In Living Color! Wrote an article 'bout it! Like to read it? Here it goes!
Sketch comedy show that aired on Fox from 1990 to 1994, created by Keenen Ivory Wayans and starring many Wayans brothers (Damon, Shawn, and Marlon) and one sister (Kim). The series is largely known as the launching pad for the careers of the Wayans family, Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, David Alan Grier, and Tommy Davidson as well as Jennifer Lopez and Carrie Ann Inaba, who were part of the show's "Fly Girl" dancers.
The series was largely seen as Saturday Night Live for the black and Hispanic set (since SNL didn't have a lot of black cast members at the timenote and wouldn't get a Hispanic cast member until Horatio Sanz was hired in 1998note ), featuring R&B and hip-hop musical acts.
The series spawned several popular characters, most notably the ex-con clown Homey D. Clown (Damon Wayans), the flamboyantly gay film critics for the "Men On..." seriesnote (Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier), abhorrent and Mirror-Cracking Ugly admirer Wanda (Jamie Foxx), mannish bodybuilder Vera DeMilo (Jim Carrey), and the cartoonishly destructive safety officer Fire Marshall Bill Burns (also Jim Carrey).
Unfortunately, the edgy comedy of the series eventually brought down the wrath of the network executives upon it, and the Wayans family ended up leaving the series. Season five, while mostly enjoyable because of Jim Carrey, David Alan Grier, Jamie Foxx, and Tommy Davidson, was considered a flop due to the absence of the Wayans siblings (and the sociopolitical satire that came with them, as the censors thought it was Too Hot for TV), and the newer cast membersnote they hired not connecting with audiences. The show ultimately was cancelled after five seasons, freeing the show's breakout stars to go on to varying degrees of success in film, TV, and stand-up comedy.
It was scheduled to be revived with a new cast in 2012, but, due to negative reception from focus groups and executives over the new pilot, the project has been shelved. It's been speculated that the pilot will one day be redone and the show will air again, but, from all outward appearances, it looks as if it will never happen.
The show has been on and off television in reruns. It's aired in reruns on FX, BET, Centric, and currently on FXX, where it airs anywhere between one in the morning to 9:00 am, often as a one-hour block or a mini-marathon. All five seasons are out on DVD as well, but beware: most episodes are edited to remove any and all traces of licensed songs, such as characters Waxing Lyrical, characters singing the actual song, popular 1990s songs playing during the Fly Girls interstitials, and the music video parodies. If you want to see the show as it was back in the 1990s, your best bets are the FXX reruns or YouTubenote .
Not to be confused with the funk-metal band Living Colour or a BBC radio comedy sketch show of a similar name.
This show contained examples of the following:
- The '90s: A lot of early rap talent and many of the sketches reflect current news and pop culture going on at the time, which makes some of the humor dated. Unless you lived through the 1990s, you'll definitely have to Wikipedia some of the references (mostly the political stuff, as the pop culture stuff, like the movie and music parodies, are somewhat familiar to people these days).
- Abhorrent Admirer: Jamie Foxx's Ugly Wanda. Her Spear Counterpart, Luther (Marlon Wayans), is this to her in one episode.
- Alliterative Name: Wanda Wayne.
- Amazonian Beauty: Spoofed with Grace Jones played by Kim Wayans.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In the "Wrath of Farrakhan" skit, Farrakhan defiantly proclaims that his people have survived "four hundred years of slavery, two hundred years of apartheid, and twenty-five years of The Jeffersons in syndication".
- Ax-Crazy: Fire Marshall Bill who's possibly a pyromanic.
- Bad "Bad Acting": Li'l Magic.
- Bag of Holding: Wanda was implied to carry one of these, considering her ability to produce almost any item someone might ask for at any given time from her purse- up to and including cans of gasoline.
- Bait-and-Switch: "King: The Early Years" begins as if its a story about Martin Luther King, Jr., showing a white kid and a black kid getting into an argument at school. Instead, it turns out the King in question is Don King, who organizes a fight between the two kids and gets paid by the other kids to watch it.
- Bland-Name Product: Sketches would use the actual names of companies being parodied, but the spelling would be slightly off (for example, "The Exxxon Family").
- Boomerang Bigots: The Brothers Brothers (Keenen Ivory and Damon Wayans) who are essentially bigoted white men in the bodies of black men.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: a necessity for the "Miss Benita" sketches, as the viewer is usually treated as a neighborhood resident Miss Benita is acquainted with. The exceptions to this rule were the court room & high school reunion sketches, which required actual characters for Benita to play off (though she still occasionally broke the fourth wall in the latter sketch).
- Fire Marshall Bill and Homey D. Clown also regularly broke the fourth wall in their sketches.
- The Cameo: In-universe (or in-sketch, as the case may be), Magenta Thompson makes an appearance during the "Super Fly" sketch. As usual, Super Fly tells her "Get out of my way, bitch!"
- Camp Gay: Blaine Edwards (Damon Wayans) and Antoine Merriweather (David Alan Grier), the critics from Men on... who only focus on the masculine aspects of film, books, television, art, vacation, cooking, etc.
- "Homey don't play that" (Homey D. Clown), "LEMME SHOW YA SOMETHIN'!" (Fire Marshall Bill), among many, many others.
- Calhoun Tubbs always punctuates his songs with "Aaahhhhh haaaaaaaa!"
- (Insert any topic)..."wrote a song 'bout it. Like to hear it?. Here it goes."
- Inverted with Magenta Thompson (Kelly Coffield) who's film repertoire is only 2-second bit parts with someone saying "Get out of my way, bitch!" to her rather than said by her.
- "...Hated it", the gay critics from Men on... whenever something featured women.
- ''"Mo' Money, Mo' Money MO' MONEY!" — Homeboyz Shopping Network
- Character Tic: Anton Jackson has a habit of picking his nose. In one skit where he's being sued, he takes the judge's gavel and uses the handle to pick something from his nose.
- Check, Please!: A businessman say it after his blind date Grace Jones cut an alligator's tail off.Harvey: Waiter, check please!
Grace: (holding the severed tail) Would you like a piece of my tail, Harvey?
- Cheerful Child: Would-be child star Li'l Magic, whose biggest claim to fame is being "Miss Smile Bright 1987! See?"
- Chez Restaurant: Chez Whitey's.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Candy Cane towards Jurassic Benny.
- Clip Show: Some best-of episodes, plus an all-Hilarious Outtakes show.
- Corrupt Church: The 595 Club with televangelists Reverend Ed Cash (Damon Wayans) and the Reverend Dr. Carl Pathos (Jim Carrey).
- Crosscast Role: Besides Foxx as Ugly Wanda, one of Jim Carrey's recurring characters was steroid-abusing female bodybuilder Vera DeMilo. David Alan Grier played Li'l Magic's Stage Mom.
- Crossover: Some of In Living Color's cast members have hosted Saturday Night Live (or have some connection to it):
- Jim Carrey: Originally auditioned to be a cast member for the 1980-1981 season and the 1985-1986 season (those, along with the 1994-1995 season, are considered SNL at its worst). Despite this, Carrey has hosted SNL three times: in 1996 (the last episode of season 21 [1995-1996 season]) and in 2011 (season 36 [2010-2011 season]; the first new episode of 2011), and on October 25, 2014 (the Halloween Episode of season 40 [2014-2015]).
- David Alan Grier: Hosted SNL in the 1995-1996 season [season 21] (this episode became famous for a sketch called "Wake Up and Smile," about morning show hosts who turn savage after their teleprompter breaks and find themselves incapable of ad-libbing) and in its 1996-1997 season [season 22].
- Jamie Foxx: Foxx hosted a season 25 (1999-2000) episode (the first new episode of the 21st century) and hosted again 12 years later on December 8, 2012.
- Jennifer Lopez: Hosted a season 26 episode (2000-2001) and a season 35 episode (2009-2010). Is the only Hispanic celebrity to be a host and musical guest for two separate episodes. The first time she hosted had a sketch in which the In Living Color Fly Girls (all played by SNL cast members) visit her and tell her she lost her roots ever since she became famous.
- Damon Wayans: Was a feature player for SNL during its 11th season (1985-1986); got fired after playing a cop character as a Camp Gay (the voice of which he would use later for his "Men on Film" character) in retaliation for Lorne Michaels and the writers not giving him any decent roles in sketches. Despite this, Wayans came back to do stand-up on the last episode of season 11 (which was slated to be the last episode of the entire series because of how bad it was) and hosted an episode in another season that was plagued with Seasonal Rot: season 20 (1994-1995 season). The episode Wayans hosted brought back two of his recurring In Living Color characters (Anton Jackson the homeless wino and Blaine Edwards from "Men on..."; David Alan Grier also appeared as Antoine Merriweather from the same sketch).
- Dean Bitterman: Al McAfee, whose only purpose as school principal is to harass the students for doing innocuous things that he believes to be dangerous or disorderly (as well as sexually harass a fellow teacher he has a crush on) or to ignore or just be completely oblivious to anyone who really is doing something wrong or sneaky.
- Delusions of Eloquence: Oswald Bates, an inmate who delivers self-educated political ramblings. The humor is based on his misuse of vocabulary words, and anatomical terms in particular.
- Depraved Kids' Show Host/Subverted Kids Show: Several examples, all involving hosts who don't even try to pretend they don't have tons of personal issues.
- Homey D. Clown (Damon Wayans) rants about how the white man keeps him down while ostensibly performing as a hired entertainer for kids (which he has to do as part of his parole).
- Candy Cane (Alexandra Wentworth) is a Yandere who tries to hook up with the Barney the dinosaur expy because she wants to have kids before her biological clock runs out, but is constantly dumped and threatened to be arrested for her stalkerish ways.
- The one-shot season five sketch "The Scary Larry Show" is hosted by a former Vietnam vet who now works as a mailman and still has flashbacks of the war, which he spins as trips to Imagination Land.
- A Real Life example — Pee-Wee Herman actor/creator Paul Reubens's porno theater arrest in 1991 — was the basis for a sketch in which Pee-Wee (Carrey) sells a new Pee-Wee Herman doll modeled after Reubens's mugshot.
- One skit subverts the concept: Mister Rogers (Carrey) goes to a store and hits on female customers before holding up the place, getting away with it because a policeman can't believe he's capable of such a thing, and then picking up a hooker with the money. The subversion is that he isn't the real Mister Rogers, but an excellent impersonator who gets away with being a pervert and an asshole to everyone because no one would suspect Mister Rogers of being this way.
- Distaff Counterpart: Kelly Coffield played Samantha Kinison in some early sketches. Culminated in one of the most hilarious sketches ever when Sam himself joined in to play the other half of a very dysfunctional couple. Coffield also played "Andrea 'Dice' Clay", a female version of Andrew "Dice" Clay.
- Doorstop Baby: The "Three Champs and a Baby" skit.Sugar Ray: Who ordered a baby?
Muhammad Ali: Does it come with pepperoni?
- Early Installment Weirdness: In the first Fire Marshall Bill sketch (the fire safety in school sketch), Fire Marshall Bill had hairnote and his demonstrations weren't that destructive (read: he often appeared in one piece after the building he's in explodes).
- The earlier episodes of In Living Color did not have Jennifer Lopez as one of the Fly Girls (she didn't come in until season three).
- Enemy Mine: A Season Five skit has Rush Limbaugh and Reverend Al Sharpton (played by Jay Leggett and David Alan Grier respectively) team up with each other, despite their opposing worldviews, in a tag-team wrestling match against Howard Stern and Robin Quivers (played by Jim Carrey and T'Keyah "Crystal" Keymah respectively), who offend both men deeply.
- Expy: Jim Carrey's character in the "Foundation for Golf Heritage" sketch is basically an impression of Strother Martin's character in Cool Hand Luke (even using his famous "...failure to communicate" line from the film).
- Film Noir: Spoofed in segments with Kelly Coffield as Velma Mulholland, a stereotypical Femme Fatale who is somehow Deliberately Monochrome while dealing with the full-color real world of The '90s...much to the confusion of those around her.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: In the skit featuring the wall of women that basketball great Wilt Chamberlain slept with, some names featured on the wall include comedienne/actress Ruth Buzzi (whose surname is misspelled with a "y"), Drew Barrymore and 1940s singing group The Andrew Sisters.
- Funny Background Event: The "Background Guy" skits with Carrey were based around this.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Constantly. At the time, a number of pundits viewed the show as a dangerous menace to society, and decades later, a lot of the sketches (the ones that aren't dated due to the march of time) are still shocking. Though there were two blatant examples that were cut from sketches:
- In a Homey D. Clown sketch where he's acting as a substitute teacher, Homey's alphabet cards are out of order, and the children proceed to mock him for it. Damon Wayans, ad-libbing, proceeds to say something that gets bleeped immediately, and is told point-blank by the directors and producers that it wasn't gonna fly on TV.
- In one of the early "Ugly Wanda" sketches, the titular character is chasing her horrified love interest (Tommy Davison) around a massage parlor. At one point, Jamie Foxx (Wanda) grabs hold of the back of Davidson's underwear, and accidentally pulls them down too far, giving the studio audience full view of Davidson's family jewels.
- The Thighmaster skit with Kelly Coffield portraying Suzanne Somers ends with her husband coming home with a squashed-in head. Use your imagination to comprehend how exactly that slipped by the censors. Even better, there's a clip on YouTube where Somers is actually lampshading this notion several years after the fact.
- Much of the dialogue of the "Men on..." skits fell victim to this, to the point where some of it only aired once and the majority of it hasn't been seen since. Examples include the infamous "drop the soap" line and "I never got to see the dick!", both featured in the same "Men on Films" skit, the comments implying that both football legend Joe Namath and Olympic sprinter Carl Lewis were homosexuals from "Men on Football" and the implied "ejaculation" scene from "Men on Exercise".note However, some examples that made it by successfully are the "Two snaps and wipe your mouth" from "Men on Cooking" and Blaine telling Antoine, "Don't swallow" when giving him his water bottle during a fight movie they did and he replying, "I never do."
- Gonk: "Ugly Wanda" Wayne (Jamie Foxx).
- Gossipy Hens: Kim Wayans' Benita is one. See Hypocritical Humor below.
- Granola Girl: A male example with Jim Carrey's Environmental Activist who is an over-the-top spoof of Political Correctness Gone Mad finding "PC violations" in virtually anything, ruining casual events like art galas and kid's birthdays.
- Handicapped Badass: Handi-Man.
- Hates the Job, Loves the Limelight: Homey D. Clown.
- Have I Mentioned I Am Gay?/Straight Gay: Parodied with Jim Carrey's Overly Confident Gay Man who constantly reminds everybody around him he's gay in one way or another.
- Hilarity Ensues
- Hobos: Anton Jackson
- Hypocritical Humor: Miss Benita "ain't one to gossip", but...
- Just don't say nothin' bad about Ms. Jenkins near her (though that doesn't stop her from gossiping about her either).
- Insane Proprietor: And how, in the Crazy Tom's Electronics sketch. This guy trades off a brand new top of the line VCR for an empty glass liquor bottle. After introducing the staff, he then recalls a regular dialogue he shares with customers:Crazy Tom: People come up to me, they say 'Crazy Tom?', I say what?Tom quoting the Customer: Just how can you give away high quality electronics at prices like these and still make a profit?!
- Jerkass: Homey D. Clown as a byproduct of "The System".
- Lady Looks Like a Dude: To the waiter (played by Jim Carrey) in the skit where a businessman is on a blind date with Grace Jones.Waiter: May I get you something, monsieur?
(Grace socks him in the face)
Waiter: I mean, madame.
- Losing Your Head: The Head Detective, and Fire Marshall Bill at the end of most of his sketches (including the last one, where his head is crushed as part of Gallagher's watermelon smashing act).
- Mad Libs Catch Phrase: Blaine and Antoine from the "Men on.." skits had several, where they would always end their program with "Two snaps and..." or a specific type of snap (i.e., Men on Videotapes had "Two snaps and a rewind" and Men on Football had "Two snaps and yo' back's in motion" while both of them shake their asses at the camera on two different ways while Men on Vacation got a special "Around the world and back snap".)
- Wanda the Ugly Woman. For example, during the Season 5 premiere when she's about to give birth, she says "Look, doctor, this pain is too much. I think you're gonna have to do one of them Caesar salad sectionsnote on me."
- Deronda and Pookie are another example.
- The Man: Homey's mortal enemy. In one sketch, he purposely sold out to the Man by starring in cereal commercials where little kids humiliate him just so he can infiltrate high society and bop the Man in the head.
- Meaningful Name: Fire Marshall Bill Burns.
- Both of the Brothers Brothers (who are black Uncle Toms) are named Tom Brothers.
- Greedy televangelist Reverend Ed Cash.
- Mirror-Cracking Ugly: Ugly Wanda used this to her advantage in a skit where Dracula was trying to escape her clutches — noticing there's a mirror in her bedroom, he claims he hates them, so she goes up to it and says "Mirror, mirror, on the wall..." and it breaks.
- A music video parody of Shabba Ranks' "Mr. Lover Man", titled "Mr. Ugly Man", had Shabba looking into a mirror, which of course, had cracked.
- Misplaced Retribution: Mr. McAfee will often blame someone for violating the rules who is completely innocent, while those who actually were breaking the rules will be ignored.
- The Mockbuster: Funky Finger Productions looks for backers for productions of this ilk. Stank Ho was their answer to Pretty Woman, and they had test footage for a fourth Penitentiary movie on hand in another skit. Many have an X Meets Y twist: The Wiz meets Flatliners, for instance.
- My Card: Clavell and Howard Tibbs III of Funky Finger Productions use this to get attention — the former is always "fresh out" of cards for their confused potential investor, and then the latter whips out one with a "BAM!"
- Nepotism: Most of the producers/actors were related to one another as the show was, essentially, a family business. It's very telling that most of the show's breakout stars were the ones who had no blood connection to the Wayans in any way, shape, or form (Jim Carrey, David Alan Grier, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Lopez, and Tommy Davidson).
- Pet the Dog: While all of the other music video parodies are of the Take That! variety, the parody of "Saving the Best for Last" by Vanessa L. Williams was more of such to her detractors since she was able to make a successful career after the Miss America scandal and were rather complimentary of her.
- Phrase-Catcher: Magenta Thompson's film roles are all bit parts where characters tell her, "Get out of my way, bitch!".
- Pretty Fly for a White Guy: "Impostor", Jim Carrey's parody of "Informer" by Snow. Also Jim Carrey's Vanilla Ice parody, "White, White Baby".
- Product Placement: In the first "Three Champs and a Baby" skit, thinking the baby has roaches (rashes) Muhammad Ali brings out a can of d-CON spray to endorse onscreen.
- Promotion to Opening Titles: Marc Wilmore, a writer for the show who appeared in a number of sketches, became a cast member in the fifth and final season.
- Race Lift: Most of the sketches that posed the question, "What if [X celebrity] was black?" Also, there was "All Up in the Family" and "East Hollywood Squares" from the final season.
- I Love Lucy becomes I Love Laquita.
- This was the whole point of Ted Turner's Really Colorized Classics, which put famous black performers (and their shticks) in place of white ones in old films. Redd Foxx substitutes for Charlie Chaplin in The Kid, and Billy Dee Williams gets Humphrey Bogart's role in Casablanca.
- Rearrange the Song/Replaced the Theme Tune: The show's original theme was replaced in Season 3, but returned in a remixed version in Season 5.
- "Risky Business" Dance: A Black Comedy version, where the Menendez brothers do the dance while wielding rifles.
- Screams Like a Little Girl: Snow screams like one at the end of the "Imposter" video after he's confronted by the Rastafarians he stole the technique of his rap-reggae from.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Averted and parodied with Oswald Bates. See Delusions of Eloquence above.
- Sketch Comedy
- Soap Box Sadie: A male example with Jim Carrey's Environmental Activist who is an over-the-top spoof of Political Correctness Gone Mad finding "PC violations" in virtually anything, ruining casual events like art galas and kid's birthdays.
- Spin-Off: "All Up in the Family" (a take-off on All in the Family, where the Bunkers are black) was spun off from an installment of the "What if [X celebrity] was black?" series of sketches.
- Stage Mom: Li'l Magic's mother played by David Alan Grier.
- Suddenly SHOUTING!: "LEMME SHOW YA SOMETHIN'".
- Take That!: The show made fun of everything under the sun. Its main target was NBC's Saturday Night Live for underusing its African-American cast members at the time (such as Tim Meadowsnote and Chris Rocknote ).
- Theme Tune Rap: By Heavy D (who also did the theme to MADtv).
- Those Two Guys: A ton: Clavell & Howard Tibbs III of Funky Finger Productions, The Brothers Brothers, Reverends Ed Cash & Dr. Carl Pathos and Whiz & Ice from the Homeboyz Shopping Network.
- Token Minority: Steve Park in Season 3 was the show's only Asian cast member.
- Token White: Jim Carrey (the most popular of the five), Kelly Coffield, Alexandra Wentworth, Carol Rosenthal, and Jay Leggett. Also, a couple of the Fly Girls.
- Typecasting: One character named Magenta Thompson was an actress who always had roles where she is always pushed aside and told by the pusher to "get out of my way, bitch!" This happens even when she is a playing a coma patient, or a potential victim in the latest Friday the 13th film.
- Uncle Tomfoolery: Black Like Me with Tom and Tom which pits the two titular black Brothers Brothers parodies usually against an Angry Black Man.
- Variety Show
- Where Da White Women At?: The tribal men in the "New Republic of Naganawanaland" skit are eager to have their way with appointed ambassador Margaret Linsford Hall. Thanks to her interpreter Mr. Mobutu teaching her a phrase to close her speech with."I am really turned on by black men who wear beads. You may all come to my quarters for a coconut oil party."
- Where No Parody Has Gone Before: Jim Carrey plays Captain Kirk in two Star Trek parody sketches. "The Wrath of [Louis] Farrakhan" has them come up against the leader of the Nation of Islam, and the other skit has a now-geriatric Kirk and company trying to recapture old glories before the attendants from their nursing home catch up with them.
- Who's Your Daddy?: In "Three Champs and a Baby", the baby belonged to a woman named Judy, whom they made at a New Year's party (and each slept with her at different times). So they decided to take turns raising the baby.Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, and Sugar Ray: Ohhhhh, Juuuuudy.
- A Wild Rapper Appears!: Tommy Davidson plays one in Snow's "Imposter" (and is quite angry over how he got famous for stealing from Rastafarians and says he's only there "to increase his credibility").
- World of Ham: This is very much the spirit of the series and it's performers, which is justified considering the environment they're in. Jim Carrey, Damon Wayans, David Alan Grier and Tommy Davidson were most likely to engage in this to the point of becoming Ham-to-Ham Combat.
- Yo Mama: The recurring game show sketch The Dirty Dozens, where contestants use "Yo Mama" jokes against each other for cash and prizes.