The perspective of In Living Color, the Fox network’s Emmy Award-winning in-your-face comedy series, is defiantly but slyly black. And the wildly irreverent material dished out each week by Keenen Ivory Wayans, Color’s 32-year-old mastermind (and a onetime McDonald’s manager), is strictly equal-opportunity offense. So it is no accident that, in the tradition of Saturday Night Live and Laugh-In, the upstart Color is the groundbreaking network comedy of the ’90s. “My objective,” Wayans declares, “was to stretch the parameters as far as they could go.”
Color Wayans tickled pink by the show’s success. And color Fox, whose advertisers love its healthy Nielsen rating and young demographics, green (as in big bucks); and color a minority of outraged viewers, who think the show goes too far, red. Some gay viewers, for example, have blasted a recurring skit featuring two flamingly gay film critics. The skewering of icons such as Jesse Jackson, Arsenio Hall, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston has generated grumblings among blacks. And last September, Wayans himself became a target: Actress Kim Coles was fired from the show amid rumors (vehemently denied) that she and Wayans were having an affair.
For the most part, though, Harlem native Wayans has deftly dodged the darts thrown his way. The second oldest of a family of 10 (brothers Damon, 30, and Shawn, 19, and sister Kim, in her late 20s, are Color regulars), he wants next to be a mogul “along the lines of Spielberg and Spelling.” He isn’t through changing Color. “If I had my way,” he says, “it would be a lot racier.” That could turn his critics absolutely purple.