What Damon Wayans said in 2015 about getting fired at SNL, In Living Color, Kevin Hart, social media, and yes, Bill Cosby
Heading into the Labor Day weekend, Damon Wayans spent his 55th birthday on Friday performing at Carolines on Broadway, and promoted the gigs with a half-hour session on Power 105.1 FM's "The Breakfast Club" with DJ Envy, Charlamagne Tha God and Angela Yee.
Perhaps you've seen the Internet light a viral fire under Wayans and his comments about Bill Cosby, the comedy legend's legacy tainted forever by allegations and evidence of serial rape. Even so, most media reports focused only on the juicy pull quotes. But put them into context.
Heck, put the entire half-hour in context.
What did Damon Wayans have to say about other comedians, his son, his siblings and himself?
And did you know that Wayans claims Tracy Morgan earned $90 million in settlement money from Wal-Mart from the New Jersey Turnpike crash that put Morgan into a coma and killed one of his friends?
Well, let's recap the entire thing now that we're all back from a holiday weekend and ready to digest all of what Wayans had to say. Because it's worth further consideration.
For one thing, Wayans has diabetes, and now maintains a strict paleo diet to manage his diabetes, which forced him off the road recently. “It’s all good, just diet and exercise.” “I’m off needles in 33 days. Can’t cry. I don’t eat anything with sugar, or anything that turns into sugar. Vegetables and proteins, that’s it.”
He was born with a club foot, but before you picture him with a club for a foot, he says he was born with a broken foot and it’s fixed now. “I was born with my foot, basically broken…it ain’t like I’m missing toes, it ain’t shorter…it was just broken, so I had to do corrective surgery.”
Is comedy too political now, Yee asked him? “Yes. I think the cell phone is the great destroyer of comedy,” he said. “Since the Michael Richards thing, it’s like, there’s certain places I believe where cameras shouldn’t be. One is comedy club. The other one is the church. And the other one is the war room.”
(DJ Envy got kicked out of Kevin Hart’s stand-up show this summer for using his phone: “I wasn’t taping him. I was just replying on my texts, and the phone light up.”)
Wayans continued: “Here’s the thing with comedy. Comedy is not like music. People get it confused. There’s no such thing as a one-hit wonder with comedy. You can do one song. You can ring my bell. Anita Ward. ‘You can ring my bell’…but she can travel. She can still do concerts, right. You can’t do that with comedy. Comedy is, once you know the joke, it’s over. You know what I mean? And you basically got to burn your act...And a lot of times, we’re working out stuff…Mercedes makes a great car, but they got to crash a lot of them first. You know. So we’re basically onstage crashing jokes and trying to figure them out until, and then, when we ready to publish, then we want to publish.”
In case you're wondering what year morning radio is living in, DJ Envy asked: “Will comedy ever go back to where it was real funny?”
When was that, DJ Envy? “I remember when you guys were doing the two snaps up…I feel like it can never go back there, because people are just so sensitive.”
Oh, OK. Wayans suggested once President Barack Obama leaves office, “we can go back to being naughty again, because everybody’s on their best behavior because of, you know, we don’t want to make the president look bad.” Wayans added: “Comedy needs to go back. Right now, America, the world is primed for some good, hard, in-your-face kind of comedy. I believe.”
Is there anything Wayans wouldn't joke about? “Anything works, if you present it right,” he said. “If I attack handicapped people (calling back to his Handi Man character from In Living Color), no, it won’t work. If I show what’s funny about it, and actually inspire, then I can justify – I’m standing on moral ground.”
Yee asked him about not reading scripts that get handed to him to avoid lawsuits.
“It’s the same reason why I keep my drawers on when I get a massage. Because I don’t want you to say, be able to say, that I tried anything. I had my drawers on.” “You’re supposed to, but I don’t because I don’t know what’s in somebody else’s heart.”
Yee also asked him about imparting advice to his son, Damon Wayans Jr., on TV and on the road. “He’s his own man. And a worthy inquiry. Whatever he want to know, I tell him. I download everything. But I don’t try to tell him anything, ‘cause he got to figure it out himself. I believe. You learn how to make good deals by making bad deals.”
“Now it’s hard being Damon Wayans Sr. because Junior is getting all the work,” he joked. “And I’m not mad at it.” “He’ll be able to take care of me. I ain’t mad at that.”
Wayans mentioned that he has developed comedy apps for your phones and tablets. Why? “You got to get into the tech world, otherwise you’re going to get left out of the tech world.” “I’m giving people ways to create comedy. To do it and put some context to content. You know what I mean? So, put up a picture, then, well, where’s this picture from? What’s the origin of it? Everybody’s doing ThrowBack Thursdays, right? Or the look away challenge. I’m trying to create stuff like that.”
Wayans also explained why Lorne Michaels fired him after appearing in just seven episodes of Saturday Night Live.
“What happened was, Eddie Murphy had just left. And so, Lorne Michaels was trying to – he thought – protect me from being compared to Eddie Murphy. And I’m like, ‘Look. You give me the ball or let me go. Fire me from the team.’ So, he wouldn’t give me the ball, so I just switched characters during a live taping. I wanted to get fired.”
“I played a super, super, flamboyant gay cop...Because this what happened: So I was supposed to be – we were doing a spoof on Miami Vice….First of all, going back, they had me in scenes where I would just hold a spear. I’m like, I’m not doing that. My mother’s going to watch this show. No lines! Just holding the spear. In a thong. I’m like, I ain’t, I can’t do this. I said, ‘y’all need to hire an extra for this.’ And so they told me, ‘You’re not a team player.’ I said, ‘no, I’m just not a slave.’ So my frustration and the comedy – they just kept getting into it, me and Lorne Michaels. So the final straw was this sketch called ‘Mr. Monopoly,’ where we was doing this spoof on Miami Vice. So we’d have dress rehearsal and then we’d have the air show. So between dress and air, Lorne comes to me and goes, ‘You look like a pimp in that suit. I want you to change it to a cop’s uniform.’ And I just like snapped, because the sketch wasn’t funny, and now you want to put me in a cop’s suit. And I was feeling, I was feeling really Doug E. in my suit, you know what I mean? I had the Miami Vice joint going, OK, I can get through this. So I was just like, you know what, I’m done. And I just flipped characters. I don’t even know what I said. I did it out of anger. So it wasn’t really funny. It was just this is blowing their mind. I did it with the wrong spirit. And he was right to let me go. He was right to fire me. He fired me on the spot.”
The "Mr. Monopoly" sketch on SNL that prompted Lorne Michaels to fire Damon Wayans:
“He actually brought me back to host once. And that’s cool. I mean, that’s just for me, I had to do that to do In Living Color,” he said. “All the stuff I was trying to do on Saturday Night Live, was actually stuff I was able to do on In Living Color.”
Then again, he’d often stroll around the SNL offices wearing sunglasses indoors. “It’s too white in here. It hurts my eyes,” he recalled saying. “I created a tension in there. And it was only because they wouldn’t let me – you know, comedy is tension, but then you break the tension, that’s where the laugh comes.” “But they just wanted me to be too submissive, and I couldn’t.”
He said he understood why Dave Chappelle quit his Comedy Central series.
“For freedom. I understand. Because there’s a certain point as a comedian, you have to be every man. You can’t, you know, Tracy Morgan got 90 million dollars, so when he gets onstage, people got 90 million things on their mind besides his comedy.” AHEM. “Right. And so it becomes hard when people put money before you, ‘cause you’re supposed to be representing them. You know. You’re the voice of the people. You’re no longer the voice of the people. So it makes you resentful and a little crazy. I woulda took the money.”
He said audience members might think “I could take diabetes…people sitting around talking about, man, I wish a Wal-Mart truck would hit me, because they want that $90 million.” Of course, the accident cost Morgan a friend and put him in a coma. “Right, you put extras on it, but I’m happy he got his money.”
Wayans compared In Living Color to SNL and also to sketch comedy of today:
“The great thing about In Living Color is it’s only a half-hour. Saturday Night Live is 90 minutes. That’s still, I have respect for the fact that they can do it, because it’s hard to fill time. The reason why sketches to me on Saturday Night Live aren’t funny is because we live in a ADD society, where a 5-, 6-, 7-minute sketch is way too long. You know? I’m not listening. It’s not funny anymore. Two-minute sketches work. And that’s what we were able to do on In Living Color. We were doing 2-3 minute sketches, and then we was out. We left you wanting more.”
Wayans addressed the live Super Bowl halftime show they did on FOX (CBS was airing the Super Bowl), in which he and David Alan Grier’s “Men on Film” sketch joked about the rumor involving Richard Gere and a gerbil, and losing a sponsor over it. “It was rumor, but we made it true! They started really coming down on us with censorship, and Keenen was like, you know what, we’re leaving. We bounced (Keenen and Damon left after season three). He wasn’t happy. And if he ain’t happy, we gotta go. What’s interesting is the show didn’t work after he left. That was a testament to his vision. That’s what’s wrong with sketch right now, is it requires somebody at the helm with a vision. That’s why Chappelle’s Show was successful. Because he knew what was funny about him.”
Wait. Is anyone saying sketch comedy is bad now in 2015? I thought conventional wisdom held that we're enjoying a renaissance of great sketch on TV. But back to Wayans.
“I was telling Kim last night, I had dinner with my sister, and saying that Keenen should a book about In Living Color and tell that story. Because Straight Outta Compton was very inspirational. I thought it was a great movie, and the fact that they didn’t really dwell on the gang life. It wasn’t about that. It was a hero’s journey about success, about sacrifice, about what it takes to make it and to stay on top. I thought it was a beautiful film. But I think In Living Color is that same kind of inspirational film, when you think about Jamie Foxx winning an Oscar, and J.Lo and Jim Carrey and all the success that came from that show, and the behind-the-scenes is really funny and compelling.”
On why he didn’t let his footage air in a TV Land tribute to In Living Color: “That had to do with FOX disrespecting me for the comeback episodes – they were supposed to be doing a (reboot). They tried to pay me $2,500 to do two episodes.” “I was like, ‘I don’t even know how to cash $2,500 checks…I never want to make my brother look bad. But at a certain point, when you feel disrespected, then for me, it’s the same reason why I got fired from Saturday Night Live. At a certain point, there’s something in me that can’t allow that. Can’t do it. I’m not built that way. I apologized to my brother. Everybody else, kiss my ass.”
Wayans said his mother made him and siblings kiss and make up, literally, kiss on the lips. “Nothing should come between you and your brothers,” she'd tell them.
“I think In Living Color should be an institution. It should be back. There’s a lot of comedians out there – the problem is, I watch this user-generated content. The problem is, they need direction. The greatest actors. Robert DeNiro, without directing, giving him the right direction, he’s going to be doing this a lot (impersonates DeNiro), moving the head, talking. You need somebody to go, ‘Bob. You’re doing this too much.’ Denzel, make bad choices. Great actor, but left to his own devices would make bad choices. You need a third eye. That’s what’s wrong with, I think, sketch comedy in general, is that – there’s some funny people out there, they just lack direction.”
“A good coach will make you see something in yourself you didn’t know was there. Right? So when you look at Mike Tyson. Mike Tyson always knew he could knock somebody out. But Cus (D’Amato) gave him the confidence and the history behind knocking people out. He filled him with love, and he put something on him that he knew he didn’t have. And that’s the same thing you gotta do with these comedians. You’ve got to take them to new levels of comedy. I look at these people and they do six-second Vines. OK. Now, they can’t even do 15 seconds on Instagram. They take their Vine and put it on Instagram. Six seconds. Dude! You’re supposed to be funnier, for longer. You know what I mean? You should be doing one-minute sketches. A commercial is 30 seconds. You got to at least be able to do 30 seconds.”
Easier or harder to break through in comedy now? Yee asked.
Wayans: “I think it’s harder to have a voice. Because no one’s doing it. Nobody is challenging themself. They’re not challenging the system. They’re just – you think about what Richard Pryor was talking about back in the day, when he was talking about it. I mean, he used to get death threats. That’s why Richard would walk across the stage. He was always moving because they would tell him, we’re going to shoot you, nigger. He said, yep, well you’re going to hit a moving target.”
So what does Wayans think of a planned Pryor biopic? “I hope it’s good. I like Mike Epps. I think Lee Daniels is a great director. We’ll see. Oprah’s in it. Eddie Murphy. It’s a great cast. Let’s see what they do with it.”
Wayans on Kevin Hart selling out arenas? “Love it. And I don’t think it’ll ever be repeated. Kevin got in on the social media when everyone was kinda laughing at it, and looking down on it. And I remember, like, him and Marlon would have Twitter battles, and they’d be going against each other. And then Kevin started really getting into it. And then he just leapfrogged everybody. I mean, dude has got an incredible following on social media. And you look at him opening movies with it, and everybody else is trying to do it. But what happens is social media – Twitter’s dying. You know, the social media changes. But he’s up on everything. So I’m not mad at his hustle. Hustle Hart, that’s right.”
All hustle aside, though, Hart's repeating what has come before him (see: Cook, Dane).
How has Wayans himself adjusted to Internet era?
“People are going to say the craziest things. I’m not big on social media. I like creating tools. I’d rather create stuff that allow people to have more fun, and challenge themselves a little more in social media. But I don’t really do it. I say thank you a lot on Twitter. I post a picture once in a while on Instagram. But I have over 40 gigabytes of photos. Just family photos that I won’t post. Because it’s just, that’s personal to me. Probably when I die it’s all going up online. But just for me, those are – that’s like, stuff you only show people you truly love. You can’t just show the world. It’s desperate to me.”
And then, they asked Wayans about Bill Cosby. Oh yes, that.
What advice would Damon Wayans give Bill Cosby:
“Tell the truth. If I was him, I would divorce my wife, wink wink, give her all my money, and then I would go do a deposition. I’d light one of them three-hour cigars, I’d have me some wine, and maybe a Quaalude, and I would just go off, because I don’t believe that he was raping. I think he was in relationships with all of them and then he’s like, ‘You know what? It’s 78. It don’t work no more. I can’t get it up for any of y’all. Bye, bitches’ and now they’re like, ‘Oh, really? Rape.’ Because, I mean, 40 years. Listen, how big is his penis that it give you amnesia for 40 years?”
Yee defended the women, noting that several of them had made these allegations decades ago.
“Right, but if you listen to them talk, they go ‘The first time…’. The first time? Bitch, how many times did it happen? Just listen to what they’re saying. And some of them, really, is unrapeable. I look at them and go ‘No, he don’t want that. Get out of here.' You. Go on, get up, get out of here.”
“Look. I understand fame. I’ve lived it. Women will throw themselves at you. They want, they just want to be in your presence. There’s some that innocently will come up there, but not 40-something women. They’re not that naïve. You’re talking about in 1965, he just walked into someone’s dressing room and put his penis in their mouth?”
“You know what Bill Cosby did wrong? He started criticizing young black men. And then he lost us, and so we’re not supporting them. And they see that opening, so you know what? Attack him, kill him. But the dude from 7th Heaven — his show is still on TV. Woody Allen is making shows for and movies for. Hey. If it was my daughter, then I would have killed Bill Cosby. But, being just, sitting back, looking at it, I just go, I just don’t believe this. I think it’s a money hustle."
Charlamagne brought up Hannibal Buress.
Wayans: “Hannibal Buress. I wonder how he feels being the dude that destroyed Bill Cosby.”
But Yee said even her mother told her when she was a young girl about Cosby drugging a woman, so the stories about him were around long before Buress joked about it.
“But here’s the thing. Bill Cosby. There may be (some women telling the truth), and for them, and my heart goes out to them. For anybody who was raped by Bill Cosby, I’m sorry. And I hope you get justice.”
“You other bitches? Look. He gave me two pills. Ain’t nobody – he wasn’t a doctor back then, when they talked about he gave them two pills. It’s like, that was the drug of choice. Like Molly is the drug of choice now, you know, people do that to get in the mood. You know. I just, I can’t believe it.”
“What’s the joy of banging somebody who’s asleep?”
Charlamagne: “You gotta ask Bill.”
DJ Envy: “What do you think about Hannibal Buress?”
Wayans: “I wouldn’t want to be him. Because, you know, the thing is: He, I watch his show, and I don’t think he, it’s premature in terms of his success. Right now, they’re putting him out there because he’s the guy who outed Bill Cosby. And he wasn’t ready for primetime. You know what I mean? So hopefully, maybe he’ll get it. You know. He’ll catch it. But I don’t feel it right now. And I wouldn’t want to be someone to take down my hero. I think we need heroes. And I think that we need to be more supportive until we know for sure for sure. Because there ain’t no charges against him. You know? Innocent ‘til proven guilty.”
Not in social media, though.
“They never retract what they say. They just put that on you. That’s a heavy one to carry around.”
Could anyone accuse Wayans of shenanigans? “No. I keep my drawers on.”
Cosby, on the other hand… “He’s stressed out. I see he’s stressed out, all them raisins on his face, he ain’t had them a year ago. His eye’s leaking. Like, wow. But I want him to come out. I want to hear him say it. You know? He’s articulate enough to just tell the truth. You know? Have that conversation with Camille and tell her the truth, and then tell us the truth. Because this is not how your legacy should end.”
Here's the interview in full: