Marlon Wayans proud of ‘slap’-focused comedy hour and feels he’s in his prime

He will be at the Coca-Cola Roxy on Dec. 31 for New Year’s show.
Marlon Wayans has a new HBO Max special "God Loves Me" shot at Center Stage in Atlanta out on March 2, 2023. HBO MAX

Credit: HBO MAX

Credit: HBO MAX

Marlon Wayans has a new HBO Max special "God Loves Me" shot at Center Stage in Atlanta out on March 2, 2023. HBO MAX

Marlon Wayans, in a special that debuted on HBO Max in March dubbed “God Loves Me,” took a major risk doing an entire hour-long comedy special on a single topic: the Will Smith slap of Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars. Technically, Wayans had absolutely nothing to do with the slap heard around the world but he has strong ties to Smith, his wife Jada Pinkett Smith and Rock.

The entire premise of the special, which was shot at Center Stage in Atlanta, is that all three celebrities had crossed paths with him and not necessarily in good ways. The slap, he said, was karma. He told the audience he would have loved to have dated Pinkett Smith but she wasn’t interested and chose Smith instead. Rock heckled Wayans when he was a teen stand-up, which messed him up so much he decided not to do stand-up for two decades.

His special in many ways was better received than Rock’s most recent stand-up special, which came out at the same time and only briefly addressed the slap.

Marlon Wayans will be performing at the Coca-Cola Roxy o New Year's Eve 2022. PUBLICITY PHOTO


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“My brothers have been doing comedy 50, 60 years,” Wayans told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He is coming to the Coca-Cola Roxy on Dec. 31 in Atlanta. (Tickets are available on Live Nation.) “They said they had never seen that before. That made it special to me. My brother Damon, who hates everything I do, said I finally did something brilliant.”

He said the material flowed out easily. “It was all instinct and inspiration,” he said. “God wrote that. All I had to do was get on stage.”

Wayans said he heard nothing from the three actors about his jokes. “The fact I didn’t means I did something right,” he said. “Jada did this world tour and she took all these questions about her marriage. Nobody had anything to say about my special. Jada is my friend, Will is my friend. Chris knows that I come from a place of love and didn’t come from a place of hate. I love them all. I just wanted to be truthful about my experience.”

His next special, he said, focuses on the death of his parents and was recently shot at the famed Apollo Theatre in Harlem.

“My parents were born and raised in Harlem a few blocks from the Apollo,” he said. “My brother Damon did his second special there. My mother won amateur night there two times with her sister. That stage is a special place for me to honor my parents.”

He is now working on stand-up material about his trans child.

“For me, comedy is healing and revealing,” he said. “There are so many people going through this, not just the child but the entire family. That transition is about everybody. God calls me to speak the truth. I want to be absolutely transparent about being a trans parent. I will come from a place of vulnerability, a place of discomfort. It only took me a week to get to acceptance. Some people, it takes years. They cut their kids off. I just feel like I’m always about love and laughter and family. In those things are healing and that’s my message when people see it.”

Working on New Year’s Eve is a good payday for any entertainer who can nab a gig. And at 51, Wayans is feeling invigorated.

“I kind of like to go out with a bang!” he said. “I like to start the new year on a stage. I’m in my prime. This is the best version of me. The stage is like a blank canvas and I get to paint.”

Wayans isn’t big on New Year’s resolutions. “For me, every day is New Year’s,” he said. “I’m always trying to better myself and find focus and find my smile. It’s not just once a year.”

In a weird way, Wayans said Rock heckling him 35 years ago helped him out.

“When I came back to stand up 20 years later, I had all this life experience” he said, “I learned how to write movies. I learned how to write for TV. I knew how to act. I knew how to do characters. Now I look at myself as an artist on that stage. It’s beyond standup. Stand-up to me is like a one-man show. I’m physical. I do voices. I do characters. I have a little bit of heart. It resonates.”


Marlon Wayans

7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 31. $64-$96.75. Coca-Cola Roxy, 800 Battery Ave. SE, #500, Atlanta,