One thing he decided to do on stage, he said, was not talk about COVID-19 at all. Instead, he’s opting for less depressing topics like family and basic observational humor.
“Even if the clubs are half capacity, it’s just good to see people laughing and feeling good and enjoying themselves,” he said. “They come in feeling one way and leaving with a smile on their face.”
He said he’s about 80% done with this special, so people who attend the show this weekend will get a bulk of what may end up on the streaming service later this year. He and his producer buddies Rick Alvarez and Steve Harris videotape his shows and go back and review them in the hotel room each day. He said he hates watching himself, but it’s the only way he can get better.
Wayans said he likes to start his shows with silly shallow stuff, then gradually get deeper, offering what he says is the “dessert” before the main meal. “As my set goes on,” he said, “I honestly think it matures. It’s the maturity of the comedian, the maturity of the man on the stage.”
The actor and producer last June signed a deal with HBO Max, which has exclusive access to his scripted and non-scripted TV shows. But he said he’s free to do movies anywhere and recently sold a romantic buddy movie to Netflix. He shot “Sextuplets” in 2019 for Netflix in Atlanta.
HBO Max is a relatively new service, and he’s comfortable jumping aboard because he’s been in early before with Fox (”In Living Color”) and the WB (”The Wayans Bros.”) in the 1990s. And HBO Max is clearly trying to compete in the comedy world with Netflix, which has been a dominant force in stand-up specials in recent years, superseding Comedy Central and HBO.
Wayans’ most-recent sitcom, “Marlon,” aired for two seasons on NBC in 2017 and 2018 and reflected his life as a divorced dad staying friends with his ex for the sake of the two children.
He is working on a new sitcom, “Book of Marlon,” for HBO Max which is more focused on his life as a single 40-year-old man. (Marlon is 48 but looks much younger.) “‘Marlon’ was about a guy trying to keep his family together,” Wayans said. “This is about a guy who lost that and is dealing with being single.”
He said he bases his shows on his real life where he works hard to “practice love” in co-parenting with his ex and minimizing arguing.
Wayans said he likes working in Atlanta because the crews are so diverse. “As a producer, I try to employ as many qualified people of color as possible,” he said. “I want to walk on the set and see the world.” He said even in 2021, he has to demand diverse staff though it’s easier to do than it was in the 1990s.
He is also looking forward to finally having the Aretha Franklin biopic “Respect” come out in theaters in August. The film has been postponed multiple times due to COVID-19. Wayans plays Franklin’s allegedly abusive first husband Ted White. “I play the villain,” he said. “It’s a very complex role. It was love that turned into abuse.”
Wayans was blown away by Jennifer Hudson, who plays Franklin. “Going on the set was like going to Broadway every day,” he said. “I don’t understand how God can give one person so much talent. We sometimes forgot we were in character and go crazy after one of her performances. We thought we were in church.”
WHERE TO GO
7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., Friday Feb. 26, 7 p.m. 10 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27 and 7 p.m. Sunday Feb. 28
Atlanta Comedy Club
4650 Jimmy Carter Blvd #114b, Norcross
And though he spends a lot of time in Atlanta shooting films, he has yet to decide to buy a place here.