By Mark Saldana
In 1990, the sketch comedy series In Living Color aired on the Fox Network and took America and the world by storm. Actor/comedian/filmmaker Keenen Ivory Wayans wanted to offer television audiences a new alternative to Saturday Night Live that gave African-American comedians a stronger voice and place to show their talents. Despite the show’s popularity, Wayans and his siblings, who also performed on the show, would encounter much adversity, as their program pulled few punches when it came to their comedy. The sketches often addressed racial disparity, but also never held back to lampooning various kinds of people in the world. The opposition imposed by the Fox studio execs would eventually push Wayans and siblings away from the show they created. Nevertheless, they made quite an impact on the world of comedy and some members of their comedy troupe, such as Jim Carrey and Jamie Foxx, would go on to achieve superstar status.
This retrospective screening was a fun time for me to get reacquainted with a comedy show which I watched regularly as a teenager. The first two episodes that were screened featured some of their signature sketches such as the “Homeboy Shopping Network,” “Great Moments in Black History,” and “Men on Film.” Some of the humor is dated, as it often reflected current events in news and entertainment, but sketches such as “Great Moments in Black History” and “Star Trek: The Wrath of Farrakhan” still ring some truth today. “Men on Film” is particularly controversial, as it lampoons men of the gay community and does so in a uber caricaturesque way. Still, one can definitely appreciate the boldness of their comedy which spits upon political correctness and challenges the white dominated entertainment business.
After the screening, Keenen Ivory Wayans did a Q & A session discussing how he and his family developed the show’s concept, how they came up with certain characters and sketches and the frustrations they had expressing their comedy on their own terms. It was a a fascinating and enlightening talk which offered much insight into the creativity behind the show. I didn’t give this particular screening a rating, as it was more of a retrospective and behind-the-scenes discussion about the show. However, I do applaud the Austin Film Festival for their retrospective screenings and panels with writers in the entertainment business because they all offer much education and information to new artists hoping to express their voices through movies and television.