May 20, 1999
(CNN) -- The following is an edited transcript of a chat with comedian/actor Damon Wayans, author of "Bootleg," held May 20, 1999. Wayans joined us on the phone from New York.
Chat Moderator: Welcome to Chat, Damon Wayans. Thank you for joining us today!
Damon Wayans: Thanks! I hope I'm funny!
Chat Moderator: Tell us a little bit about the book.
Damon Wayans: "Bootleg" is a smorgasbord of observations, monologues, sketches and anecdotes from my life.
Chat Moderator: What prompted you to write this book?
Damon Wayans: I wanted to see if I could spell! Actually, I wanted a new challenge, to see if I could take stand-up and make it the written word. It was really kind of hard to do.
Chat Participant <Philo>: I think I saw you on HBO. It was a "killer"!
Damon Wayans: Thank you, Philo!
Chat Participant <Ron_M>: Is this your first book?
Damon Wayans: Yes, this is my first book, Ron. Hopefully it won't be my last due to poor book sales!
Chat Moderator: Honesty and communication seem to be big themes in your book.
Damon Wayans: Communication is what I think women really embrace. It sounds like an argument to a guy, but I think that is important. What I am learning is that it is a word that men really need to understand.
Chat Participant <stream>: How long did it take you to write the book?
Damon Wayans: About six months. And what I did was do stand-up, and just talk and record it, and then I had somebody just transcribe the tapes.
Chat Participant <Ron_M>: You mention a handicap -- a limp -- was this corrected somehow, or do you just hide it very well?
Damon Wayans: It was corrected, but I still live with it. But I'm in constant pain. It's kind of like having a toothache in your foot, and it's just something you live with. There are a lot of things I can't do. I don't run. Like I wish I could jump.
Chat Participant <milob>: Damon Wayans, you are a very talented person. Did you find writing a book harder than, say, doing comedy on your show?
Damon Wayans: It's definitely a challenge, because you don't have the luxury of the visual, and you have to create the visual with the verbal, by using words.
Chat Participant <Voss>: How do you find writing comedy in a book different from live comedy?
Damon Wayans: The big difference is when I am on stage, and I can make a face and communicate what I want to say and get the laugh. I can do a pratfall, but you can't do that in the book. You just have you know say that the person fell down and then describe it in a way that is funny.
Chat Participant <Cliff>: Do you think writing a book is a new turn in your career, such as breaking out into dramatic acting?
Damon Wayans: Well, it's something that I enjoyed doing. I hope to write more books, but I don't know. I just did it because I could. The opportunity was there. Originally, I was going to title the book "Relationshit," and then I worked things out with my wife and started to communicate.
Chat Participant <neumann>: Does the book explain exactly why "Homey Don't Play Dat"?
Damon Wayans: No. You know, it's funny about Homey the Clown, how people would read stuff into what I was saying. Angry cats would come up to me and say, "I dig watcha saying with the clown," "with the ring around 'cha mouth like ya took a bite out o' whitey's ass," "I dig that ... it's deep." I didn't even deal with the characters in "In Living Color" in the book. Maybe Handi-Man, but that was more me talking about my handicap.
Chat Participant <Ron_M>: I think the funniest comedy sketch I've ever seen was "Men on Football" -- who was the inspiration for that character? Have you ever heard complaints about your portrayal of gay characters?
Damon Wayans: This guy, Sandy Frank, actually came up with the idea for "Men on Football," but the character is based on this guy that I grew up with named Johnny Redman, who was like the first kid I ever knew who was gay. He was, like, gay in the sixth grade. He was out. He thought everybody else was gay.
Chat Participant <Voss>: What college did you go to?
Damon Wayans: I went to Street University. I actually got thrown out of school in the 10th grade. I went to three different high schools before they said, "Why don't you try getting a GED"? I did not go to college.
Chat Moderator: What do you think is the most important point you make in the book?
Damon Wayans: Probably the stuff about marriage and sacrifice. That section on family is probably the most important. There are jokes in there, but there is a lot of truth, too. Maybe even some advice, like the penis worship program.
Chat Participant <Loren>: Do you have any plans for a new TV series?
Damon Wayans: No, I'm through with TV for a while. It is too limiting. The networks are run by lawyers and accountants and people who don't really understand creativity. All they know is numbers. It's just not really a great place for an artist to be. You are selling soap.
Chat Participant <Cliff>: Have you found yourself becoming a more spiritually aware person in recent years?
Damon Wayans: Yes, you can't help but look around at what goes around in the world and not look up in the sky and ask why. And hope that there is something better out there. Bigger and better.
Chat Moderator: How do you think the book will be received?
Damon Wayans: Hopefully people will read it and laugh. They will think it outrageous at times, candid at times. I'm sure everybody who reads the book from cover to cover will find something there that will make them laugh out loud. That's what I guarantee. I think it is definitely very relatable.
Chat Participant <milob>: Do you prefer writing to performing?
Damon Wayans: No, I live to perform. My wife would dispute that. There's nothing like being on stage.
Chat Participant <neumann>: Has the rest of your family read the book, and how was it received?
Damon Wayans: No, there is no support in the Wayans family. Actually my brothers have been really busy.... They've seen my stand-up, and I'm sure they know how sick and twisted I can be. Shawn read some of it.
Chat Moderator: What is it like coming from a family of people in the business?
Damon Wayans: My family is my toughest critic, so if my family laughs, it's funny.... That's my greatest asset, the fact that I have siblings who are going through the same struggles that I'm going through, who can say, "Relax ... put the crack pipe down ... it's not that bad." Because I truly believe that this business is designed to drive you insane.
Chat Participant <CitizenNancy>: Do you think you'll do any more movies after the book comes out?
Damon Wayans: Definitely. I am going to do a stand-up tour called "Bootleg" starting in San Antonio June 11, and I'm going to shoot the stand-up performance as in a concert film. Then I wrote a movie, which I might direct.
Chat Participant <Chocolate>: Just wanted to say that I'm all the way from Zimbabwe, and you are well received there.
Damon Wayans: Click click click.
Chat Moderator: What is life like off the road?
Damon Wayans: Pretty sedate ... father and husband, kind of boring, take the kids to school, discipline them, all that boring stuff we have to do in life.
Chat Moderator: How did fatherhood change you and your work?
Damon Wayans: Definitely gave me more material! You know, you have a sense of responsibility, because you have to set an example, so I think it made me mature, in terms of my point of view!
Chat Moderator: Are your kids aware of what you do on stage?
Damon Wayans: My sons are now at the age where they can come to a show. They see all my stand-up specials. They know the jokes that I do about them. I have to clear it with them at first. They were in the intro of one of my specials. I've taken them on stage a couple of times. They were actually funnier than me, so now I say, 'You guys stay home."
Chat Participant <CitizenNancy>: "Saturday Night Live" likes to make movies out of its characters. Do you think you would do that with Handi-Man or Homey?
Damon Wayans: I would love to. I should have done Handi-Man instead of Blankman in hindsight. It might have made more than $5 at the box office.
Chat Moderator: You seem to have a sense of humor about yourself. You mention Blankman a lot in the book.
Damon Wayans: Yeah, I have to be able to laugh at myself. Any true comedian has to be honest with himself. And then I think it's important to know how people perceive you, vs. how you perceive yourself. It keeps you grounded! Also, it takes away the power of someone saying, 'Oh, your movie sucks."
Chat Participant <Ron_M>: Do you have a Web site? If so, can we get tour information there?
Damon Wayans: No, but I'm going to start one. Seeing all these guys make money, I have a lot of stuff I want to sell on the Internet.
Chat Participant <Ron_M>: OK, Damon -- let me do your Web site -- we can call it homey.com!
Damon Wayans: I like that!
Chat Participant <Ron_M>: Or maybe DamonOnMen.com!
Chat Participant <Howard>: Do you stay in contact with Jim Carrey?
Damon Wayans: I recently saw him while he was shooting the Andy Kaufman movie. I see him once in a while. We're really good friends. It's just that he's working all the time, and I'm working all the time.
Chat Moderator: Who are your favorite people to work with?
Damon Wayans: My family first. All of the guys from "In Living Color." I can't believe we got paid for that. I like anybody who is funny and who is fun, going to go with the flow. I love to improvise when I work.
Chat Moderator: What was it like to have the burst of success you had with "In Living Color"?
Damon Wayans: I was doing that before "In Living Color." I think the shock of everybody knowing me was very intense for me. You know, walking down the street and having everybody going "DAMON" and you say, "Yes, stranger"? That tripped me out for a while!
Chat Participant <neumann>: Damon, do you ever foresee an "In Living Color" reunion episode?
Damon Wayans: No. What planet do you pay Jim Carrey to do that?
Chat Participant <Howard>: Was there any friction over on-air time with your family members when you were working on TV together?
Damon Wayans: No, my family has this kind of like Mafia mentality, which is we respect the hierarchy, and we all move as a team. If you're not with us, you're against us.
Chat Participant <miande>: I read an excerpt from the book and thought it was hilarious!
Damon Wayans: Thank you miande!
Chat Participant <Voss>: Have you thought about trying for more dramatic roles?
Damon Wayans: Yes, I just did this little independent film, which means I didn't get paid anything. It's a drama with a little comedy twist. It's about an idiot savant who sings opera and lives in Harlem and he runs away from home and ends up in West Fourth Street Park for money, and I'm the guy who tries to come into his life and manage him, you know, street hustler. It's called Harlem Aria. And that will be on video next to Blankman soon! Blankman is my favorite movie. Maybe because people rejected it.
Chat Participant <CitizenNancy>: What actor would you like to be in a movie with that you haven't acted with before?
Damon Wayans: I love DeNiro, Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Denzel, Eddie Murphy. There's a bunch of people.
Chat Participant <Demetrius>: Are you amazed at how black comedians are able to take what is considered everyday life for black folk and make money from it in the mainstream? I love your jokes and all, but I can remember thinking, "If I had known I could have made money jokin' on lil' Willie's bad foot, I could have been in show bidness!"
Damon Wayans: I'm amazed, yeah, but at the same time, I think it's really simple. It's just belief in yourself.
Chat Moderator: How do you feel black comedy is different from white comedy?
Damon Wayans: I think it's probably a lot less intellectual and a lot more personal. Black people usually don't do observational humor. It's never, "Have you noticed 'crack head'?" It's more about what's going on in their lives, their family. It's stuff that is very reliable on a cultural level. White comedians have the opportunity to be more diverse; they can be silly, or goofy, or nerdy, or intellectual and still be embraced. There are no silly black comedians. We reject them.
Chat Participant <J_B>: What type of role would you like to act out next?
Damon Wayans: I want to play Richard Pryor in his life story.
Chat Moderator: What kind of impact did Richard Pryor have on you?
Damon Wayans: I think Pryor is the true pioneer of black comedy as it is today. As a little boy, I used to risk getting a spanking to listen to his albums. And I was amazed at the things he was saying. It was kind of like Martin Luther King with punch lines.
Chat Participant <Chocolate>: Who is the best comedian in your opinion, white or black?
Damon Wayans: Richard Pryor. He revealed his soul. The mark of a true comedian is how much information does the audience know about you, based on your material? Can they piece together your whole life? That's genius.
Chat Moderator: Who are some of your other influences?
Damon Wayans: Eddie Murphy. When I was younger, Flip Wilson, Redd Foxx, Red Skelton, Jackie Gleason, Lucille Ball. I always wanted to be a redhead. Oh, definitely Bill Cosby. But more Fat Albert, that was more relatable to me. Cosby was very family-oriented in terms of his humor, and because he didn't use profanity and people didn't have to sneak to listen to it, it didn't have the same kind of mystique. But now that I'm a father and a husband, I truly believe he is beyond brilliant. And also, his commitment to not use profanity amazes me.
Chat Moderator: Did you ever want to do anything else besides perform?
Damon Wayans: Be a pimp. That was my goal in life at a young age. I got beat up by a girl, so that changed my goal.
Chat Participant <Chocolate>: Surely it is harder to be funny without using profanity.
Damon Wayans: Yeah, it is a challenge, and I think in today's world, where we are so desensitized in terms of what we see on the news, and in life, profanity helps to get people's attention, because it plays into the shock that we already live under.
Chat Participant <funnyguy>: Damon, do you prefer to do stand-up or sketch comedy?
Damon Wayans: Depends on how funny the sketch is, but stand-up for me is therapeutic. I'd probably rather do stand-up.
Chat Participant <Pame5Ashe>: How many Wayans are there exactly?
Damon Wayans: 705 and my mother is pregnant again. No, just kidding. There are 10 children, and we have a tribe of nieces and nephews and pets.
Chat Moderator: How do you feel about your kids going in the business? Do they show any interest?
Damon Wayans: Definitely. My oldest son wants to be an animator. He makes his own cartoons. He is really talented. I am sending both of them to Disney's animation summer camp. My youngest son is Marlin reincarnated. He is so funny. A human cartoon.
Chat Participant <Candyce>: Any plans to do some reporting from the political conventions? I'd love to see Homey interview Pat Buchanan.
Damon Wayans: That's funny, but I'm very apolitical. I don't believe in politics. I think it is stupid. I haven't seen it work for everybody, so I can't get with it.
Chat Participant <Fred>: What happened to the prime-time drama that you were involved in last season? Why was it canceled?
Damon Wayans: Politics. I made a couple of enemies over at Fox, being the passionate artist, and they wanted to put me in check.
Chat Participant <Bee>: What's your favorite knock-knock joke?
Damon Wayans: I don't know. Something my daughter told me when she was about 2 years old, and it really didn't have a punch line. I can't remember, but it was just the fact that she said it.
Chat Participant <SusieSouth>: Damon, we need to know: boxers or briefs?
Damon Wayans: Boxers (I had to look down to see what I got on!) or the occasional thong. Oh, that's so disgusting.
Chat Moderator: Any more books in your future? And if so, what topics do you plan on tackling next?
Damon Wayans: I'll probably do a children's book. I have some ideas, but I'm not going to tell them here, otherwise my book will be out without my name on it!
Chat Participant <Fred>: Do the networks still believe that America is not ready for African-American dramatic programs?
Damon Wayans: Yeah, I believe that they are racist. I also believe that they don't want to. It's not so much that they can't put one on. They just don't want to. There's such a wealth of talent out there, there's no reason why you can't just take something like "Law and Order" and make it black people. Who is to say that a well-written show like that wouldn't work with all black actors?
Chat Participant <turkee>: What do you consider your first professional comic performance, and how did it go?
Damon Wayans: "Beverly Hills Cop." I played the banana man. I was the guy that gave Eddie Murphy some bananas, and it got a huge laugh. Eddie was the guy that actually gave me that part in the movie.
Chat Participant <Ron_M>: Is that something Eddie Murphy does often -- help young actors get a break?
Damon Wayans: He used to, and I think he did again with "Life." I think Eddie appreciates anybody who is funny, and he knows that he is going to be the funniest man on campus no matter what. He's very giving in that respect.
Chat Moderator: Which authors do you like to read?
Damon Wayans: I love James Baldwin. I like some of Ayn Rand. There's so many. Langston Hughes. Jerzy Kosinski. I read some of everything.
Chat Participant <CitizenNancy>: What was your most embarrassing moment in stand-up?
Damon Wayans: My first time on stage! I took my jacket off and threw it out across the room with all my jokes in the pocket, and I was too embarrassed to go retrieve it!
Chat Participant <Bee>: Can we get a snap up for the chat room?
Damon Wayans: This chat room gets two snaps and a dot com.
Chat Participant <Fred>: How do you like this Internet chat stuff anyway, Damon?
Damon Wayans: I think it's interesting. I still amazes me how many people are actually sitting in front of their computers on this information highway. I'm not a big Internet person myself. I use it if I want to do research but have never just gone into a chat room just to talk to anybody.
Chat Participant <Pame5Ashe>: Wait! Damon is the GREAT looking Wayan; he's the cute one!
Damon Wayans: That's Keenan. He stole my look.
Chat Participant <Pame5Ashe>: Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
Damon Wayans: Fat and retired! In search of a punch line. In five years, probably owning my own studio. It will be a small one, but it will be mine.
Chat Moderator: What changes would you like to see in the entertainment field?
Damon Wayans: I'd like to get back to making movies about people, and stop chasing these box office blockbusters, because you can't really determine what's going to be a hit, and the last five years has proved that Hollywood doesn't have a clue. All the films that have won Oscars were independent films.
Chat Participant <CitizenNancy>: Do you plan on seeing this new "Star Wars" thing?
Damon Wayans: no. I've never seen a "Star Wars" movie from start to finish. I'm too cynical for that stuff. There were no robots in the projects I grew up with. But we had roaches and rats. So if I see them on a movie screen, I'll go see that.
Chat Moderator: Is all of your material original, or do you work with writers?
Damon Wayans: I've had people give me ideas for different tags or punch lines, but I could never sit down with someone and have them write something for me to perform as a stand-up comedian. It's an insult to my gift. I'd rather be known as unfunny.
Chat Participant <turkee>: Where do you find inspiration for humor? Is there a theme that you think makes people laugh?
Damon Wayans: I think make people make people laugh. I think people are the most wonderful and complicated thing on the planet. They just take themselves so serious sometimes. And that's where all the comedy is: in our imperfections. That's why I love to create characters.
Chat Participant <Will>: Do you want to be thought of as an actor or a comedian?
Damon Wayans: A great comedian. Actors are boring.
Chat Participant <Pame5Ashe>: Mr. Wayans, write a short synopsis of what kind of movie you'd want to see. And who would be the stars?
Damon Wayans: No, I'm not going to do that, because you may steal my idea! And I'll look up tomorrow and see that it will be the biggest grossing movie in film history!
Chat Participant <sambrendan>: Damon, how much do you miss "In Living Color" and working with your family?
Damon Wayans: Yes, I wish that "In Living Color" was still on, just so we could have fun with what is going on in the world. We missed OJ, Michael Jackson having a son, Gary Coleman beating somebody up, Bob Dole's arm.
Chat Participant <PanchoVilla>: Was your house just crazy growing up with all those Wayans?
Damon Wayans: Yea, crazy in a healthy way. Always laughing, fun, arguments, but all that taught us how to get along with any kind of personality.
Chat Moderator: Any final comments for us before we end the chat?
Damon Wayans: Buy the book! It was great doing this. I enjoyed doing it.
Chat Moderator: Thank you for joining us today, Damon. Thank you, chatters, for the great questions.
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