In Living Color is an American sketch comedy television series that originally ran on Fox from April 15, 1990 to May 19, 1994. Keenen Ivory Wayans created, wrote and starred in the program. The show was produced by Ivory Way Productions in association with 20th Television and was taped at stage 7 at the Fox Television Center on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
|In Living Color|
|Created by||Keenen Ivory Wayans and Damon Wayans|
|Theme music composer||Bosco Kante|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||127 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||22–24 mins|
|Original release||April 15, 1990 –|
May 19, 1994
The title of the series was inspired by the NBC announcement of broadcasts being presented "in living color" during the 1960s, prior to mainstream color television. It also refers to the fact that most of the show's cast was Black, unlike other sketch comedy shows such as Saturday Night Live, whose casts were mostly White at the time. In Living Color was controversial due to the Wayans' decision to portray a form of irreverent Black humor in a time when mainstream American tastes regarding Black comedy on television had been set by inoffensive family-friendly shows such as The Cosby Show, causing an eventual feud for control between Fox executives and the Wayans.
Other members of the Wayans family—Damon, Kim, Shawn, and Marlon—had regular roles, while brother Dwayne frequently appeared as an extra. The show also starred several previously unknown comedians and actors, including Jamie Foxx, Jim Carrey, Tommy Davidson, David Alan Grier, and T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh. The show introduced Jennifer Lopez and Carrie Ann Inaba as members of In Living Color's dance troupe The Fly Girls, with actress Rosie Perez serving as choreographer. The show was immensely popular in its first two seasons, capturing more than a 10-point Nielsen rating; in the third and fourth seasons, ratings faltered as the Wayans brothers fell out with the Fox network's leadership over creative control and rights.
The series won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series in 1990. The series gained international prominence for its bold move and its all-time high ratings gained by airing a live, special episode as a counterprogram for the halftime show of U.S. leader CBS's live telecast of Super Bowl XXVI, prompting the National Football League to book A-list acts for future game entertainment, starting with Michael Jackson the following year. In 2018, a history of the show, Homey Don't Play That! by David Peisner, was released by 37 INK, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||13||April 15, 1990||September 9, 1990|
|2||26||September 23, 1990||September 1, 1991|
|3||30||September 22, 1991||May 17, 1992|
|4||32||September 27, 1992||May 23, 1993|
|5||26||September 16, 1993||May 19, 1994|
|David Alan Grier||Starring|
|T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh||Starring|
|Keenen Ivory Wayans||Starring||Does not appear|
|Kim Wayans||Starring||Does not appear|
|Kelly Coffield||Starring||Does not appear|
|Damon Wayans||Starring||Guest||Does not appear|
|Kim Coles||Starring||Does not appear|
|Shawn Wayans||Featured||Does not appear|
|Jamie Foxx||Does not appear||Featured||Starring|
|Steve Park||Does not appear||Featured||Does not appear|
|DJ Twist||Does not appear||Featured|
|Marlon Wayans||Does not appear||Featured||Does not appear|
|Alexandra Wentworth||Does not appear||Featured||Starring|
|Anne-Marie Johnson||Does not appear||Starring|
|Jay Leggett||Does not appear||Starring|
|Reggie McFadden||Does not appear||Starring|
|Carol Rosenthal||Does not appear||Starring|
|Marc Wilmore||Does not appear||Starring|
|Rosie Perez (choreographer)||Dancer||Does not appear|
|Cari French||Dancer||Does not appear|
|Carrie Ann Inaba||Dancer||Does not appear|
|Lisa Marie Todd||Dancer||Does not appear|
|Michelle Whitney-Morrison||Dancer||Does not appear|
|Carla Garrido||Does not appear||Dancer||Does not appear|
|Jennifer Lopez||Does not appear||Dancer||Does not appear|
|Jossie Harris||Does not appear||Dancer|
|Lisa Joann Thompson||Does not appear||Dancer|
|Laurieann Gibson||Does not appear||Dancer|
|Masako Willis||Does not appear||Dancer|
Chris Rock appeared (as a "special guest star") in a number of sketches in the fifth season, and reprised his "Cheap Pete" character from I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. In the early years of In Living Color, Rock was parodied as being "the only African American cast member on Saturday Night Live" (despite Tim Meadows and Ellen Cleghorne appearing on the program at the time). In an SNL episode honoring Mother's Day, Rock's mother states that she is disappointed in him for not trying out for In Living Color, to which Rock states he is happy with his job on SNL.
Other recurring guest stars in the fifth season include Nick Bakay (for The Dirty Dozens sketches) and Peter Marshall (for several editions of East Hollywood Squares). Rapper Biz Markie also appeared in various roles as a guest star in the fifth season, such as being in drag as Wanda the Ugly Woman's sister or as "Dirty Dozens" contestant Damian "Foosball" Franklin. Ed O'Neill made a cameo appearance as Al Bundy in a "Dirty Dozens" segment.
Following Keenen Ivory Wayans' success with Hollywood Shuffle and I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, Fox Broadcasting Company approached Wayans to offer him his own show. Wayans wanted to produce a variety show similar to Saturday Night Live, but with a cast of people of color that took chances with its content. Fox gave Wayans a lot of freedom with the show, although Fox executives were a bit concerned about the show's content prior to its television debut.
In announcing its debut, Fox described In Living Color as a "contemporary comedy variety show". In its preview, the Christian Science Monitor warned that its, "raw tone may offend some, but it does allow a talented troupe to experiment with black themes in a Saturday Night Live-ish format." Keenen Ivory Wayans said, "I wanted to do a show that reflects different points of view. We've added an Asian and a Hispanic minority to the show. We're trying in some way to represent all the voices. ... Minority talent is not in the system and you have to go outside. We found Crystal doing her act in the lobby of a theater in Chicago. We went beyond the Comedy Stores and Improvs, which are not showcase places for minorities."
The first episode aired on Sunday, April 15, 1990, following an episode of Married... with Children. The first episode was watched by 22.7 million people, making it the 29th-most-viewed show for the week.
The Miami Herald said the show was as "smart and saucy as it is self-aware" and "audacious and frequently tasteless, but terrific fun". The Philadelphia Inquirer called it "the fastest, funniest half-hour in a long time". The Seattle Times said it had "the free-wheeling, pointed sense of humor that connects with a large slice of today's audience". The Columbus Dispatch described it as a "marvelously inventive" show that has "catapulted television back to the cutting edge".
The sketch comedy show helped launch the careers of comedians/actors Jim Carrey (then credited as "James Carrey"), one of only two white members of the original cast; Jamie Foxx, who joined the cast in the third season; and David Alan Grier (an established theater actor who had worked in Keenen Ivory Wayans' 1988 motion picture I'm Gonna Git You Sucka).
The series strove to produce comedy with a strong emphasis on modern Black subject matter. It became renowned for parody, especially of race relations in the United States. For instance, Carrey was frequently used to ridicule white musicians such as Snow and Vanilla Ice, who performed in genres more commonly associated with Black people. The Wayans themselves often played exaggerated Black ghetto stereotypes for humor and effect. A sketch parodying Soul Train mocked the show as Old Train, suggesting the show (along with its host, Don Cornelius) was out of touch and only appealed to the elderly and the dead. When asked about the show's use of stereotypes of Black culture for comedy, Wayans said, "Half of comedy is making fun of stereotypes. They only get critical when I do it. Woody Allen has been having fun with his culture for years, and no one says anything about it. Martin Scorsese, his films basically deal with the Italian community, and no one ever says anything to him. John Hughes, all of his films parody upscale white suburban life. Nobody says anything to him. When I do it, then all of a sudden it becomes a racial issue. You know what I mean? It's my culture, and I'm entitled to poke fun at the stereotypes that I didn't create in the first place. I don't even concern myself with that type of criticism, because it's racist in itself."
- "The Homeboy Shopping Network", featuring Damon and Keenan as streetwise criminals operating an unlicensed, Home Shopping Network-style shopping network out of the back of their van to sell stolen goods.
- "Fire Marshal Bill", featuring Carrey as an unhinged, dangerously incompetent fire marshal.
- "Men on Film", featuring Damon and Grier as effeminate Black film critics with exaggerated physical motions, such as "two snaps up".
- "Homey D. Clown", featuring Damon as a misanthropic, verbally abusive clown doing demeaning entertainment gigs for low pay as part of his prison release program.
- "East Hollywood Squares", featuring many of the cast in a ghetto parody of the game show Hollywood Squares.
- "Benita Buttrell", featuring Kim Wayans as an untrustworthy neighborhood gossip.
- Parodies of Arsenio Hall (who was popular on his own show at the time) by Keenan Wayans.
- "Calhoun Tubbs", a blues singer (played by Grier) who sang extremely short songs (about 10 seconds each) at the slightest provocation.
For the first episode, an exotic-looking logo was used for the opening credits. However, after the band Living Colour claimed in a lawsuit that the show stole the band's logo and name, the logo was changed to one with rather plain-type letters of three colors. The show title itself is a homage to the NBC Peacock tag line, "The following program is brought to you in living color" from the 1960s when television was transitioning from black & white to color TV.
In the first two seasons, the opening sequence was set in a room covered with painters' tarps. Each cast member, wearing black-and-white, played with brightly colored paint in a different way (throwing paintballs at the camera by hand, spray painting the lens, using a roller to cover the camera lens, etc.). The sequence ended with a segue to a set built to resemble the rooftop of an apartment building, where the show's dancers performed a routine and opened a door to let Keenen Ivory Wayans greet a live audience.
For the third and fourth seasons, an animated sequence and different logo were used. Cast members were superimposed over pictures hanging in an art gallery and interacted with them in different ways (spinning the canvas to put it right-side up, swinging the frame out as if it were a door, etc.). The final image was of the logo on a black canvas, which shattered to begin the show. The fifth season retained the logo, but depicted the cast members on various signs and billboards around a city (either New York or Chicago), ending with the logo displayed on a theater marquee. The main title sequences were created by Klasky Csupo and produced by Robert Jason with some graphics by Beau Tardy.
The hip-hop group Heavy D & the Boyz performed two different versions of the opening theme. One version was used for the first two seasons and remixed for the fifth, while the other was featured in the third and fourth seasons.
Live musical performancesEdit
In Living Color was known for its live music performances, which started in Season 2 with Queen Latifah as their first performer (appearing again in the third season). Additional musical acts who appeared were Heavy D, Public Enemy, Kris Kross, En Vogue, Eazy-E, Da Youngsta's, Monie Love, Onyx, 3rd Bass, MC Lyte, Arrested Development, Jodeci, Mary J. Blige, Tupac Shakur, Father MC, Gang Starr, The Pharcyde, Simple E, Us3, Digable Planets, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Nice & Smooth, Wreckx-n-Effect, A.D.O.R., Redman, Showbiz and A.G., Patra, Naughty By Nature, Lords of the Underground, Prince Markie Dee, A Tribe Called Quest, Color Me Badd and Leaders of the New School.
The Fly GirlsEdit
The show employed an in-house dance troupe known as the "Fly Girls". The original lineup consisted of Carrie Ann Inaba (who became a choreographer and judge on Dancing with the Stars), Cari French, Deidre Lang, Lisa Marie Todd, Barbara Lumpkin and Michelle Whitney-Morrison. Rosie Perez was the choreographer for the first four seasons. The most notable former Fly Girl was future actress/singer Jennifer Lopez, who joined the show in its third season.
Throughout the show's run, the Fly Girls frequently performed a dance routine to lead into commercial breaks and/or during the closing credits. In the first two seasons, they also performed a routine that immediately followed the opening sequence. Music was provided by an in-house DJ - Shawn Wayans (credited as SW-1) in the first two seasons, then DJ Twist from season 3 onward.
The Fly Girls would sometimes be used as extras in sketches, or as part of an opening gag. In one sketch, they were shown performing open-heart surgery (in the sketch, the girls are dancing in order to pay their way through medical school). Another routine featured the three original female cast members dancing off-beat during the introduction of the show, when it was revealed that the regular Fly Girls were all bound and gagged and breaking through the door where Keenan Ivory Wayans enters.
Three of the Fly Girls also appeared in the eleventh episode of Muppets Tonight's second season in 1997.
Wayans family departuresEdit
Keenen Ivory Wayans stopped appearing in sketches in 1992 after the end of the third season, over disputes with Fox about the network censoring the show's content and rerunning early episodes without his consultation. Wayans feared that Fox would ultimately decrease the syndication value of In Living Color.
Damon went on to pursue a movie career around the same time, though he made occasional return appearances in the fourth season. During the fourth season (1992–1993), Keenen appeared only in the season opener, though he remained the executive producer and thus stayed in the opening credits until the thirteenth episode. Marlon, who joined the show that same year, left shortly after Keenen resigned as producer. Shawn and Kim both tried to leave also, but both were contractually obligated to stay. Both left at the end of the fourth season.
Originally produced by 20th Television on Fox, the series was in reruns on local affiliates for a few years, but has since become a longstanding mainstay on FX and FXX, which had been sister channels to Fox prior to being acquired by The Walt Disney Company. In syndication, the series is distributed by Disney-ABC Domestic Television.
Unlike past runs on FX and the Viacom Media Networks, the FXX cut of episodes are mostly uncut and censored. The music video parodies and spoken references to licensed songs have been reinstated, but the "Bolt 45" sketch, the "drop the soap" line, and the "Men on Football" sketch with the adlibbed lines about Richard Gere's and Carl Lewis's alleged homosexuality are still edited (though the facial ejaculation shot on "Men on Fitness" was reinstated), along with a line from the season five sketch "Fire Marshall Bill at the Magic Show" that makes reference to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (the missing line is, "That's what they said about the World Trade Center, son. But me and my friend Abdul and a couple of pounds of plastique explosives showed them different." Bill's laugh and his catchphrase "Lemme show ya somethin'" was also cut abruptly), due to the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The Best of In Living Color aired on MyNetworkTV from April 16 to June 18, 2008. Hosted by David Alan Grier, it was a retrospective featuring classic sketches, along with cast interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. The show aired on Wednesdays at 8:30 pm Eastern/7:30 pm Central, after MyNetworkTV's sitcom Under One Roof.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has released all five seasons of In Living Color on DVD in Region 1. Due to music licensing issues, some sketches have been edited to remove any and all mention of licensed songs, from characters waxing lyrical to entire performances (including the music video parodies and some of the Fly Girl dancing interstitials). Additionally, the "Bolt 45" sketch (which aired one-time only on May 5, 1990) was omitted, and the "soap" portion of the "drop the soap" line in the second "Men on Film" sketch has been muted.
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release Date|
|Season 1||13||April 6, 2004|
|Season 2||26||September 28, 2004|
|Season 3||28||May 10, 2005|
|Season 4||33||October 25, 2005|
|Season 5||26||April 11, 2006|
- 1990–91: #62 (10.5 rating)
- 1991–92: #42 (12.2 rating)
- 1992–93: #53 (10.4 rating)
- 1993–94: #90 (7.6 rating)
- Image Awards 1994 for Outstanding Variety Series
- Image Awards 1992 for Outstanding Comedy Series
- PGA Awards 1992 for Most Promising Producer in Television: Keenen Ivory Wayans
- People's Choice Award 1991 for Favorite New TV Comedy Series Tied with The Simpsons (1989)
- TV Land Awards 2012 for Groundbreaking Show: Shared with whole cast
- Primetime Emmy 1990 for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series
- At the 2006 BET Awards when the show returned from one of its commercial breaks, the show's host Damon Wayans played a character very reminiscent to "Men on ..." critic Blaine Edwards
- In Living Color alums Damon Wayans, Jim Carrey, and David Alan Grier reprised some of their In Living Color characters on Saturday Night Live:
- Damon Wayans, a featured player during that show's eleventh season, hosted an episode from SNL's 20th season in 1995, where he brought on two of his famous In Living Color characters: homeless wino Anton Jackson and gay film critic Blaine Edwards. In the latter sketch, David Alan Grier made a surprise on-set appearance as Antoine Merriweather; Grier himself would also host SNL on December 9, 1995 (season 21) and January 18, 1997 (season 22), but did not reprise any of his In Living Color characters during those respective episodes.
- Jim Carrey auditioned to be one of the repertory members on SNL's ill-fated 1980–1981 season, but was dropped in favor of Charles Rocket (who later appeared in the 1988 film Earth Girls Are Easy and the 1994 film Dumb and Dumber with Carrey). Carrey also auditioned for the 1985–1986 season (season eleven), but backed out after seeing a man threatening to jump from 30 Rockefeller Center, believing that the stress of working on Saturday Night Live would drive Carrey to suicide. Carrey hosted the season finale of SNL's 21st season in 1996, where he impersonated Fire Marshal Bill during the monologue. Carrey's most recent hosting stint, in October 2014, involved a Carrey family reunion sketch in which Cecily Strong plays Carrey's aunt, who is modeled after Fire Marshal Bill.
- Jamie Foxx reprised his role as Wanda in a short segment at the 2009 BET Awards.
- In 1997, three of the Fly Girls also appeared in the eleventh episode of Muppets Tonight's second season.
- In the 1997 film Liar Liar, Jim Carrey reprised his "Fire Marshal Bill" character (albeit with no lines) in the background of one of the closing scenes.
- The February 10, 2001 episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Jennifer Lopez included a sketch where Lopez "reunited" with the Fly Girls (played by Rachel Dratch, Jerry Minor and Tracy Morgan).
In 2011, there were plans to make a revival of the original series that featured a new cast, characters, and sketches. The pilot episodes were hosted and executive produced by original series creator and cast member Keenen Ivory Wayans. In early 2012, Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo were hired as the choreographers. They cast the new line-up of The Fly Girls and shot pilot episodes for the show which were set to air on Fox, like the original. However, on January 8, 2013, Keenen Ivory Wayans confirmed the reboot had been canceled because he and Fox did not feel that the show was sustainable after one season. Reported cast members included Cooper Barnes, Jennifer Bartels, Sydney Castillo, Josh Duvendeck, Jermaine Fowler, Ayana Hampton, Kali Hawk, and Lil Rel Howery. In addition, featured cast members were Henry Cho, Melanie Minichino, and Chris Leidecker. Members of the new Fly Girls included Christina Chandler, Tera Perez, Lisa Rosenthal, Katee Shean, and Whitney Wiley.
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- Boedeker, Hal (April 21, 1990). "TV's Living Color Brightens Spectrum". The Miami Herald. p. 1E.
- Storm, Jonathan (April 21, 1990). "From Fox, Bold Satire By Blacks". The Philadelphia Inquirer. p. C1.
- Voorhees, John (April 21, 1990). "'In Living Color' Makes This 'Sunset' Look Pretty Pale". The Seattle Times. p. C3.
- Keller, Julia (April 22, 1990). "Quality Shows Offer Respectable Change". The Columbus Dispatch. p. 5F.
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- "Full Nielsen Ratings from the 1993-94 TV Season - Sitcoms Online Message Boards - Forums".
- Kurp, Josh (October 26, 2014). "Did You Get Every Jim Carrey Reference In 'SNL's 'Family Reunion' Sketch?". Uproxx.
- "Fox to Reboot 'In Living Color' with Keenan Ivory Wayans". Deadline.com. October 28, 2011. Retrieved March 27, 2013.
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- Scott, Sydney (January 5, 2018), "The 'In Living Color' Cast Had The Sweetest Reaction To Bruno Mars' 'Finesse' Video", Essence, retrieved 2019-05-22