Interview: Marlon Wayons discusses ‘A Haunted House’, making comedies and the use of the n-word
Marlon Wayans buys the groceries, cooks in the kitchen, and what he makes will always taste better than anyone who is trying to copy him.
“We could all make fried chicken, we can all have the same ingredients,” says the veteran actor, writer, and comedian. “Mine will taste a little bit different. You can try, but at the end of the day, you can’t do what I do.”
It’s not about cooking. He and his brothers (Shawn, Keenan Ivory to name a couple) have a way of making films that mock films—parodies, though Wayans doesn’t prefer to use that word—and his latest in the same vain as Scary Movie, Scary Movie 2, and White Chicks, this time mocking those characters in horror movies that refuse to leave their place even when it’s possessed.
“It’s Paranormal Activity if it happened to a black couple,” says Wayans in discussing A Haunted House, the new film he wrote, produced, and starred in. Directed by Michael Tiddes, Wayans is venturing on his own for this film, working for the first time without his brothers.
Sort of, though.
“We have a formula that me and my brothers just know, it’s how we see the world. It’s our experiences in life, the projects and communities we grew up in, the characters we have seen in our lives,” he explains.
“We have soul, we understand characters – it comes from an organic place.”
A Haunted House does not look for jokes in fleeting pop culture asides, nor does it star whatever D-list actor of the moment is making tabloid headlines. The jokes are timeless and universal, from the low brow scatological humour and fart jokes, to clever racial stereotypes and arguments. With an understanding group of actors, several of the scenes are improvised, with Wayans letting the cast do what they do.
One of the funnier and timeless scenes comes when ‘Camera Guy Dan’ (David Koechner) visits the house to install security. After being surprised that Wayans’ character owns the house, he casually asked him if he can say the word. It’s the one that Quentin Tarantino uses to excess in Django Unchained, making the joke as well unintentionally timely.
“It’s the truth of the n-word,” Wayans says, explaining why it’s funny. “Y’all made it up, and we took it from you and made it cool.” In discussing who can and should use the word, it’s about denotation versus connotation, he says. Wayans is more forgiving when it comes to art, and when it comes to Tarantino, that’s just what he does.
And what Wayans does is just as reliable, making comedies with wide appeal, funny characters, and without fear . “I wasn’t trying to do something different, I wanted to stay in the tradition of how we do it – I’m the disciple of the Wayans School of Comedy.”
While he is a member of one very funny and talented brotherhood, he doesn’t mind going off on his own on a project. When asked about the difference in working alone, the always clever Wayans is quick to respond, “I ain’t got to split a check”