Keenen Ivory Wayans is not a malicious guy, but he doesn’t mind doing a little damage if the cause is just. So the 30-year-old stand-up comic has no qualms about kneecapping the badass film genre known as blaxploitation. The weapon? His own flick, opening next week, I’m Gonna Git You, Sucka. A parody of such crass classics as Superfly and Shaft, Sucka features such outrageous send-ups as a pimp-of-the-year contest and several deaths due to gold-chain overload.
“I wanted to do something that was true to its ethnicity but not restricted to it,” says Wayans, who not only stars in Sucka but also wrote and directed it. “That’s important to me as a black filmmaker because I feel that our society is painted to be more racist than it is. I think black exploitation movies occurred because blacks didn’t have control of the images they were portraying. My film doesn’t have the star value of an Eddie Murphy movie, but it has the same kind of approach in that everybody can relate to it.”
That’s not just an exercise in name-dropping. Wayans co-produced and co-wrote Raw, Murphy’s smash-hit concert film. He, Murphy, comic Arsenio Hall and filmmaker Robert (Hollywood Shuffle) Townsend are Hollywood’s “Black Pack”—the name Murphy gave the group of hard-charging young entertainers who also happen to be best friends.
Wayans, the second oldest of 10 children, grew up in the Fulton housing projects in Manhattan’s Chelsea district. His father markets novelty items, and his mother is a social worker. “All us kids used to eat together,” he recalls. “We’d bounce jokes off each other—and sometimes food.”
Wayans studied engineering at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute but spent more time honing comedy routines on campus. Inspired by watching Richard Pryor (“He showed me what I wanted to do”), he left school in his senior year and returned to do stand-up in New York. That was where he met Town-send, with whom he co-wrote and acted in Hollywood Shuffle, and Murphy.
These days, Wayans can often be found fixing his two-bedroom house in L.A. He lives alone, though he does have a steady—Carolyn Christiano, a supermarket cashier. “She keeps me into reality,” he says. For now, he plans to stay married only to his work. “When you get married, you should be old enough to tell the difference between lust and love. Right now,” he says, laughing, “I’m not that mature.”