such a great guy,” Wayans says. “He’s the new and improved model. It’s a beautiful thing. That’s what you train your children to do. He’s an inspiration to his brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews who say it’s too hard living up to the family name. He had it tough being Damon Wayans Jr. I would take him on the road with me, and he would have a hard time when he came out. People would heckle him – ‘You ain’t Damon Wayans!’ He earned it.”
“The other thing is,” he adds, “I’m happy he’s out of my pocket.”
Comedy is in Wayans’ DNA.
“You don’t have a choice as a Wayans,” Damon Sr. says. “The Wayans kids, my brothers’ and sisters’ children, can’t help but absorb it, but there’s that fear factor that keeps them from doing it. They have the gift, whether they use it or not.”
Wayans stood out from his siblings with outright silly characters, like “In Living Color’s” Homey D. Clown.
“Having nine brothers and sisters, you have to stand out,” he says. “In order to get on the stage with me and Shawn and Marlon and Keenan and Kim, you have to be funny. We’re not going to let you in the conversation. We used to freeze each other. You’d try to say something funny, and they’d all stand there like, ‘That’s not funny.’ ”
It wasn’t funny when Wayans was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in early 2013.
“It tripped me out. My sugar was at 538,” he says. “The beautiful thing about having family that has diabetes is knowing what not to do. I got an uncle that thinks insulin is supposed to enable him to eat cake. He’s standing over the dessert tray with his needle locked and loaded. He doesn’t even use the alcohol swab. He just sticks the needle straight through his clothes.”
Instead of that route, Wayans adopted a paleo diet.
“No fruit, alcohol, soda, cake,” he says. He was off insulin within a month.
“I honestly don’t know if (my doctors) were impressed,” Wayans says. “I was at the hospital, and they said, ‘Don’t worry about nothing. You can still eat whatever you want, just take your insulin.’ I’m from the streets of New York. I know a drug deal when I hear one.”
Wayans had retired from standup, but his struggle gave him a reason to return.
“I had to go on stage and talk about it,” he says. “It keeps me from being negative and self-absorbed. I tried to walk away from standup, but it’s been my therapy – my way of expressing anger, disappointments and fears and celebrating my hopes. It helps to regulate my thought process.
“When I watch comedians who used to be funny in movies and stuff, if they’re not funny anymore, it’s because they aren’t exercising that comedic muscle. There’s nothing like doing standup for a live audience because you have to adapt.”