Keenen Ivory Wayans Biography

(Actor, Comedian and Filmmaker Known for His Comedy Series, ‘In Living Color’, and the Film ‘Hollywood Shuffle’)

Birthday: June 8, 1958 (Gemini)

Born In: Harlem, New York, United States

Keenen Ivory Wayans is a famous American actor, comedian and filmmaker. His first major contribution to show business was when he played host and co-creator of the 1990 – 1994 Fox sketch comedy series, ‘In Living Colour’. Ever since he has produced, written and directed a number of films including ‘Hollywood Shuffle’ and ‘Scary Movie 2000’. He hosted the talk show ‘The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show’ from 1997 to 1998 and most recently was a judge for the eighth season of ‘Last Comic Standing’. He is the pioneer of the famous Wayans family of entertainment and is responsible for introducing his siblings to show business. Most of his productions portray the lives of oppressed black people in America and one or more of his brothers or sisters have appeared along with him on the sets. He has rightly been described as a role model for young black Americans who want to make a name for themselves in comedy and show business. He is a strict vegetarian and promoter of healthy living.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Keenen Ivory Desuma Wayans

Age: 65 Years, 65 Year Old Males


Spouse/Ex-: Daphne Polk (2001-2004)

father: Howell Stouten Wayans

mother: Elvira Alethia (Green)

siblings: Damon Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans

children: Bella Wayans (born 2001), Daphne Ivory Wayans (born 2003), Jolie Ivory Imani Wayans (born 1992), Jr. (born 1998), Keenen Ivory Wayans, Nala Wayans (born 1996)

Born Country: United States

African Americans African American Men

Ancestry: Malagasy American

Notable Alumni: Tuskegee University

City: Harlem, New York

U.S. State: New Yorkers, African-American From New Yorkers

More Facts

education: Tuskegee University

Childhood & Early Life
Wayans was born on June 8, 1958 in Harlem, New York City, to Howell Stouten and Elvira Alethia Wayans as the second child of ten children. His father was a devout Jehovah’s Witness who managed a supermarket and his mother was a social worker and homemaker.
Because of their religious belief, his parents did not allow Wayans and his siblings to mix with other children in the neighbourhood. Hence, the family entertained each other through their own comedy at the dining table. This further helped the family to be closely knit to each other.
He grew up in Manhattan’s Fulton housing projects and attended Seward Park High School. He subsequently joined Tuskegee University on an engineering scholarship. Throughout his early days he experienced racial discrimination that had an impact on his work. During his high school years he worked in McDonald’s and helped in supporting his large family.
He was influenced by Richard Pryor and wanted to become a comedian from a young age. His friends in college knew him as an entertainer and he dropped out of engineering one semester before completing his majors in order to focus on his ambition of becoming a full-time stand up comedian.
He met Robert Townsend, who was his early mentor, while performing at the Improv in New York. He did not have much success in New York so he moved to Los Angles in 1980 to break into the film and television world and started working as a full time actor. His first regular role was as a soldier who wants to become a professional boxer in the television serial ‘For Love and Honour’.
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In the mid 80s he met fellow comedian Eddie Murphy while doing stand up comedy at the famous comedy club, The Improv, and collaborated with him to write ‘Eddie Murphy Raw’. In 1988 he released his first film ‘I’m Gonna Git You Sucka,’ which was a parody on the 1970s blaxploitation. He acted in, directed and produced the film himself.
His first release got him excellent reviews from critiques, as a result of which he caught the attention of FOX network to be given his own comedy show, ‘In Living Colour’, to create and produce in 1990. The show was the first of its kind on FOX network and proved to be a great success.
His show helped him launch the careers of his siblings Damon, Shawn, Marion and Kim. Other aspiring comedians at that time like Jim Carrey, Rosie Perez, Jamie Foxx and David Alan Grier were also part of his show.
In 1994, he left his show to concentrate on films. He wrote, directed, produced and starred in the comic film ‘A Low Down Dirty Shame’ as private investigator, Andre Shame. He later took on a more serious role and acted in ‘Glimmer Man’ (1996) and ‘Most Wanted (1997).
In 1997, he returned to television to host and produce his own late night show, ‘The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show’. He also acted in and directed the comedy ‘Scary Movie (2000), the success of which made him the highest – grossing African-American director of all time.
‘Scary Movie 2’ (2001) was a sequel to ‘Scary Movie’ which was equally successful. Wayans then returned to television with the sitcom ‘My Wife and Kids’, which ran on ABC from 2001 to 2005.
His latest projects include ‘White Chicks’, the sequel ‘White Chicks 2’ and the parody ‘Dance Flick’ which he directed and co-wrote with his brothers.
In 2006, he with his two brothers teamed up to make the comedy ‘Little Man’ which is a remake of ‘Clifford’ that portrays the adult in a child’s body concept.
Major Works
Wayans is a great writer, actor, director and producer. His major success in films include the comic ‘Star 80’ (1983), ‘Hollywood Shuffle’ (1987), ‘A Low Down Dirty Shame’ (1994), ‘Most Wanted’ (1997) and ‘Scary Movies’ (2000).
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He earned credits as a writer / producer / director in ‘Eddie Murphy Raw’ (1987), ‘I’m Gonna Git You Sucka’ (1988), ‘The Five Heartbeats’ (1991), ‘The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show’ (1997), ‘White Chicks’ (2004) and ‘Little Man’ (2006).
In 2014, Wayans was a judge for the eighth season of the show ‘Last Comic Standing’.
Awards & Achievements
He received the ‘Entertainment Icon Award’ at the 15th Annual American Black Film Festival in July 2011.
He appeared in the documentary ‘The Black List Volume One (2008), which covered interviews with influential black Americans.
His comedy show ‘In Living Colour’ (1990) on FOX network won him an Emmy for outstanding variety, music and comedy after being on air for a season.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Daphne Polk in Jun 2001 and filed for divorce in April 2004. He has three daughters and a son from his marriage. Though they are separated, they remain close friends and are devoted to their children.
He has been in a long term relationship with actress Brittany Daniel after his divorce. He lives in Los Angeles, works out regularly with weights, enjoys chess and is a member of both the Screen Actors Guild and Directors Guild.
Wayans is a pure vegetarian and appeared in a ‘Do it for Someone You Love’ campaign to promote healthy living.
In an interview he has said that he prefers directing small budget films. He remarked that he would never get tired of doing comedy but took to writing and directing only due to scarcity of work.
Keenen has a net worth estimated to be $65 million.

Keenen Ivory Wayans Movies

1. Eddie Murphy: Raw (1987)

  (Documentary, Comedy)

2. The Five Heartbeats (1991)

  (Music, Drama)

3. Star 80 (1983)

  (Drama, Biography)

4. Hollywood Shuffle (1987)


5. Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood (1996)

  (Comedy, Crime)

6. I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988)

  (Crime, Action, Comedy)

7. Scary Movie (2000)


8. A Low Down Dirty Shame (1994)

  (Crime, Action, Comedy)

9. Most Wanted (1997)

  (Thriller, Action)

10. White Chicks (2004)

  (Crime, Comedy)


Primetime Emmy Awards
1990 Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series In Living Color (1990)

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