In Darren Aronofsky’s 2000 drama, Requiem for a Dream, Marlon Wayans plays a heroin addict with so many gashes and sores in his arms and legs from shooting up, that an infection causes all of his limbs to be amputated. A disturbingly uncomfortable retching vision, in the end as credits rolled and audience members left the theater in shivering silence, most recognized for the first time that Marlon had given a memorable performance that stretched, showed and proved the strength of his acting chops. “Wow. That was a while ago,” he says, slouched down in a dirty brown chair at New York’s Bowtie Cinemas. “It was good to do a drama. It was good to not worry about being funny.”
The comedian’s ability to make contagious giggles is a difficult talent to master. This skill in being completely open and unafraid to let the world see through and laugh at you, has made comics, say like, Tom Hanks in his early days (remember Bosom Buddies) some of the best actors of all time. “Mm, hm… Robin Williams,” Marlon adds, shaking his head. “We can do that. We have that ability to be vulnerable because we are fools all the time. So there’s no vanity in our world. It’s hard for, I think, dramatic actors. I don’t think they can go the levels that comedians can do. And not in a bad way. But I just don’t think, as great of an actor Robert De Niro is…”
Wait, De Niro is amazing. One of the best.
“But I don’t know how great he would be in Liar, Liar,” Marlon says with a serious stare. “I don’t think he takes it to the places that a Jim Carrey can take it.”
Brave words. But that’s Marlon. Not one to mince opinions, intense when the cameras are off, he currently has blogs buzzing about his recent beef with veteran MC Lord Jamar of Brand Nubian who made a side comment questioning Omar Epps’ sexuality for wearing a kilt – or “skirt” as Jamar called it – on The View. Marlon, coming to his long-time friend’s rescue, shot back engaging in a back and forth Twitter beef.
“I think you are going to have your knuckleheads like Lord Jamar, projecting ignorance and a fearful point of view, and it only makes him look bad,” Wayans told the Kansas City Star. “Homophobia, racism, gayism — any prejudice in this day and age — we are beyond that. We as a people have grown past that, and it bothers me and disturbs me to be that narrow-minded and project it onto the next generation.”
Today, Marlon tiredly sits in a press room, slumped down in a chair. Out partying the evening before till the wee hours of NYC time, he napped an hour, woke up at dawn to do the morning radio rounds, and 18 hours later at 10pm after an evening screening of A Haunted House 2, followed by an intimate audience Q&A; the baby of the Wayans family is still on the clock. Like a car with a weakened battery puttering and coughing as it creeps along, he blinks his eyes slowly before seemingly catching himself, perking up and smiling when realizing cameras are in action and his internal light is losing shine.
“One thing I’m learning from Marlon is you gotta push the envelope. He takes it to another level, he really does,” says comedian Gabriel Iglesias aka “Fluffy” who co-stars in A Haunted House 2. “There’s a lot of press junkets, a lot of interviews, a lot of radio, a lot of different types of press. And at the end, you start getting tired. And a lot of times, trying to stay positive is very challenging. And to watch him go through interview after interview and still maintain the level of positive energy and just caring. I learned [from him] you need to bring more energy, and stay more positive.”
It’s often easier to do when living a dream. Marlon always wanted to be an actor. In the second grade, he played Peter Pan. In the 3rd he was Mr. Humble in Oliver Twist. In the 4th grade, he performed in Casey at Bat. “I knew before [my brothers] even started doing it. I knew when I was four. My brothers came up as comedians. I’ve been grooming myself as an actor,” says the 41-year-old father of two. “I was in Dracula. I did Shakespeare. But seeing my brother do it in 1980 something. Seeing him on a black and white TV on Johnny Carson. I seen him in the TV and I was like, ‘Oh, wow. You mean I can make my dreams a reality?’ And from there with my brother’s tutelage and support from my family… My mom will tell you. I always loved it. I fell in love with it the first time I made my mom laugh.”
But bringing the funny seems way too easy for Marlon. Producing and writing the follow-up to his $60 million dollar money maker 2013’s A Haunted House (which was only made for $2.5 million), the super raunchy sequel stars Jamie Pressly, Gabriel Iglesias, and Affion Crockett. Part two finds Marlon sexing rubber dolls and cranking out the buffoonery with clumsy falls, frat boy jokes, bitchy screams, and lines teasing things like sistas’ reactions to interracial dating. Quick to push the celebrity skits on his comedy website whatthefunny.com, Marlon is preparing for the summer debut of his TBS show, The Funniest Wins. The reality-type competition series searches for America’s hottest comedian in the same way that The Voice looks for music’s newest talent.
“You have to stay a student. You have to stay humble. You know, this is not something I just wanted to hit and conquer. This is something I wanted to live and marry and be with,” says the known, wheatgrass taking health nut. “When I’m tired and I have no more to give, that little bit of doubt, I suck it up and turn that into oxygen and it helps me to persevere. It’s about learning to listen to the universe in a whisper. You have to wait for the big things to happen. You can see signs of things and go, ‘Hmm… God is talking.’ He’s always talking to you. You just gotta learn to listen.”
A Haunted House 2 hits theaters April 18.