What the Hell Happened to Damon Wayans?
Damon Wayans is part of a big family. Several members of the Wayans family have had successful careers in entertainment. After being fired from Saturday Night Live, Wayans co-created In Living Color with his brother, Keenen. The upstart sketch show was a hit and Damon Wayans was the breakout star. He left the show to pursue a movie career. But his career on the big screen never gelled. Eventually, Wayans retreated to TV in the form of a safe sitcom. These days, Wayans is in danger of being eclipsed by his son, Damon Wayans Jr.
What the hell happened?
Wayans began doing stand-up in 1982. Two years later, he landed a minor but memorable role in action-comedy classic, Beverly Hills Cop. Wayans played the attendant at the fancy buffet who gives Eddie Murphy the bananas which he puts in the tailpipe.
Wayans’ role is small. It’s miniscule. But his first movie is arguably the best movie of his career.
In 1985, Wayans landed every comedic actor’s dream job. He was a featured player on Saturday Night Live. If you don’t remember Wayans on SNL it’s probably because he got himself fired after only seven episodes. During that time, Wayans grew increasingly frustrated feeling that his sketches were not given consideration. Tired of being a background player, he decided to deviate from the script in a sketch called Monopoly Man (pictured above). Instead of playing his part as written, Wayans improvised. He went showy and effeminate. Lorne Michaels fired Wayans after the show. According to Wayans:
What was I supposed to do? I was supposed to just be a cop. But I was frustrated, because I think Lorne Michaels thought he was protecting me by not putting me out there, letting me do my thing. So I started walking around wearing dark shades. When they asked me what was wrong, I said, “It’s too white in here, it hurts my eyes.” I was really on the verge of a nervous breakdown, or just taking a gun and killing everybody.
Fortunately, Wayans survived his SNL experience. In 1987, he appeared in minor roles in film and TV. He played a bodyguard in Robert Townsend’s satire, Hollywood Shuffle. Wayans’ brother Keenen had a larger supporting role. Damon Wayans also played a firefighter in the Steve Martin-Daryl Hannah comedy, Roxeanne.
Wayans also appeared on an episode of the TV show, A Different World. It was during the first season when the Cosby Show spin-off still starred Lisa Bonet. Marisa Tomei was also a regular that season. Keenen appeared in the episode in a larger role.
Wayans continued appear in small film and TV roles. In 1988, he played T-Bone in the LA gang drama, Colors.
Colors was directed by Dennis Hopper and starred Sean Penn and Robert Duvall.