The Wayans family is filled to the brim with talent. It comes as no surprise, then, that the two youngest brothers, Shawn and Marlon Wayans, have followed in their family’s footsteps as Hollywood icons. Their combined comedic genius, in projects ranging from the smash hit “Scary Movie” to the sitcom “The Wayans Bros.” to their hilarious take on the chick flick, “White Chicks,” illustrates just how much both have accomplished in their relatively short careers.
Their ongoing comedy tour continued its circuit last night at the San Jose Improv. Both Shawn and Marlon took some time off from their hectic schedules to chat with Intermission to discuss all of their work and play in the entertainment industry, and to offer some advice to budding performers.
Intermission(INT): Being a young college student, I can’t help but ask … what was life like when you both were my age? What were your goals?
Marlon Wayans (MW): Well, I was the youngest of 10 brothers and sisters. Growing up, we had a pretty dramatic life — hard sometimes. We grew up poor and in the projects. With this perspective, we found ways to make things light and fun.
Shawn Wayans (SW): [Laughter] I just wanted to have fun. I was living in the moment, doing what made me happy and learning from my surroundings. At that time, my brothers and I had just started our work in “In Living Color,” and it was exciting for all of my family. My goal was to have fun.
INT: Did either of you have any idea of where you thought you would fit in, in this entertainment industry?
SW: We all had no idea things would start happening for us so quickly. I just knew this was my calling. I tried to soak in everything from my environment and focus on learning as much as I could. It really is hard to become a comedian. It was a hard thing to do, even if it was an easy choice.
MW: We really did pretty much grow up in a house full of legends, so it was very easy to fall into this business. I always had someone to look up to. I just wanted it. I had that passion.
INT: With this passion then, did you ever doubt yourself?
MW: Doubt was never really there. Rather, I felt intimidation growing up with so many legendary people around me. When we first started, though, I would ask Shawn, “What the hell am I doing?” Then I would realize that everyone has their own point of view and has their own voice. It wasn’t doubt, but rather intimidation.
SW: I feel that it is not that you doubt yourself. You doubt maybe the situation around you, but never yourself. All you can do is work hard and aggressively pursue that. There is absolutely no other way to get by. If you end up deciding to quit, that means you don’t belong in this business. It means you don’t love it — because if you really belong in this business, you don’t stop. You never stop. It’s like my brother [Keenan Ivory Wayans] says, “It is a force of nature to survive in the business. You have got to wreak havoc, got to break windows.”
INT: What can young performers do though to “break windows” and differentiate themselves if everyone wants to be in this business just as much as the next person?
MW: Just be real. When you are real, you are unique. You have to craft your own work. You cannot copy other people’s material because people will know.
SW: You must also use your skill set. That is what makes you — your skill set. You have to work harder, smarter and more aggressively than anyone else out there. Preparation meets opportunity, which equals success. You have to prepare. There is no other way to get by.
INT: Should all aspiring entertainers make this their goal then?
SW: I would say yes. If you want to succeed in this industry, you have to have that drive. You have to hold that spark and inspiration within you. No one will listen to you if you don’t.
INT: Does this personal inspiration then allow us to see the real side of the Wayans brothers?
SW: Most definitely. Me and my brothers all just like to have a good time, and we would not be in this business otherwise. We just want to make people laugh [laughter]. If we have done that, then I’m happy.
MW: I also enjoy the challenge of making people laugh. It makes me happy. Our humor is honest and observational — everything from life to music to sports. It is everything that is happening in our world.
INT: Marlon, your newest project, “A Haunted House,” premieres the beginning of this next year. With so many works you have already done, why this one now?
MW: I like to cater to our audience, and I wanted to create something new and exciting. For inspiration, I especially found a lot of humor in all of those “Paranormal Activity” movies. Watching them, we would heckle about how black people would deal with these situations [laughter]. My new movie plays a lot on the silliness of it and it is just a great time. Our projects always reflect our personal desires. Every move we make, we put all of our faith behind that.
INT: Fortunately, we in the Bay Area have you here to show us that faith! Both of you are continuing your comedy tour circuit at the San Jose Improv until this coming Sunday. Do you find interacting with a live audience as satisfying as producing an on-screen production?
SW: Definitely. They’re both really different though. When doing movies, it takes years before you actually know if it’s funny. You have an idea, but you aren’t sure. Interacting with a live audience though, you know exactly what works and what doesn’t the minute that joke leaves your mouth. If no one is laughing, then you have a problem.
INT: Is there anything in particular you and your brother wish to communicate to people or to the college crowd through your stand-up show?
MW: I especially enjoy our stand-up performance because we talk about everything. It is important for our audience to understand we keep it real.
SW: Nothing in particular [laughter]! I just want people to walk in, take off their study boots, have fun and laugh. People should get a drink and have a good time! That’s what it’s all about.
The show, “Shawn & Marlon Wayans,” runs Friday (8 and 10 p.m.), Saturday (7 and 9 p.m.) and Sunday (7 p.m.) at the San Jose Improv. Marlon’s newest movie, “A Haunted House,” is scheduled for release on Jan. 11, 2013, and his BET series “Second Generation Wayans” airs the following month.