Keenan Ivory Wayans: “Comedy Is A Mask For Pain”

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Some may say Keenan Ivory Wayans is a comedic genius. Being that he comes from one of the largest successful comedy families in history, they would probably be right. Wayans is probably best known for his role as writer, producer, director and actor on the hit TV series, In Living Color, but Wayans also had in hand in some of comedy’s best shows. He co-produced and co-wrote Eddie Murphy’s Raw, Hollywood Shuffle, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, the Scary Movie series, White Chicks, and much more.

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.”

That was the Wayans form of entertainment. Their parents brought home only $12,000 a year with 10 kids. To break that down that was about 1,000 a year for every member of the house. That includes food, shelter, schooling, etc. So with no money, barely any food and a pocketful of hope, the Wayans household was filled with jokes to keep from crying. “I think what people don’t understand is that comedy is a mask for pain,” Keenen said. “People who are innately funny are innately disturbed.”

“When we were doing stand up, there was only a handful of African-American comedians,” remembers Wayans. “Now, we’ve had an explosion of African-American comedians. We have Aisha Tyler and Sheryl Underwood on the same show. You’ve got Dave Chappelle and Kevin Hart. Everybody is so different in their approach, and in their intellect, and their experiences. I think it really is a great time for comedy in general, but especially black comedy.”

Even though he has a lot of wins under his belt, Wayans is also quick to share that this comedy thing takes time.

“A comedian, or any artist, needs their time to develop what they are doing. There has to be some respect for the art form and when it’s allowed to be seen.”

In the beginning, Wayans ate, drank and slept comedy. In recent years, food has been a key part of Keenan’s life, as he has switched to vegetarianism for over a decade. He cites his healthy diet to his fit body.

In a public service announcement, the 60-year-old Keenan even showed his affinity for his healthy diet. “You know, my health is no laughing matter. My vegetarian diet helps me stay healthy and fit. Not just for myself, but for the ones I love. From pasta primavera, a hearty vegetable soup, or my mother’s red beans and rice.  Delicious and good for you. That’s no joke. Tonight, make it vegetarian.”

Taking Keenan’s suggestion to heart, below is a delicious red beans and rice recipe that may be able to rival his mom’s Vegetarian Red Beans & Rice.

Here’s her secret down-home recipe he wants to share with his extended family (you):

1 pound dried red beans, sorted through for stones
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 medium carrots, peeled, 1/2-inch dice
2 celery stalks, 1/2-inch dice
1 large sweet onion, 1/2-inch dice
1 medium red bell pepper, 1/2-inch dice