The new BET comedy series "Second Generation Wayans" (premiering Jan. 15) begs the question: Have there really been only two generations of the professionally funny family that gave us "In Living Color," the "Scary Movie" franchise and "White Chicks''?
"I'm pretty sure there were some really entertaining Wayans before us," says Marlon Wayans. "You know, some hilarious slave Wayans. They could've been in (Quentin) Tarantino's movie ("Django Unchained"). Pickin' cotton, and tellin' jokes. That's us."
At 40, Marlon is part of the same generation of Wayans that produced Damon, Keenan Ivory, Kim and Shawn. He has "always been the most talented" of the clan, says George Thomas, film critic for the Cleveland Examiner -- capable of low comedy, but also of stealing films from the likes of Tom Hanks ("The Ladykillers").
Wayans' latest function in the funny family enterprise is "A Haunted House," an attempt to move on from the "Scary Movies" that he helped launch but which the family is no longer a part of. With the "Scary Movie" installments -- begun as a response to the "Scream" and "Nightmare on Elm Street" franchises -- growing more watered down with each year, Wayans saw an opening for another parody.
"There's a fine line between that moment when you're a fan of the movie, the first movie in a series maybe, or you're a fan of a genre -- and the first films in it are the good ones -- and then the bad ones start coming along and you hate them," Wayans says. "When I see common denominators, common situations, common characters -- a genre of films or a series of films becomes all the same movie -- that's when I go 'That sucks. But it's funny that it sucks.' "
That's where he figures the "found footage" genre of horror is -- "Paranormal Activity" and its many imitations.
"By the time the recent 'Paranormal Activities' and the rip-offs came along, I said, 'Wow. White people do some dumb stuff in these freaking movies. You know what would be funny? If 'Paranormal Activity' happened to a black couple. Who would they call? What would go wrong with them?' "
He couldn't do much with the original found footage horror film -- "The Blair Witch Project" -- because "Black people don't camp. We came from Africa. We know what's in the woods."
Next up for Wayans is a co-starring role in the comedy "The Heat," with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. He plays Bullock's character's love interest.
"We don't have any love scenes. Or any chemistry, really. But I'm pretty sure that in my mind, they do the nasty. A man's got to have hope."
Note: A review of "A Haunted House," a thriller spoof opening this weekend, was not available at press time. A review will be posted online at www.mercurynews.com/movies-dvd.