KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Marlon Wayans isn't trying to change the world. He just wants to change your mood.
"There's no vanity in comedy," he says. And in a rare moment, the 41-year-old funny guy isn't joking as he promotes his latest movie, "A Haunted House 2."
He is known for kooky characters, but on a Friday afternoon he is no caricature. Decked out in designer jeans and a heather-blue Orley sweater, he looks more athlete than class clown. He's a hugger. And when he talks about his work, he talks about humility.
In comedy, you can't be afraid to make a fool of yourself, he says. And he isn't. Have you seen the first "Haunted House"? This 2013 spoof may focus on the ghost that follows a girl when she moves in with her boyfriend (Marlon), but he has an impromptu love scene with stuffed animals. He had so much fun that in the sequel, he has a full-blown relationship with a vintage doll. It wasn't written in the script, either. It just happened on set.
This is the Wayans way - follow your inner funny.
The Wayans Dynasty has made a business out of laughing matters, thanks to Keenen Ivory Wayans and his groundbreaking, Emmy-nominated "In Living Color." The sketch comedy show launched the careers of Jaime Foxx and Jim Carrey and kicked open the doors for the Wayans family.
Marlon, the youngest of 10 children, is eternally the baby brother. His earliest memory of comedy involves Keenen and Damon in the back room of their New York home listening to Richard Pryor albums. Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Charlie Chaplin and his family were his first comedic influences.
Despite being born into one of Hollywood's funniest families, Marlon didn't get a lot of air time on his big brother's show. He had to pitch sketches just like everyone else.
A break would come in the mid-'90s, when he and his brother Shawn would star in their own show, "The Wayans Bros.," and carve a lane of their own, equal parts cool and comedic.
But the Wayans guys are known for the spoofs: "Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood," "Scary Movie," "White Chicks" and "Dance Flick."
It's normally a family affair, but "A Haunted House" and the sequel are Marlon, doing his own thing. He made the first paranormal parody for a modest $2.5 million, and it went on to gross some $60 million worldwide. He says even without his siblings, he doesn't feel alone.
"I don't feel like I'm stepping out on my own. I always feel supported by my brothers. Even when I'm not working with them, they are with me," he says. "They taught me everything I know. I am executing knowledge I learned from them and adding my own flavor. They are happy for me and I am glad it's successful. If not they would have laughed at me, they would have started a Twitter account or got a Billboard to bomb me. They are crazy."
He's excited for audiences to see the sequel. For the last month, he's been on a nonstop, nationwide press tour. He tweets, posts on Instagram, he's in constant contact with his fans. Every day, all day. He says social media is a whole new world.
"The fame of the '90s was a wonderful thing," he says. "I'm glad we blew up back then. We are just everyday people. We give love and call it a day. Now, everyone has a camera and everyone wants a picture. Sometimes, I just want to eat lunch with my kids and be a dad. But I try as much I can to be there for my fans because without fans, you are nothing."
Recently, he had an online brawl with rapper Lord Jamar, of '90s hip-hop group Brand Nubian. The rapper, known for homophobic rants, took aim at Omar Epps for wearing a kilt. Lord Jamar questioned the actor's masculinity. Marlon and Omar grew up together. Marlon was his best man and is godfather to his children. The homophobia topped with insulting his best friend caused him to speak out.
"I think you are going to have your knuckleheads like Lord Jamar, projecting ignorance and a fearful point of view, and it only makes him look bad. Homophobia, racism, gayism - any prejudice in this day and age - we are beyond that. We as a people have grown past that, and it bothers me and disturbs me to be that narrow-minded and project it onto the next generation."
Marlon is too busy to fight with haters for long. He's a comedian working on his craft. And right now, he's in the middle of five projects. He's writing a script that is very "Groundhog Day," about a guy who wakes up naked in an elevator on his wedding day. He has to keep reliving the day until he gives his bride the wedding she deserves.
Marlon also has a new show coming this summer to TBS, "Funniest Wins," a comedy competition. Then, there's his urban comedy, hubWhatTheFunny.com.
"It's a place for us, a place for urban comedy, for me to make fun of the world with kid gloves on," he says.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
•"Mo' Money": It may have starred Stacy Dash and Damon Wayans, but Marlon stole the screen as Seymour Stewart, being every bit the goofy, mischievous little brother. It makes you wonder why we haven't seen more Wayans rom-com action.
•"The Wayans Bros.": I still watch old episodes of this sitcom starring Shawn and Marlon Wayans. Everything about it, from the music to the clothes, captures '90s hip-hop culture, and on top of the belly laughs, the brothers were easy to look at.
•"Above the Rim": This basketball drama gave us our first glimpse that Marlon had more than comedic talent. As Bugaloo, he captures adolescent angst and desperation to fit in, and is a symbol of how easily it is for everything to go wrong when you don't know who you are.
•"Requiem for a Dream": The heartbreaking drama that details the lives of addicts, played by Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly and Marlon, solidified the fact that he could, if he chose to, take on an Oscar-worthy role. If you haven't seem him as Tyrone C. Love, you should.
•"In Living Color": His stint on the Wayans show that started it all was just the beginning for Marlon, and though his characters don't carry the weight of Homey the Clown or Fire Marshall Bill, I will never forget his parody of "Mr. Loverman" by Shabba Ranks. As tweens, my cousins and I would sing "Mr. Ugly Man" and laugh until we cried.