‘You guys have got a thumb up your ass’: interview with Marlon Wayans, writer/star of A Haunted House
There’s a line comedians sometimes reiterate when confronted with criticism: the one about how humour is subjective and what one person finds funny another may not.
It’s easy for critics to get hoity-toity about comedy, but there is merit in the argument that the ultimate test of a joke’s worth is simply whether or not people laugh. Great films have explored the beauty of shits and giggles escapism, from Singing in the Rain’s Make ‘Em Laugh (1952) to Preston Sturges’ breakdown of high and low art in Sullivan’s Travels (1941).
Marlon Wayans is not a creator of great films — but he does make people laugh. The 40-year-old performer is probably best known as the co-writer and star of box office titans Scary Movie (2000) and Scary Movie 2 (2001). His CV an actor and writer also includes lowbrow fare such as Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood (1996), White Chicks (2004) and LITTLEMAN (2006). Which is to say, Wayans is no stranger to a bad review.
“After White Chicks I gave up on reviewers. I was just like, whatever. Whatever you guys want to say,” Wayans tells me, in Australia to promote his new film A Haunted House (which opens May 30). “I’m looking at the audience and I’m hearing the thunderous laughter. I’m just going, you know what, you guys have got a thumb up your ass. You have a fist. It’s a fist up your ass and I’m not going to fight you on it.”
One critic I know of, I tell Wayans, argued getting waterboarded would be more entertaining than watching White Chicks. Like much of his work, the film was very much a family project: Wayans stars alongside his brother Shawn. They play disgraced FBI agents who “go way undercover.” It was directed by another of his brothers, Keenen Ivory.
“I would love to see that,” he says. “I would love to see him be waterboarded versus watching White Chicks. I’ll watch White Chicks while the critic is waterboarded and let’s see which one’s funnier.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell him that critic was me.
Wayans and I talked about writing while high, getting comedies off the ground, playing “serious” (he gave a terrific performance in Darren Aronofsky’s Oscar-nominated Requiem for a Dream), the sequel to White Chicks and, most of all, dealing with critics.
If you were writing another Scary Movie style comedy, but this time you set it in Australia, what would be the first joke you’d put in it?
Something about fucking some kind of koala bear. Or maybe some kind of kangaroo anal rape joke.
So in other words, you’d start off nice and classy?
Of course. Maybe kangaroo farts. Then he opens the pouch and the baby farts too.
I realised before this interview that you made Little Man with your brothers in 2006, which was two years before the Oscar-nominated film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. So I figure David Fincher and everybody behind that film really owe you for preparing the general public for movies about grown man babies. Right?
Pretty much. We were pioneers. That’s what we were. They didn’t appreciate the shit jokes as much. Benjamin Button found a way to, you know, get those out of there. But yeah, there’s still a lot of stuff. I think just because Brad Pitt was a lot cuter as a kid than I was. So he gets the Oscar nods and I get the Razzies. That’s how we do it. I would pull the race card, but, um, I’m not going to do that. Even know my little man baby had a much bigger penis than his.
You said earlier this year during an interview on Australian TV that when you’re writing movies like Scary Movie, you guys write them completely sober. That you don’t get baked at all during the process. Were you being 100% honest?
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