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In Living Color is an American sketch comedy television series that originally ran on Fox from April 15, 1990[1] to May 19, 1994. Keenen Ivory Wayans created, wrote and starred in the program. The show was produced by Ivory Way Productions in association with 20th Century Fox Television and was taped at stage 7 at the Fox Television Center on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California.

The title of the series was inspired by the NBC announcement of broadcasts being presented "in living color" during the 1960s, prior to mainstream color television. It also refers to the fact that most of the show's cast was black, unlike other sketch comedy shows such as Saturday Night Live whose casts are mostly white. It was controversial due to the Wayans' decision to portray black humor from the ghetto in a time when mainstream American tastes regarding black comedy had been set by more upscale shows such as The Cosby Show, causing an eventual feud for control between Fox executives and the Wayans.

Other members of the Wayans family—Damon, Kim, Shawn, and Marlon—had regular roles, while brother Dwayne frequently appeared as an extra. The show also starred the rising stand-up comic/actor Jim Carrey alongside previously unknown actor/comedians Jamie Foxx, Tommy Davidson, David Alan Grier, and T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh. Additionally the show introduced Carrie Ann Inaba and Jennifer Lopez as members of In Living Color's dance troupe The Fly Girls, with actress Rosie Perez serving as choreographer. The show launched the careers of Carrey, Foxx, Davidson, Grier, Keymáh, Inaba and Lopez, and is credited with bringing the Wayans family to a higher level of fame as well. It was immensely popular in its first two seasons, capturing more than a 10-point Nielsen rating; in the third and fourth seasons, ratings faltered as the Wayans brothers fell out with Fox network leadership over creative control and rights.

The series won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series in 1990. The series gained international prominence for its bold move and its all-time high ratings gained by airing a live, special episode as a counterprogram for the halftime show of U.S. leader CBS's live telecast of Super Bowl XXVI, prompting the National Football League to book A-list acts for future game entertainment, starting with Michael Jackson the following year.[2] In 2018, a history of the show, Homey Don't Play That! by David Peisner, was released by 37 INK, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

Description and history

Early history

Following Keenen Ivory Wayans' success with Hollywood Shuffle and I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, Fox Broadcasting Company approached Wayans to offer him his own show.[3] Wayans wanted to produce a variety show similar to Saturday Night Live, but with a cast of people of color that took chances with its content.[4] Fox gave Wayans a lot of freedom with the show, although Fox executives were a bit concerned about the show's content prior to its television debut.[3]

In announcing its debut, Fox described In Living Color as a "contemporary comedy variety show".[5] In its preview, the Christian Science Monitor warned that its, "raw tone may offend some, but it does allow a talented troupe to experiment with black themes in a Saturday Night Live-ish format."[6] Keenen Ivory Wayans said, "I wanted to do a show that reflects different points of view. We've added an Asian and a Hispanic minority to the show. We're trying in some way to represent all the voices. ... Minority talent is not in the system and you have to go outside. We found Crystal doing her act in the lobby of a theater in Chicago. We went beyond the Comedy Stores and Improvs, which are not showcase places for minorities."[1]

The first episode aired on Sunday, April 15, 1990, following an episode of Married... with Children.[1] The first episode was watched by 22.7 million people,[7] making it the 29th top show for the week.[8]

The Miami Herald said the show was as "smart and saucy as it is self-aware" and "audacious and frequently tasteless, but terrific fun".[9] The Philadelphia Inquirer called it "the fastest, funniest half-hour in a long time".[10] The Seattle Times said it had "the free-wheeling, pointed sense of humor that connects with a large slice of today's audience".[11] The Columbus Dispatch described it as a "marvelously inventive" show that has "catapulted television back to the cutting edge".[12]

Description

The sketch comedy show helped launch the careers of comedians/actors Jim Carrey (then credited as "James Carrey"), one of only two white members of the original cast; Jamie Foxx, who joined the cast in the third season; and David Alan Grier (an established theater actor who had worked in Keenen Ivory Wayans' 1988 motion picture I'm Gonna Git You Sucka).

The series strove to produce comedy with a strong emphasis on modern blacksubject matter. It became renowned for parody, especially of race relations in the United States. For instance, Carrey was frequently used to ridicule white musicians such as Snow and Vanilla Ice, who performed in genres more commonly associated with black people. The Wayans themselves often played exaggerated black ghetto stereotypes for humor and effect. A sketch parodying Soul Train mocked the show as Old Train, suggesting the show (along with its host, Don Cornelius) was out of touch and only appealed to the elderly and the dead. When asked about the show's use of stereotypes of black culture for comedy, Wayans said, "Half of comedy is making fun of stereotypes. They only get critical when I do it. Woody Allen has been having fun with his culture for years, and no one says anything about it. Martin Scorsese, his films basically deal with the Italian community, and no one ever says anything to him. John Hughes, all of his films parody upscale white suburban life. Nobody says anything to him. When I do it, then all of a sudden it becomes a racial issue. You know what I mean? It's my culture, and I'm entitled to poke fun at the stereotypes that I didn't create in the first place. I don't even concern myself with that type of criticism, because it's racist in itself."[13]

Prominent skits:

  • "The Homeboy Shopping Network", featuring Damon and Keenan as streetwise criminals operating an unlicensed, Home Shopping Network-style shopping network out of the back of their van to sell stolen goods.
  • "Fire Marshal Bill", featuring Carrey as an incompetent, dangerously inept fire marshal.
  • "Men on Film", featuring Damon and Grier as effeminate black film critics with exaggerated physical motions, such as "two snaps up".
  • "Homey D. Clown", featuring Damon as a misanthropic, verbally abusive clowndoing demeaning entertainment gigs for low pay as part of his prison release program.
  • "East Hollywood Squares", featuring many of the cast in a ghetto parody of the game show Hollywood Squares.
  • "Benita Buttrell", featuring Kim Wayans as an untrustworthy neighborhood gossip.
  • Parodies of Arsenio Hall (who was popular on his own show at the time) by Keenan Wayans.
  • "Calhoun Tubbs", a blues singer (played by Grier) who sang extremely short songs (about 10 seconds each) at the slightest provocation.

Recurring sketches

A

  • Al MacAfee – A parody of Joe Louis Clark, David Alan Grier plays a strict, yet clueless shop teacher with a bad hip. He is known for working as a Hall Monitor and using a bullhorn to yell at innocent students and teachers, while being oblivious to bad things going on around him, as well as the consistent rejection by a fellow female teacher (played by Kim Wayans), with whom he is infatuated. Various cast members portray students and teachers who put up with Mr. MacAfee.
  • Andrea Dice Clay – Kelly Coffield portrays the female counterpart of raunchy, wise-guy comedian Andrew Dice Clay. With sayings like "Ya think that's easy to do when you're stacked like this?" and "The last time I saw something like that, it had an eraser at the end of it." A related set of skits featured Coffield as "Samantha Kinison," a female version of rage-filled comic Sam Kinison. Kinison himself appeared in a sketch, where Samantha Kinison is revealed to be his wife.
  • Anton Jackson – Damon Wayans portrays a filthy, drunken homeless person (he lives in a corrugated cardboard box) with a unique world view. Amongst other happenings, he appeared in Po' People's Court (taken from The People's Court), had his own Public-access television cable TV show entitled This Ol' Box (taken from This Old House), and had a marriage of convenience. He frequently carried with him his "personal facilities", a jar that he used as a toilet and which seemed to contain a floating pickle and brine (probably meant to represent urine and a turd). The character was also shown on an episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Damon Wayans where Anton testifies in the O.J. Simpson trial, and was also briefly in 1992's Mo' Moneyfeaturing Damon and younger brother Marlon Wayans.
  • Arsenio Hall – The former late-night talk show host is played by Keenen Ivory Wayans, complete with a long index finger and prosthetic rear end. Many of Hall's mannerisms are incorporated into the sketches, including his riotous laugh and dance and the phrases "I haven't seen it yet, but my people tell me..." and "strive to be number one." Hall is also portrayed as being obsessed with his Coming to America co-star and friend, Eddie Murphy.
  • Ace and Main Man – Jamie Foxx and Tommy Davidson play of a pair of bouncers who never seem to let anyone in the club that should be let in, because they don't think it's that person. Often enough, they run into the featured celebrity (Johnny Gill, Tupac Shakur, and others) and proceed to deny them (for the same reasons) to the point where a fight is about to break out. Then, when their boss (or news reporters covering the event) comes out, Tommy's hyper-active character flips on Jamie's character, leaving Jamie to humiliation, and Tommy's character going into the club, only to be immediately kicked out himself.

B

  • Mr. and Ms. Brooks – Kim Wayans and David Alan Grier play a seemingly loving elderly couple who constantly insult and attempt to kill each other. After numerous failed attempts, they resort to attacking each other, such as when Ms. Brooks realizes her husband had laid a trap for her and she pulls out a sword and says "Prepare to Enter the Dragon!", prompting Mr. Brooks to reply "The only thing I see draggin' around here is your saggy breasts!" Their old age causes them to fall to the ground and be unable to get up, when they are interrupted by someone who is under the impression they are about to engage in sexual intercourse. They usually end with "And we stiiiiilll together!"
  • Benita Butrell – Kim Wayans portrays a neighborhood woman who breaks the fourth wall by gossiping directly to the viewer and airing her neighbors' dirty laundry after they pass by her...but she "ain't one to gossip, so you didn't hear that from me." She claims to be very close to a "Miss Jenkins", who ironically is usually the target of her most vicious gossip.
  • The Brothers Brothers – Two brothers both named Tom Brothers (Damon and Keenen Ivory Wayans) who discuss black issues despite not realizing they are black. The pair were a parody of the Smothers Brothers; the original sketch had them hosting their own TV show, akin to The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Some episodes included their double dating, or applying to a country club and failing to notice its clandestine whites-only policy. Each episode ended with the Brothers being handed an acoustic guitar and upright bass and singing a song summing up the racial lesson of their show. The songs were dubbed by the Smothers Brothers themselves.
  • Background Guy – Jim Carrey plays a guy who does wacky funny stuff while news anchors are doing serious news commentaries. In one sketch he was a football player doing goofy antics while sports anchors are doing the halftime report during the Super Bowl; in another that featured the White House Press Secretary, he was doing even more bizarre things such as joining in a kicklineof can-can dancers or recreating George Washington crossing the Delaware River.

C

  • Calhoun Tubbs – David Alan Grier portrays an old bluesman whose songs invariably insult or otherwise offend his audience. Catchphrase: "I wrote a song about it. Like to hear it? Here it go!" (His catchphrase would later be used as the intro to En Vogue's "Free Your Mind".) He always strums the same bar of blues and ends his little songs with a falsetto "Ahhhh haaa", and concludes with a shouted "Thank you very much!". He once claims to have written over 12,000 songs (none of them over 13 seconds long) and sold more records than Michael Jackson and the Beatles in upper New Jersey. David Alan Grier based the character on the famed Ann Arbor, Michigan personality "Shakey Jake" Woods, with whom he was familiar from his days at the University of Michigan.[1]
  • Candy Cane – Alexandra Wentworth portrays a host to a children's television show. Candy has serious adult issues that she brings up on the would-be kiddie show, such as getting stood up on dates and men who had sex with her and never called her back. However, she still manages to smile and present the show like a female Mr. Rogers. Marc Wilmore appears as 'Jurassic Benny' a purple dinosaur (obviously a reference to the famous Barney from Barney & Friends). Candy loves him and Benny often rejects her on camera, then she gets angry and calls him out for him leaving after they've had their most recent affair off screen, to where the actor pulls off the mask and tells her to leave him alone.
  • Carl "The Tooth" Williams – Jamie Foxx portrays a boxer a la Mike Tyson who has lost every bout he's been in. He is always getting beaten up by everyone he comes in contact with. One commentary said he looks like "a Ringling Brothers clown that got run over by a truck". The name is a takeoff on heavyweight boxer Carl "The Truth" Williams. Catchphrase: "Hollerin' 187 wit' my glove in ya mouth" is paraphrased from a line by Snoop Dogg in the Dr. Dresingle: "Dre Day" One distinct physical characteristic of Carl's besides his prominent tooth, is his jheri curl.
  • Cephus and Reesie – Kim Wayans and David Alan Grier play a pair of incredibly annoying soul singers, modeled slightly after Ashford & Simpson. Episodes with Cephus and Reesie included them mistakingly performing at a Bar Mitzvah, an advertisement for an album of theirs, which is eight CDs long due to them breaking songs such as "Silent Night" by one of them asking "If it was a silent night, how could it have been a holy night?", and an episode where they sing an extended rendition of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" for a Death Row convict (Jim Carrey) who (regrettably) is granted his last wish to hear some live soul music before he dies that very night. Cephus and Reesie were also said to have jammed with Frenchie and appeared in an off-Broadway show called "Get Off the Lord's Bus If You Ain't Got Correct Change."
  • Cheap Pete – Chris Rock (when he guest starred during the final season) as a cheapskate who won't pay more than $1.25 for anything. His catchphrase is "Good Lord that's a lot of money!" The Cheap Pete character is based on and originated from a bit part Rock played in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. Cheap Pete was also featured in Rock's film "CB4" and an audio track from his 1997 album "Roll With The New".

D

  • "The Dirty Dozens" – Stu Dunfy (Nick Bakay) hosts a game show that is a cross between Jeopardy! and Concentration (though some episodes are modeled after Wheel of Fortune and the Pyramid game shows hosted by Dick Clark) in which contestants are involved in a battle of insults. Two of the contestants that appear in almost every "Dozens" skit include returning champion T-Dog Jenkins (Jamie Foxx) and unlucky-with-categories contestant Amfeny Clark (Reggie McFadden). Variations include Family Dozens and Wheel of Dozens. In one episode, Ed O'Neill guest starred as himself, portraying the show's "all-time champion" and defeating T-Dog.
  • Duke and Cornbread Turner – Jamie Foxx plays a senior citizen named Cornbread who performs tricks with his dead German shepherd named Duke (whom he believes to be still alive). In one skit Duke was shown to be the father of a litter of puppies (also deceased). In another sketch it is revealed that Duke's real name is Jeremy Jolly Rancher Remington Steele Lewy Cadburry the 3rd to the 4th power. A running gag features Cornbread mistaking people he meets for children who died in tragic accidents. His catchphrase is "I'll be John Brown".
  • "Dysfunctional Home Show" – An alcoholic, depressed, and incestuous divorced father named Grandpa Jack McGee (Jim Carrey) hosts a housekeeping show, along with his promiscuous daughter (Alexandra Wentworth), her abusive boyfriend-turned-husband (Jamie Foxx), and Grandpa Jack's drunken, hateful mother (Kelly Coffield). Grandpa Jack also had a son who was not screwed up like the rest of the family, and had to guide him away from his drunken mistakes, such as Grandpa Jack starting to shadow box when he heard an oven timer, and the son yelling offstage that is not a boxing bell, but the chime of an oven. The trademark quip for this show is that Grandpa Jack would say "pork and beans" in a slurred tone (and then he would repeat it again by shouting it), as the family often dined on that particular dish.

E

  • East Hollywood Squares – An urbanized version of the original (1966–1981) Hollywood Squares, with Peter Marshall as himself, along with such occasional real-life celebrities as Gary Coleman and Fred Berry. Cast members portrayed actors and actresses such as Dr. Dre (David Alan Grier), Antonio Fargas (Tommy Davidson), Little Richard (Jamie Foxx), Garrett Morris(Jamie Foxx), and Isabel Sanford (Marc Wilmore). Morris and Foxx later worked together on The Jamie Foxx Show.
  • Ed Cash and Carl Pathos – Co-pastors of the "First Church of Discount Sin" and crooked televangelists, with Damon Wayans as Cash, the afro-wearing pastor who names and shames people who don't deliver their required tithes, speaks in nonsensical tongues, sells indulgences, and heals parishioners by taking their wallets. Pathos (pronounced in a way that it sounds like "Pesos" with a lisp), portrayed by Jim Carrey, is a pastiche of televangelists such as Robert Schuller and Jimmy Swaggart (in one sketch quoting Swaggart's "I have sinned" speech) with unusual tics and numerous sexual perversions. Cash and Pathos co-hosted a number of television shows, including The 595 Club (a discount version of The 700 Club) and a straight parody of the Hour of Power in which Cash resorts to robbing the congregation when the necessary tithes don't come in; in each sketch, Pathos usually ends each service with a parody of a Southern gospel tune. In a later sketch, Cash and Pathos are called before Congress to account for their questionable practices.

F

  • Fire Marshall Bill Burns – Jim Carrey portrayed a crazed, masochistic (and supposedly immortal) fire marshal with a manic grin and laugh along with a scarred face whose safety advisories usually include demonstrating (on himself) the very disaster he's warning against. (Every sketch illustrates a timeline of readily-visible damage on Bill from previous episodes). Usually, the warnings are against ridiculous situations that would never come to pass, such as an alien crab-people invasion, a sex doll that was accidentally inflated with hydrogen instead of air which then exploded due to static electricity, or an outbreak of psychotic elves. Every sketch ends with Fire Marshal Bill blowing up the facility he's teaching at, to which the people involved look at the burning facility and either lament what will become of them or simply stare in shock while Fire Marshal Bill says a witty comment and (sometimes) leaves to do more "safety advisories". Despite each sketch showing him lose parts of his body (in one sketch, only his head remained), Bill never dies. In one episode when on a cruise, he had a blonde wife named Ashley (a play on the term ash) who also was seemingly immune to the damage Bill caused. Her face was similarly scarred like Bill's was and she was a party to his demonstrations (spreading gasoline in a life raft to prove Bill's point about the danger of flare guns). His catchphrases included "Lemme show ya something!!", "Everybody remain calm... I am a Fire Marshal!" and "It can be very, very DTUHHH-DTUHHH ... DEADLY!"
  • Frenchie (Keenan Ivory Wayans) – An obnoxious, but happy-go-lucky "Partay Animal" with a flair for blending the fashion of the late 1970s with that of the early to mid-1980s (his attire consists of red platform shoes, a red pleathersuit with yellow vinyl fringe, long jheri curls, sunglasses and gold chains). Frenchie somewhat resembles Rick James and seems to turn all events, even an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, into parties. Frenchie says he owns an AMC Gremlin that has had a car boot on it for a long time. He also claims to have jammed with Cephus and Reesie. His catchphrase is "... 'Cause I'm hip, I'm slick, and all the women love my (fill in the blank)". In fact, on Frenchie's second appearance in which he toasts a friend's bachelor party, he did say towards the end of the skit – "...'Cause I'm hip, I'm slick and all the women love my – ...y'all fill it in."
  • Funky Finger Productions ("Black-Strong" also called "B.S. Brothers") – Two showbiz charlatans, Clavell (played by David Alan Grier) and Howard Tibbs III (played by Tommy Davidson), with a knack for commandeering events (a funeral, a Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony) and property (a movie set), both public and private, or Keenan Ivory Wayans' monologue, to promote their latest flim-flam "project". The would-be moguls enter by shouting "this must be the place!" in unison. They claim to have managed a band of 16 horn players called "Satern", but later had to fire ten horns. From there, they undermine their grandiose pitches with ill-conceived videos, business cards with their mothers' address and telephone number, or business cards of other businesses such as carpet cleaners with the proper business crossed out and their names written on it, and reliance on public transportation. Another stunt was for one of them to have their phone number shaved into their hair, which quickly turned into a basketball afro. Their spiel invariably climaxes when Tibbs stuns the unsuspecting mark by suddenly pulling out an item integral to the sales pitch (e.g., business card, sales brochure, video cassette) while simultaneously shouting "BAM!".

G

  • Great Moments in Black History – Either Tommy Davidson or David Alan Grier, in a quasi-serious tone of voice, narrates reenactments of dubious moments in African-American history. Examples include the accidental invention of the jheri curl (when motor oil leaked on a Jiffy Lube worker's large afro during an oil change), the first Def Comedy Jam (where a man resembling Martin Lawrence, played by Foxx, while putting up a banner, accidentally hit his hand and started cursing, much to the audience's delight), the first party DJ (a man named Ho accidentally bumps into a record player and scratches the record), the first black astronaut to be abandoned on the Moon, and the advent of the self-serve gas station, where a rude service station worker yells to a customer "Get it yo' damn self!"
The format of this sketch is likely an inspiration for several segments and skits on Grier's 2008 Comedy Central program Chocolate News.[citation needed]This sketch has since been replicated on Chappelle's Show.
  • Groom Room: An inner city barber shop plays host to David Alan Grier as an incompetent barber. Unsuspecting customers, who sit in his chair against the advice of a much more seasoned barber (Jamie Foxx) are asked how they want their hair cut. Grier's character, unable to hear, asks questions such as "You want your name across the back?" and "You want a tail down the back?" before becoming frustrated and ordering the customer to point to a poster showing hair styles. The barber will then massacre the haircut, much to the anger and outrage of the customer. The barber will then demand "Where's my tip, Sucka?" to the customer storming out of the barber shop. The premiere "Groom Room" skit featured Cuba Gooding Jr. as a patron in the barber shop while a later skit featured the famous singer James Brown in a cameo.

H

"Homey the Clown" redirects here. For the Simpsons episode, see Homie the Clown. For the video game, see Homey D. Clown (video game).

  • Homey D. Clown – Damon Wayans plays an ex-con who works as a clown(real name Herman Simpson) for his parole agreement, but lashes out at anyone (usually by hitting them on the head with a sock full of pennies) who attempts to make him perform the standard antics of the role – "I don't think so! Homey don't play that!". His goal in life is to get even with "The Man", a personification of the white male establishment who are "holding him down". Near the end of most sketches, Homey would lead a group of children (played by the cast members) in a call and response sing-along, which would end with him degenerating into a rant, then intimidating the children into repeating after him. Homey was the only In Living Color character to get his own video game.[2]
  • Handi Man – Damon Wayans portrays a handicapped superhero (possessing super-strength, flight, invulnerability and several other powers), who sometimes has a midget sidekick (Tiny Avenger, played by Debbie Lee Carrington). He attempts to foil villains, between bouts of uncontrollable drooling. Major villains include Angry Woman and Doctor Naughty; the former has attempted to eliminate Handi Man and the Tiny Avenger, or kidnap a ballerina to steal her dancing abilities, while the latter is a villain who hates handicapped people and sees Handi Man as his main adversary. Doctor Naughty concocted plans such as making an evil robot double of Handi-Man to simultaneously destroy Handi-Man's good name and rob from the March of Dimes vault, or using an attractive female nurse to seduce Handi-Man into wearing "kripple-nite" and rendering him powerless. His secret identity was "Clark Bent," (a play on Superman's secret identity Clark Kent) a mail courier at the Daily Glove newspaper. It was one of the sketches that generated a large amount of controversy for the show due to the spoofing of those with disabilities, but remains one of the best known sketches of the show.
  • Head Detective – Damon Wayans portrays a police detective who, due to a horrific accident, is merely a head attached to a pair of feet and tiny hands and appearing similar to Mr. Potato Head. Along with his full-bodied partner (played by Keenen Ivory or Marlon Wayans), he solves crimes, often catching the perpetrators by being thrown, kicked, or bowled toward them.
  • Hey Mon – Damon Wayans heads the hard-working West Indian Hedley family, each with many careers. With his "lazy good-for-nothing" son (Tommy Davidson) who wears traditional dreadlocks, they find nothing more appalling than meeting people with two or fewer jobs (including small children), regardless of how much money they make in those one or two jobs. Some sketches would show the family owning their own business, such as a hospital or an airline, with a joke being that multiple responsibilities would all be filled by the family members. A sketch would usually end with the family breaking the fourth wall and yelling to the viewer "Hey mon, got to go to work!", as calypso music ends the sketch.
  • Homeboy Shopping Network – Two streetwise pitchmen named Whiz and Iceman (Damon and Keenen Ivory Wayans) use a Home Shopping Network-style approach to sell stolen goods. The phrase "Mo' Money, Mo' Money!" was coined in this sketch (even though Wayans originally said this on a Weekend Update segment on Saturday Night Live back when he was a feature player in the 1985-1986 season). The time limit imposed on sales was typically due to the impending arrival of the police. The concept was created by Howard Kuperberg, one of the show's original writers.

I

  • Ice Poe – Shawn Wayans plays a violent street poet who recites eloquent threats to get what he wants. He is usually foiled by an equally poetic undercover cop (David Alan Grier).

L

  • Lashawn – T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh plays various customer service jobs, giving major ghetto sassy attitude to the customers. The clips always end with her leaving for her lunch break, usually leaving the customer hanging. She was sometimes accompanied by a goofball who would always claim he had experience from being with "me and Larry", but would screw up simple tasks, such as burning a hamburger and saying "I got experience in a striped grill, not one that is flat!"
  • Les and Wes – Damon and Keenen Ivory Wayans portray a pair of conjoined twins attached at the side. Wes is a celebrity, while Les is not, often having a job unrelated to Wes's.
  • Little Miss Trouble − Kelly Coffield plays as Edna Louise, an elementary school troublemaker. Edna constantly makes trouble for her teacher and classmates, particularly a dorky classmate named Parnell (Jim Carrey) with whom she constantly squabbles.
  • Loomis Simmons – David Alan Grier plays a shady infomercial host shilling out ridiculous products and services. Examples include ineffective self-helpaudio tapes and "Custom Built Condoms" that only fit Mr. Simmons.

M

  • Men on... (Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier) – In this parody of Siskel & Ebert, a pair of extremely effeminate gay men, Blaine Edwards and Antoine Merriweather, review topics completely based on their potential for homoerotic content. Variations of this sketch include Men on BooksMen on TelevisionMen on FitnessMen on VacationMen on ArtMen on Football and Men on Men. It was the source of many popular catchphrases such as, "Hated It!" (used for any film/book/program centered on one or more female characters), "Fish!", "My second favorite form of liquid protein", "Three words—fa - bu - lous!" and "the yet unheard of Zorro snap, in Z formation!" (Nearly every episode featured some variation of their "two snaps up" finger-snap gesture of approval.) In a two-part season-ending cliffhanger sketch, Blaine gets hit on the head by a stage light and gets a sort of amnesia, making him straight and conventionally "macho"; Antoine tries to restore his normal personality by hitting him in the head with a frying pan and a cinder block, both of which failed. His personality is only restored after being hit in the face by Antoine. The characters were resurrected for an episode of SNL hosted by Damon Wayans, and again when David Alan Grier hosted SNL.[citation needed]The theme song to the pair's "show" was "It's Raining Men" by The Weather Girls.
  • Music Video Parodies – Cast members regularly performed "Weird Al" Yankovic-type takeoffs on songs while portraying the singers who made them popular. Two of the most memorable parodies were "White, White Baby" featuring Jim Carrey riffing on Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby" and "Baby's Got Snacks" by Trail Mix-A-Lot, a parody of "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-A-Lot. Other parodies included "Black or White" and "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson (with Tommy Davidson playing Jackson), "Gypsy Woman" by Crystal Waters and parodied by Kim Wayans, "Promise of a New Day" by Paula Abdul (with Kelly Coffield as Abdul) "I'm Your Baby Tonight" by Whitney Houston (with Kim Wayans playing Houston), Snow's "Informer" (with Jim Carrey as Snow), and "Me Want Maury", a parody of "Me So Horny" mocking Maury Povich (Jim Carrey) and Connie Chung's (Steve Park) attempts to conceive a child. Sometimes the person being made fun of in the song was not the original artist, as was the case in the parody of LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out" (Shawn Wayans impersonated Jimmie Walker, better known as J.J. Evans from the 1970s TV series Good Times) and Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation" (Kim Wayans portrayed Houston in that video).

O

  • Oswald Bates – Damon Wayans plays an eloquent prison inmate whose vocabulary is full of malapropisms, more often than not misusing anatomical terms and words for bodily functions. "Unfortunately, we could not impregnate everyone. It is simply beyond our colonic threshold." "I believe it was Plato ... No, excuse me, I mean Play-Doh ... who stuck to the wall when he said one must not put one's transvestite in jeopardy if one is to become a cunning linguist".
  • Overly Confident Gay Man – Jim Carrey portrays a gay man who recently came out of the closet, and wants everybody to know it.

P

  • Richard Pryor – Damon Wayans impersonates Richard Pryor, specifically the exaggerated nervous energy he was known for in his comedies such as Superman III and The Toy, by showing Pryor in his kitchen preparing a bowl of cereal while expressing concern that something bad was about to happen. Pryor was making comments such as "Oh no!" and his known facial expressions when he was sent on a wild slapstick stunt. A narrator says "Richard Pryor is Scared for No Reason"!

S

  • Seamus O'Shanty O'Shame (a.k.a. The Depressed Irish Singer) – In the fifth and final season, Jay Leggett was one of the only new cast players to be given the opportunity to provide a new regular character to the show. In his case, Seamus was somewhat of a white counterpart to David Alan Grier's"Calhoun Tubbs" character, whereas he would sing songs that had a shock value by the end of the song. Seamus O'Shanty O'Shame is a quintessential "rogue" Irish man with a heavy accent who sings with an acoustic guitar, usually in front of groups of people who are part of social service programs, but is later found out to be an escaped mental patient running from the facility in which he belongs. Unlike Calhoun Tubbs, Seamus' songs were not as short, nor did they have a catchy sendoff. Instead, Seamus would lead into his songs with an introduction (saying "... and it goes something like this ..."), start off his songs in a beautiful mood, and then conclude them with graphic depictions of injury and death, usually ending it off with "... and he died!" or "That's it!".
  • Snackin' Shack – Kim Wayans plays an obnoxious, hard-of-hearing waitress at a greasy spoon diner. Running gags included her giving patrons used water, serving contaminated food, pulling salt & pepper shakers or utensils out of her bra, and spanking customers who misbehave, telling them, "Mama gonna have to spank you!" The chef (Tommy Davidson), also hard of hearing, hits the desk bell on the counter, announces entrees that were never ordered, and yells "Pick it up!", often leaving a pile of unwanted entrees in the kitchen window. When a customer with a complaint asked to speak to the owner, he was directed to man played by David Alan Grier who always sits in the spot by the door and shouts outrageous phrases such as: "I can make a booger talk!" and "I got the toe jam; who got the peanut butter?"
  • Sweet Tooth Jones – A send-up of blaxploitation films; Tommy Davidsonplays a karate instructor with a balding Afro haircut who runs the "Hollywood School of Self-Defense", assisted by Sugar Bear (Marc Wilmore) and Queen Bee (Alexandra Wentworth), all of whom wear clothing from and speak slang of the 1970s, completely out of place with the people they are instructing. Running gags would include simulated the fight to knock out his assistant, but never really knowing how to actually fight. As he put it, "I am a fight choreographer!"

T

  • Tiny / Prison Cable Network – The prison sketches on In Living Color were never known by a particularly official name, but they always had a number of consistent inmates who bring their own unique personality -- i.e., depraved mindset—to a television audience in the form of either a variety show or a game show. The regular inmates included Angel Martinez (Tommy Davidson)—a highly-energetic, happy-go-lucky Chicano with a witty sense of humor who tends to be the host of all the televised events they have, Charlie Magic (Jim Carrey)—a crazy, murder-obsessed psychopath whose name derives from Charles Manson, and The Death Row Comic (Keenen Ivory Wayans), who was so dangerous, he always had to be isolated from the audience behind a steel door with only his mouth showing through a slide window at head level. The end of his routine always seemed to end with him being taken away to his execution (whimpering with fear in the process), however he appears at least three times total. The standout prison character is Tiny, a convicted rapist (played by David Alan Grier) who always begins his sentences with "Uhh ... uhh ..." and is insanely obsessed with women's breasts, always using the term "big breasteses" accordingly. Tiny's breast obsession is so intense that, even while he tries to keep it under control, the orgasmic thoughts of the "breasteses" tend to get the better of him to the point where the nearest people would have to try and calm him down or carry him away.

V

  • Vera de Milo – Jim Carrey portrays a steroid-abusing female bodybuilder with a conspicuously flat chest and bulge in her posing trunks. Vera was best known by her unnaturally deep, breathy voice and grotesque, horselike laugh, along with a small set of pigtails. Vera de Milo often appeared in movie parodies of then-current films like Pretty Woman and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.
  • Velma Mulholland – Kelly Coffield is a woman who looks and acts in the style of film noir movies, earning her the nickname the "Film Noir Girl". As such, she always speaks in long hyperbole monologues. A physical characteristic is that she always appears in scratchy black and white, reminiscent of old film footage, while the world around her remains in color (an effect achieved through the use of chroma key, requiring Coffield to wear clothing and body paint of the same color with avoidance of the same color elsewhere on the set). A theme with each of her sketches is that she always finds herself in a situation involving a modern black man who is at odds over melodramatic takes on the most mundane of things.

W

  • Wanda – Jamie Foxx portrays Wanda Wayne, the ugliest woman in the world...so ugly, in fact, that no one wanted to be in the same room as her (in one episode, Dracula exposed himself to sunlight to get away from her). She supposedly is the long lost member of the group En Vogue but left because she was taking all of the men. One of these helpless individuals is often Tommy Davidson. In the final season of In Living Color, Wanda had a child out of wedlock and searched for the father of her child Wanda Jr., which ended with her chasing after Barry Bonds' limo driver, who she believed was the father. Trademark phrase: "I'm gon' rock yo world," "I'm red' to go!," "Hey fo' real do," "I got you," and "Don't make me get ugly!"
  • Why? – A series of public service announcement-themed sketches that asked a question that in and of itself was usually very intriguing, exemplified by the actors in an often exaggerated manner. For example, "Why do newscasters always attempt to sound ethnic when talking about stories dealing with Latinos? Why don't they do that with other ethnicities?" Another sketch, which lampooned Star Trek: The Next Generation, was then freeze framed into a "Why?" segment asking why black actors who play aliens on Star Trek look like they have feet or other body parts protruding from their heads, a likely reference to Worf.

Notable one-time or infrequent sketches

  • All Up In The Family – A black version of the 1970s CBS sitcom, All in the Family, which showed a black conservative Archie Bunker commenting on the ridiculousness of 1990s fads to his wife Edith.
  • Bob Jackson, Karate Instructor – Jim Carrey plays a karate instructor, who claims to be a former world champion, teaching a self-defense class for women. He proceeds to get stabbed twice accidentally by Kelly Coffield while attempting to show how to defend against a knife attack, and is eventually unmasked as a fake by the other students in the class.
  • The Buttmans – A family modeled after The Cosby Show characters, only they have buttocks on their foreheads. In one episode, their daughter brings home her boyfriend, Richard Dickerson, played by Jim Carrey, who has a very long nose that resembles a penis. The Buttmans fail to see the jokes directed at them, and in the episode where the daughter is dating, they comment on interracial relationships, rather than the fact his nose is uniquely shaped.
  • Cape Rear - A parody of the 1991 Cape Fear remake (starring Nick Nolte and Robert DeNiro). This version focused on Arsenio Hall (Keenan Ivory Wayans) going to drastic measures to get close friend and fellow entertainer Eddie Murphy (Jamie Foxx) to appear on his hugely popular late-night talk show.
  • The Capital Hillbillies – A parody of The Beverly Hillbillies with Bill Clinton, played by Jim Carrey.
  • Career Aid – A parody of "We Are the World", with cast members mocking artists from the original song lamenting about their stardom passing them by. While Ray Charles is among the artists lampooned, it is David Alan Grier who plays the singer rather than Jamie Foxx, who would win an Academy Awardfor his portrayal of Charles in the film Ray. Foxx is Lionel Richie in the sketch.
  • Chris Rock For Anonymous Express – Shawn Wayans portrays comic Chris Rock. In the sketch, the character of Chris Rock says white people do not recognize him on Saturday Night Live. When a security guard asks Rock to leave the NBC studios, Rock shows his I.D. and the guard says he has never appeared on Saturday Night Live. One future SNL alumna, Molly Shannon, briefly appears as one of the visitors.
  • Cousin Elsee – Kim Wayans plays an annoying and unattractive woman who bothers everyone she meets. In an episode which showed a funeral, she appears saying that this is her fourth funeral today, and that the last funeral was catered by Taco Bell.
  • Dickie Peterson: Cherub of Justice – Jim Carrey plays a Guardian Angelsreject who attempts to protect local businesses (and, in one sketch, a visiting off-camera President of the United States), but who usually causes more harm than he prevents.
  • Deboner 2000 – Carol Rosenthal plays Lorena Bobbitt in a mock knife infomercial where she is brutally chopping phallic looking food and related items (pants, boxer shorts, and a gamecock).
  • Family Feud – The Jacksons face off against The Royal Family in a fictional episode of the game. Ray Combs, host of Family Feud at the time, is the emcee.
  • Ghost II: Sammy's Visit – T'Keyah Keymah portrays Whoopi Goldberg (in character as Oda Mae Brown) in a spoof of the 1990 hit film Ghost and Tommy Davidson portraying Sammy Davis Jr., who comes back from Heaven, to reunite with his wife Altovise (Kim Wayans).
  • Go On Girl – A feminism show hosted by Shawanda Harvey (T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh).
  • Grace Jones – Kim Wayans parodies the actress as an extremely physical enthusiast of any activity (the sketch was not so much a spoof of Jones, but more so her characters Zula from the film Conan The Destroyer and May Day from the James Bond film A View to a Kill), whether be it fighting an alligatorfor her dinner or pro wrestling, while regularly asking "Do you find me sexy?". One parody involves the movie The Bodyguard in which Grace Jones plays the Whitney Houston character and Jim Carrey plays Kevin Costner complete with bad hair, and when Kevin Costner carries Whitney Houston off-stage in the original movie, the scene is reversed with Grace Jones carrying Frank Farmeroff while singing "I Will Always Love You".
  • Hawaii Five-O – Jim Carrey plays McGarrett in a parody of the long-running police drama.
  • Hemorrhoid Patient – David Alan Grier is a patient who shows up at a hospital multiple times and is constantly in the care of Nurse Peggy (Anne-Marie Johnson) and is placed on a gurney and temporarily left unattended while leaning forward with his gown undone, leaving his hemorrhoid exposed for anyone to get a glance at it. One group of people were Japanese tourists who stood next to the hemorrhoid and got their pictures taken with it. Others like rambunctious children prodding at it, a heart patient whom laughed himself to death after seeing it, and was broadcast live for a local news channel. Cheap Pete (Chris Rock) makes a cameo and exclaims, "Good Lord, that's a might big hemorrhoid!".
  • Home Alone Again (fictional preview) – A send-up of both the hit film and star Macaulay Culkin's friendship with singer Michael Jackson. Jonathan Taylor Thomas plays Culkin, who plays various pranks on Jackson (Tommy Davidson) who wants to come in and play with Culkin. The pranks include shooting him in the crotch and burning his hand and hair (reminiscent of a real-life injury Jackson sustained while filming a Pepsi commercial in 1984).
  • The Honeymooners '93 - A black and white parody of the 50s sitcom, but with the characters using hip-hop references. Ralph Kramden (Jay Leggett) enlists the help of a boombox-wielding Ed Norton (Jim Carrey) to learn how to be hip in order to impress his wife, Alice (Alexandra Wentworth). Examples include learning hip-hop dance moves, and trying to act black to relate to his boss (Tommy Davidson) to get a promotion at work.
  • I Love Laquita – Kim Wayans plays the title character in this hip-hop flavored, but still black and white, spoof of the groundbreaking TV show I Love Lucy. Here, Ricky (Jim Carrey) has invited a famous producer over, and Laquita, along with Ethel (Kelly Coffield), hopes to audition for the producer, but soon they run into a case of mistaken identity when a TV repairman comes over before the producer does. Another notable instance of the sketch involved a case of mistaken identity with Billy Dee Williams and Keenen Ivory Wayans, who imitated Williams.
  • Juicemania – Jim Carrey plays a surprisingly accurate impersonation of infomercial personality Jay Kordich, who uses an electric juicer to make juice from unlikely sources, such as garbage and soil.
  • King: The Early Years (one-time) – In a sketch introduced as part of a fictitious series of Great American Profiles, the narrator leads the audience to believe that Martin Luther King Jr. got his start as a peacemaker between boys preparing to fight in a schoolyard ... until "King" is revealed as a younger Don King (Damon Wayans), complete with his iconic hairdo, who promotes the fight and even instigates it. Obviously anachronistic references are also made to boxers Leon Spinks and Gerry Cooney, as well as Robin Givens, ex-wife of Mike Tyson.
  • Kurt Singen – Jim Carrey plays a flamboyant environmentalist who is offended by everything he sees. He bears a passing resemblance to Freddie Mercury. At the end of the sketch, either he would be arrested for disturbing the peace or his moped would be stolen, which he would react to by saying "People, we must work together!"
  • Lamont Hightower – (David Alan Grier) A flamboyant host presents televised events and programs celebrating black underachievement and the perpetuation of stereotypes, for example television awards for typecastcharacters such as "sassy neighbors" and "scared brothers on police shows". Another time Lamost hosted a "Miss Black USA" pageant hosted by a ghetto area of an unnamed city.
  • Lassie '90 – A mother (Kelly Coffield) and her son (James Carrey) own a pit bull. When they get into trouble they ask their faithful companion to get them something needed to extricate themselves from the situation. The dog soon returns with the desired item, albeit still held by the severed arm of the original owner.
  • The Last Orphan – David portrays a 35-year-old orphan, who never was adopted. He reveals that he is a graduate of the Yale University Acting School. When a couple tells him he is crazy, he comments "My ex-wife told me the same thing", indicating that he has adjusted to adult life but somehow feels his life is incomplete because he grew up without parents.
  • Late Night with Mike Tyson – The boxer (Keenen Ivory Wayans) hosts a late-night talk show with Don King (Jamie Foxx) as his sidekick. Elements from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny CarsonLate Night with David Lettermanand The Arsenio Hall Show are incorporated into the sketch.
  • Lil' Magic – Features Kim Wayans as a very tall girl without talent who always auditions for talent shows, accompanied by her overzealous stage mother, played by David Alan Grier (who is not much in drag as he retains his normal voice and does not wear makeup, which added to the comedy). Her common phrase was "I'm Miss Smile Bright 1987!" Then she makes a big smile. On certain occasions where she did achieve moderate success, she would revel in the newfound wealth with comments such as "Gee, Mama, maybe you can get the liposuction for your butt!" or "Gosh, Mama, maybe now you can get that other breast implant!", prompting the stage mother to reply "Lil' Magic, shut up!"
  • Lil' Richard's Playhouse – Keenan Ivory Wayans portrays rock n' roll singer Little Richard as he hosts a storytime program. In the sketch, he attempts to tell the story of Cinderella, but he makes too many connections to himself that he stops reading and talks about the things he hasn't accomplished yet, such as not winning a Grammy yet.
  • Love Connection – Jim Carrey portrays host Chuck Woolery, Kim Coles portrays Robin Givens, and Keenen Ivory Wayans portrays Mike Tyson in a parody of the television series of the same name. This is the very first aired sketch. In the second and final sketch, Kelly Coffield portrayed her character, Andrea Dice Clay while Jim Carrey played Patrick Swayze.
  • Magenta Thompson: Acting Teacher – Kelly Coffield plays a middle-aged, semi-oblivious former actress who has taken up teaching the art of acting. In her classes, Magenta gives her all when demonstrating her acting abilities and her strong passion for the profession. However, she doesn't seem completely bothered that she was no more than a bit-part supporting actress who was always met with the line "Outta my way, bitch!" in every movie she appeared in, all of which she delights in showing to her students.
  • Making of a Tracy Chapman Song – Tracy Chapman (Kim Wayans) promises her producer she will have a song written by the next day. For inspiration, she looks out the window and incorporates events like an old man getting hit by a bus and a domestic dispute into her new song, which is set to the tune of Chapman's hit "Fast Car".
  • Misery II – A pseudosequel to Stephen King's Misery, where a woman is chained to her bed by Rick James (played by Keenan Ivory Wayans) who claims that "there's a party in my pants". When the woman tries to reason with him by saying that she liked MC Hammer's sample of Superfreak, it causes an enraged James to make the sophomoric comment "M.C. Hammer ain't nothing but a stinky pants doody!" In tribute to Misery's infamous sledgehammer scene, James returns with a hammer, saying "It is hammer time!", and the narrator comments "He is one funked-up host".
  • Mr. Armstrong – A substitute teacher named Mr. Armstrong, who has two useless arms, one of which is limp, teaches a group of students who torment him by compelling him to perform various tasks with his useless, limp arm such as writing on the chalk board, pointing to places on a map, and covering his heart for the Pledge of Allegiance. Mr. Armstrong eventually snaps, saying "You little trouble makers, I didn't want to have to show you this side of me, but you forced my hand," before using his limp arm to karate chop his desk in half, subduing the students into good behavior.
  • Naganawanaland – Kelly Coffield plays a newly appointed U.S. ambassador to an obscure African nation, while David Alan Grier plays her interpreter whose translations don't quite match up to what the new ambassador is actually saying.
  • The New Fly Girls – On the May 12, 1991 broadcast, in the opening dance routine right after the credits, Kim Wayans, T'Keyah Keymah, and Kelly Coffield are shown dancing rather than the strangely absent Fly Girls. At the end of the dance routine, the girls nervously back up against the closet on the set's mock rooftop. Suddenly the closet bursts open, and it is revealed that the female cast members tied up the Fly Girls, duct taped their mouths shut, and stuffed them into the closet. Kim, T'Keyah, and Kelly look distressed, until T'Keyah shouts for the DJ to keep playing the song. The three girls finish their dance routine while the bound and gagged Fly Girls struggle to free themselves and (attempt to) shout for help. It appears that not all the Fly Girls were fully prepared for the sketch, because when the closet door opens and they all fall out onto the floor, you can see several Fly Girls still wrapping themselves in the rope or putting the pieces of tape over their mouths.
  • Old Train – A parody of the music show Soul Train with Keenan Ivory Wayans as an elderly version of Don Cornelius. During the show's famous "Soul Train Line", some of the dancers include someone in a wheelchair, and pallbearers rolling a casket down the line. In the closing of the sketch, the "Grim Reaper" walks throughout the crowd.
  • Passenger 227 – Parody of the 1992 movie, Passenger 57, T'Keyah Keymáhportrays Jackée as Sandra from 227, in which the sketch focuses as Sandra, the Airline Security with other people being trapped with airline terrorists.
  • Pee-wee's Adult Adventure – Pee-wee Herman (as portrayed by Jim Carrey) shills the new Pee-wee doll, updated with references to Paul Reubens' 1991 arrest for masturbating in a Florida theater.
  • Ross Perot – Jim Carrey parodies Ross Perot by showing a program to the people of the NAACP a program acronymed SLAVE (Service Labor Asset Valuable Expenses) on the first episode of the fourth season. Another had Perot buying up airtime on all the channels and appearing in each one, until when the sketch ends and the usual showing of the Fly Girls dancing, Ross Perot is now the DJ of In Living Color.
  • Seamus O'Shanty O'Shame – Jay Leggett, who was cast strictly in the fifth and final season, plays an Irish singer whose songs each begin with traditional, uplifting lyrics, but end with graphic lyrics, usually involving death or destruction. Each of his songs ends suddenly with "That's it!" It turns out that Seamus is a mental patient when two men in white uniforms arrive to capture him.
  • Sgt. Stacey Koon - Jim Carrey plays a parody of a sergeant in the LA Police Department in the Rodney King incident, who spits when he speaks.
  • Sheila Peace – Kelly Coffield plays a woman who has a very stereotyped view of everyone she meets. In one sketch, she plays a realtor attempting to sell an apartment to an Asian couple, telling them the hard wood floors were good for them to practice karate on. When trying to sell the same apartment to an Indian man, she told him there was plenty of room for all his wives to come in and belly dance.
  • Snuf & Roam – (Shawn and Marlon Wayans) A pair of immature brothers talk tough, but invariably get put in their place. One sketch dealt with them trying to hit on girls at a club, which Snuf says his full name is Snuffleupagus. Another had the brothers thrown in jail and trying to act tough in front of the other prisoners, only to later find out they were arrested for sneaking into the film Pinocchio without paying.
  • Star Trek: The Wrath of Farrakhan – In this spoof of the original Star Trekseries and the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Jim Carrey impersonates Captain Kirk with grossly exaggerated mannerisms, with David Alan Grier playing Mr. Spock and Kim Wayans as Lt. Uhura. Minister Louis Farrakhan(Damon Wayans) boards the Enterprise and convinces the minority and alien crew members to mutiny, becomes captain, and directs the Enterprise to 125th Street in Harlem, New York to Sylvia's Soul Food Shack.
  • Ted Turner's Very Colorized Classics - Jim Carrey portrays film enthusiast Turner, only instead of colorizing black and white films, he replaces the white stars of those films with black actors. For example, one sketch replaces Humphrey Bogart with Billy Dee Williams (Keenan Ivory Wayans) in Casablanca.
  • Three Champs And A Baby/Little Lady – Muhammad Ali (David Alan Grier), Sugar Ray Leonard (Tommy Davidson) and Mike Tyson (Keenan Ivory Wayans) care for a baby girl (a teenage girl in the "Little Lady" version). Tyson peppers his conversation with the words "ecstatic" and "ludicrous", and is punched by Ali whenever the doorbell (actually a boxing ring bell) is rung.
  • Timbuk: The Last Runaway Slave – Damon Wayans plays the descendant of cave-dwelling runaway slaves, unaware of changes in the world around him since the 1860s. Before his "Pappy", who raised 3 generations of runaway slaves, passes away, he tells Timbuk it's time to leave the cave. After exiting the cave Timbuk encounters a businessman (David Alan Grier) who he thinks is a "free black". A white jogger running by bumps into the businessman. Timbuk immediately apologizes while the businessman stands up to the jogger and the two exchange words. Timbuck grabs the businessman telling him white folk like to be right even if they are wrong. The jogger leaves and a few moments later dogs are heard barking. Timbuk grabs the businessman and goes behind a bush. A white women with two small dogs walks by. Timbuk tells the businessman to stop staring at her as she walks away. The businessman tells him he can have a white woman if he so desires. The jogger returns with police to take the businessman away due to the earlier altercation. Timbuk throws himself down full force on the ground begging for mercy. When the police tell Timbuk he is not under arrest and is free to go, he believes he has been freed. The skit ended with a cliffhanger that was never resolved.
  • Umbilical Barry – Jim Carrey plays a young college age kid still attached to his overprotective mother (Carol Rosenthal playing the stereotype of the Jewish mother) literally by the umbilical cord.
  • Unpoetic Justice – T'Keyah Crystal Keymah portrays R&B/Pop singer Janet Jackson, Jamie Foxx as rapper Tupac Shakur, and Anne-Marie Johnson as Regina King, in the popular 1993 film, Poetic Justice. This dubious parody reenacts scenes from the film, such as Janet and Tupac's verbally abusive arguing, and mostly voice-overs done by Janet Jackson, who has been scolded by Tupac, by never "bein' in the 'hood".
  • Vortex of Fear - A take-off on The Twilight Zone, with Tommy Davidson as the Rod Serling-esque narrator. In the sketch, a man (Jim Carrey) is hypnotized so that he clucks like a chicken. Before the hypnotism can be reversed, the hypnotist (David Alan Grier) suddenly drops dead. Unable to communicate normally (even his writing consists of clucks), the man ends up homeless.
  • Vortex 2 – A parody of tampon commercials with Kelly Coffield and Kim Coles sunbathing at a swimming pool. Coffield tells Coles that she'd like to take a swim, but that her period prevents her from doing so. After using Vortex 2 at Coles' suggestion, Coffield returns and dives into the pool, causing the water in the pool to vanish.

Bolt 45, The Lost Sketch

  • On the May 5, 1990 broadcast, Keenen Ivory Wayans did a take-off on a Billy Dee Williams "Colt 45" commercial (in which the purpose of the beverage is to get your lady friend wasted) that ended with a woman (played by Kim Coles) passed out on her back on a dining table, and "Billy Dee" moving in on her unconscious body to have sex with her. The "Bolt 45" sketch was seen only once during the original broadcast. The sketch was omitted from repeats because some felt it was making light of date rape. The Season One DVD set of ILC didn't include the "cut" sketch from the pilot. This skit was cut by Fox censors, and the necessary modifications were made to the master tape, but Keenen "accidentally" mixed up the masters, and the original master was broadcast. That segment has never been broadcast since, not even in syndication or on FX or BET. It has been replaced by The Exxxon Family (a fake promo for a sitcom about a clumsy Exxon boat captain (played by Jim Carrey)) in syndication and DVD Box Sets.

Opening credits

For the first episode, an exotic-looking logo was used for the opening credits. However, after the band Living Colour claimed in a lawsuit that the show stole the band's logo and name,[14] the logo was changed to one with rather plain-type letters of three colors. The show title itself is a homage to the NBC Peacock tag line, "The following program is brought to you in living color" from the 1960s when television was transitioning from black & white to color TV.[15]

In the first two seasons, the opening sequence was set in a room covered with painters' tarps. Each cast member, wearing black-and-white, played with brightly colored paint in a different way (throwing paintballs at the camera by hand, spray painting the lens, using a roller to cover the camera lens, etc.). The sequence ended with a segue to a set built to resemble the rooftop of an apartment building, where the show's dancers performed a routine and opened a door to let Keenen Ivory Wayans greet a live audience.

For the third and fourth seasons, an animated sequence and different logo were used. Cast members were superimposed over pictures hanging in an art gallery and interacted with them in different ways (spinning the canvas to put it right-side up, swinging the frame out as if it were a door, etc.). The final image was of the logo on a black canvas, which shattered to begin the show. The fifth season retained the logo, but depicted the cast members on various signs and billboards around a city (either New York or Chicago), ending with the logo displayed on a theater marquee.

The hip-hop group Heavy D & the Boyz performed two different versions of the opening theme. One version was used for the first two seasons and remixed for the fifth, while the other was featured in the third and fourth seasons.

Live musical performances

In Living Color was known for its live music performances, which started in Season 2 with Queen Latifah as their first performer (appearing again in the third season). Additional musical acts who appeared were Heavy D, Public Enemy, Kris Kross, En Vogue, Eazy-E, Da Youngsta's, Monie Love, Onyx, 3rd Bass, MC Lyte, Arrested Development, Jodeci, Mary J. Blige, Tupac Shakur, Father MC, Gang Starr, The Pharcyde, Simple E, Us3, Digable Planets, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Nice & Smooth, Wreckx-n-Effect, A.D.O.R., Redman, Showbiz and A.G., Patra, Naughty By Nature, Lords of the Underground, Prince Markie Dee, A Tribe Called Quest, and Leaders of the New School.

The Fly Girls

The show employed an in-house dance troupe known as the "Fly Girls". The original lineup consisted of Carrie Ann Inaba (who became a choreographer and judge on Dancing with the Stars), Cari French, Deidre Lang, Lisa Marie Todd, Barbara Lumpkin and Michelle Whitney-Morrison. Rosie Perez was the choreographer for the first four seasons. The most notable former Fly Girl was future actress/singer Jennifer Lopez, who joined the show in its third season.

Throughout the show's run, the Fly Girls frequently performed a dance routine to lead into commercial breaks and/or during the closing credits. In the first two seasons, they also performed a routine that immediately followed the opening sequence. Music was provided by an in-house DJ - Shawn Wayans (credited as SW-1) in the first two seasons, then DJ Twist from season 3 onward.

The Fly Girls would sometimes be used as extras in sketches, or as part of an opening gag. In one sketch, they were shown performing open-heart surgery (in the sketch, the girls are dancing in order to pay their way through medical school). Another routine featured the three original female cast members dancing off-beat during the introduction of the show, when it was revealed that the regular Fly Girls were all bound and gagged and breaking through the door where Keenan Ivory Wayans enters.

Three of the Fly Girls also appeared in the eleventh episode of Muppets Tonight's second season in 1997.

Controversies

Departure of the Wayans family

Keenen Ivory Wayans stopped appearing in sketches in 1992 after the end of the third season, over disputes with Fox about the network censoring the show's content and rerunning early episodes without his consultation. Wayans feared that Fox would ultimately decrease the syndication value of In Living Color.[16]

Damon went on to pursue a movie career around the same time, though he made occasional return appearances in the fourth season. During the fourth season (1992–1993), Keenen appeared only in the season opener, though he remained the executive producer and thus stayed in the opening credits until the thirteenth episode. Marlon left shortly after Keenen resigned as producer, and Shawn and Kim both left at the end of the fourth season.

Censorship

Fox censorship of scripts increased after In Living Color produced a live Super Bowl halftime special (branded by the network as The Doritos Zaptime/'In Living Color' Super Halftime Party). During the "Men on Football" sketch, Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier ad libbed a suggestion that Richard Gere and track and field star Carl Lewis were homosexuals, much to Lewis's dismay. The programming stunt lured 20 to 25 million viewers from CBS' telecast of the halftime festivities during Super Bowl XXVI on January 26, 1992. Also, the originally-aired version of another sketch unrelated to the Super Bowl special ("Men on Fitness" – February 7, 1993) included a simulation of Damon Wayans's character Blaine enjoying receiving facial ejaculation while being sprayed with a water bottle. These two segments were initially cut from reruns, but have been airing on the Centric cable channel. The DVD releases have the Gere and Lewis references cut but retain the facial ejaculation simulation.

Reruns of the program on BET have questionable words and phrases (such as "ho" and "bitch") muted. One line ("drop the soap") during the second "Men on Film" sketch was muted out by Fox censors before ever airing on TV for its implications of prison rape. The DVD releases have the language intact (except for the "drop the soap" line), but have numerous sketches edited to remove song lyrics and music video parodies due to copyright and licensing issues (for example, the "Fire Marshall Bill Christmas" sketch originally had Jim Carrey singing "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire" before the house exploded; on the DVD version, the short scene was cut, making it look like the house immediately exploded after the last person ran out).

On the May 5, 1990 broadcast, Keenen Ivory Wayans did a parody of a Colt 45commercial featuring Billy Dee Williams (in which the purpose of the beverage is to get one's date drunk enough to have sex) that ended with a woman (played by Kim Coles) passed out on her back on a dining table, and "Billy Dee" moving in on her unconscious body to have sex with her. The "Bolt 45" sketch was seen only once during the original broadcast and omitted from repeats due to complaints from censors and viewers that it was mocking date rape.[citation needed] The Season 1 DVD set of ILC did not include the cut sketch from the pilot. This sketch was cut by Fox censors, and the necessary modifications were made to the master tape. Keenen Ivory Wayans accidentally mixed up the master tape of the pilot, and the edited master was broadcast instead. The sketch has never been broadcast since, not even in syndication, on FX, or on BET. It has been replaced by "The Exxxon Family" (a fake promo for a sitcom about a clumsy Exxon boat captain and his wife, played by Jim Carrey and Kelly Coffield) in syndication and DVD box sets.

The FXX reruns of this show are mostly intact. The pop music references/music video parodies are left intact, along with the misogynist slurs that were edited on BET. However, the "Colt 45" sketch is still missing (though it is available for viewing on YouTube), as well as the "drop the soap" line and the line from "Men on Football" about Richard Gere's and Carl Lewis's sexualities, and a "Fire Marshall Bill" sketch from season five ("Fire Marshall Bill at the Magic Show") was edited on FXX (but not the DVD) to remove a line that implies that Fire Marshall Bill and an Arab man were involved with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center after the magician assures Bill that his magic tricks are safe (the lines cut were, "That's what they said about the World Trade Center, son. But me and my friend Abdul and a couple of pounds of plastique explosives showed them different", along with Bill's laugh and catchphrase "Lemme show ya somethin'!").

Final season

By the fifth and final season, none of the Wayans family had any involvement with the show. The show's sketches were no longer character-driven and satirical, giving way to wilder, cruder content and a reliance on celebrity guest appearances. Some celebrities who have appeared include Nick Bakay (who played the host of The Dirty Dozens game show sketches and wrote for the show), Barry Bonds (in the "Ugly Wanda finds her baby's father" arc), James Brown (appeared in the season four sketch "The Groom Room Barber Shop"), Rodney Dangerfield (though he appeared in a season four sketch where the police pull him over), Bret Hart, Sherman Hemsley, Biz Markie (who appeared in a lot of sketches, such as "Ugly Wanda's Ugly Sister," "Carl 'The Tooth' Williams' Paternity Trial," "The Bad Guidance Counselor," and "The Dirty Dozens: The Tournament of Champions"), Peter Marshall (as the host of "East Hollywood Squares"), Ed O'Neill (as the Dirty Dozens champion whom Jamie Foxx's T-Dog Jenkins fails to defeat), Chris Rock (mostly as his character, Cheap Pete, from I'm Gonna Git You, Sucka), Macho Man Randy Savage, Tupac Shakur, and players from the NBA, (just like players from the NHL were on Saturday Night Live). Kelly Coffield, who was the lone white female cast member, prior to Alexandra Wentworth's arrival in the fourth season, left before the start of season five.

Jim Carrey, Tommy Davidson, David Alan Grier, T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh, and Deidre Lang from the Fly Girls are the only cast members who stayed on the show from its premiere to its finale, although Carrey's appearances became very limited due to his rising movie career, while Davidson missed a few episodes for undisclosed reasons.

Cast

Cast members

Cast member Seasons
1 2 3 4 5
Jim Carrey Starring
Kelly Coffield Starring
Kim Coles Starring
Tommy Davidson Starring
David Alan Grier Starring
T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh Starring
Damon Wayans Starring
Keenan Ivory Wayans Starring
Kim Wayans Starring
Shawn Wayans Featured
Jamie Foxx Featured Starring
Steve Park Featured
DJ Twist Featured
Marlon Wayans Featured
Alexandra Wentworth Featured Starring
Anne-Marie Johnson Starring
Jay Leggett Starring
Reggie McFadden Starring
Carol Rosenthal Starring
Marc Wilmore Starring
Fly Girls S1 S2 S3 S4 S5
Cari French
Carrie Ann Inaba
Deidre Lang
Rosie Perez
Lisa Marie Todd
Michelle Whitney-Morrison
Carla Garrido[17]
Jennifer Lopez
Jossie Harris
Lisa Joann Thompson
Laurieann Gibson
Masako Willis

Guest stars

Chris Rock appeared (as a "special guest star") in a number of sketches in the fifth season, and reprised his "Cheap Pete" character from I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. In the early years of In Living Color, Rock was parodied as being the only African American cast member on Saturday Night Live (despite SNL also having Tim Meadows at the time). In an SNL episode honoring Mother's Day, Rock's mother states that she is disappointed in him for not trying out for In Living Color, to which Rock states he is happy with his job on SNL.

Other recurring guest stars in the fifth season include Nick Bakay (for The Dirty Dozens sketches) and Peter Marshall (for several editions of East Hollywood Squares). Rapper Biz Markie also appeared in various roles as a guest star in the fifth season, such as being in drag as Wanda the Ugly Woman's sister or as "Dirty Dozens" contestant Damian "Foosball" Franklin. Ed O'Neill made a cameo appearance as Al Bundy in a "Dirty Dozens" segment.

Episodes

Main article: List of In Living Color episodes

Syndication

Originally produced by 20th Century Fox Television on Fox, the series was in reruns on local affiliates for a few years, but has since become a longstanding mainstay on Fox's sister cable networks FX and FXX. In syndication, the series is distributed by Twentieth Television.

Reruns of the show also aired on BET from 2005–2008, and returned in 2010. Reruns have also aired on MTV2, VH1, nuvoTV, and on BET-owned Centric.

Unlike past runs on FX and the Viacom Media Networks, the FXX cut of episodes are mostly uncut and censored. The music video parodies and spoken references to licensed songs have been reinstated, but the "Bolt 45" sketch, the "drop the soap" line, and the "Men on Football" sketch with the adlibbed lines about Richard Gere's and Carl Lewis's alleged homosexuality are still edited (though the facial ejaculation shot on "Men on Fitness" was reinstated), along with a line from the season five sketch "Fire Marshall Bill at the Magic Show" that makes reference to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (the missing line is, "That's what they said about the World Trade Center, son. But me and my friend Abdul and a couple of pounds of plastique explosives showed them different." Bill's laugh and his catchphrase "Lemme show ya somethin'" was also cut abruptly), due to the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The Best of In Living Color aired on MyNetworkTV from April 16 to June 18, 2008. Hosted by David Alan Grier, it was a retrospective featuring classic sketches, along with cast interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. The show aired on Wednesdays at 8:30 pm Eastern/7:30 pm Central, after MyNetworkTV's sitcom Under One Roof.

In 2017, the show began airing reruns on Fusion and Aspire.

Nielsen ratings

  • 1990–91: #58 (10.31 rating)
  • 1991–92: #49 (10.37 rating)
  • 1992–93: #62 (9.67 rating)
  • 1993–94: #71 (7.98 rating)

Note: Ratings data courtesy of TVTango.com

Crossovers

  • At the 2006 BET Awards when the show returned from one of its commercial breaks, the show's host Damon Wayans played a character very reminiscent to "Men on ..." critic Blaine Edwards.
  • In Living Color alums Damon Wayans, Jim Carrey, and David Alan Grier reprised some of their In Living Color characters on Saturday Night Live:
    • Damon Wayans, a featured player during that show's eleventh season, hosted an episode from SNL's 20th season in 1995, where he brought on two of his famous In Living Color characters: homeless wino Anton Jackson and gay film critic Blaine Edwards.
    • Jim Carrey auditioned to be one of the repertory members on SNL 's ill-fated 1980–1981 season, but was dropped in favor of Charles Rocket(who later appeared in the 1988 film Earth Girls Are Easy and the 1994film Dumb and Dumber with Carrey). Carrey also auditioned for the 1985–1986 season (season eleven), but backed out after seeing a man threatening to jump from 30 Rockefeller Center, believing that the stress of working on Saturday Night Live would drive Carrey to suicide. Carrey hosted the season finale of SNL's 21st season in 1996, where he impersonated Fire Marshal Bill during the monologue. Carrey's most recent hosting stint, in October 2014, involved a Carrey family reunion sketch in which Cecily Strong plays Carrey's aunt, who is modeled after Fire Marshal Bill.[18]
    • David Alan Grier first hosted SNL during season 21 and reprised his In Living Color role as "Men on..." critic Antoine Merriweather, which the end of the sketch included a surprise on-set appearance from Damon Wayans as Blaine. Grier hosted SNL on December 9, 1995 (season 21) and March 18, 1997 (season 22).
  • Jamie Foxx reprised his role as Wanda in a short segment at the 2009 BET Awards.
  • In 1997, three of the Fly Girls also appeared in the eleventh episode of Muppets Tonight's second season.
  • In the 1997 film Liar Liar, Jim Carrey reprised his "Fire Marshal Bill" character (albeit with no lines) in the background of one of the closing scenes.
  • The February 10, 2001 episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Jennifer Lopez included a sketch where Lopez "reunited" with the Fly Girls (played by Rachel Dratch, Jerry Minor and Tracy Morgan).

Home media

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has released all five seasons of In Living Color on DVD in Region 1. Due to music licensing issues, some sketches have been edited to remove any and all mention of licensed songs, from characters waxing lyrical to entire performances (including the music video parodies and some of the Fly Girl dancing interstitials). Additionally, the "Bolt 45" sketch (which aired one-time only on May 5, 1990) was omitted, and the "soap" portion of the "drop the soap" line in the second "Men on Film" sketch has been muted.

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
Season 1 13 April 6, 2004
Season 2 26 September 28, 2004
Season 3 28 May 10, 2005
Season 4 33 October 25, 2005
Season 5 26 April 11, 2006

Attempted revival

In 2011, there were plans to make a revival of the original series that featured a new cast, characters, and sketches.[19][20][21] The pilot episodes were hosted and executive produced by original series creator and cast member Keenen Ivory Wayans. In early 2012, Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo were hired as the choreographers.[22] They cast the new line-up of The Fly Girls[23] and shot pilot episodes for the show which were set to air on Fox, like the original. However, on January 8, 2013, Keenen Ivory Wayans confirmed the reboot had been canceled because he and Fox did not feel that the show was sustainable after one season.[24] Reported cast members included Cooper Barnes, Jennifer Bartels, Sydney Castillo, Josh Duvendeck, Jermaine Fowler, Ayana Hampton, Kali Hawk, and Lil Rel Howery.[21][25] In addition, featured cast members were Henry Cho, Melanie Minichino, and Chris Leidecker. Members of the new Fly Girls included Christina Chandler, Tera Perez, Lisa Rosenthal, Katee Shean, and Whitney Wiley.[21]

Many of the cast members of the revival (Bartels, Fowler, and Howery) went on to create the TruTV sketch show Friends of the People.

Legacy

Singer Bruno Mars paid tribute to the television program in the music video, "Finesse".[26]

Awards

  • Image Awards 1994 for Outstanding Variety Series
  • Image Awards 1992 for Outstanding Comedy Series
  • PGA Awards 1992 for Most Promising Producer in Television: Keenen Ivory Wayans
  • People's Choice Award 1991 for Favorite New TV Comedy Series Tied with The Simpsons (1989)
  • TV Land Awards 2012 for Groundbreaking Show: Shared with whole cast
  • Primetime Emmy 1990 for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series
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