Born June 8, 1958, in Harlem, New York, as the second of ten children. His parents, supermarket manager Howell Wayans and social worker Elvira Wayans, were strict Jehovah's Witnesses. Because of their faith, Wayans and his nine siblings were not allowed to associate with other children in their neighborhood. Instead, the family found ways to entertain each other ‐ usually through comedy.
Like many young aspiring comedians of that era, Wayans was inspired by Richard Pryor, and decided at an early age that he wanted to become a comedian. Although he earned a scholarship to study engineering at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, he left the school to pursue his dream of being an entertainer. While performing stand-up in the mid 1980s, Wayans met fellow comedian Eddie Murphy, and the duo collaborated to write Murphy's film, Eddie Murphy Raw (1987).
In 1988, Wayans released his first film, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, a parody of 1970s blaxploitation films. The movie received excellent critical reviews and earned Wayans the attentions of the FOX network, who gave him his own comedy show, In Living Color in 1990. The variety show was a ratings success, and won Wayans an Emmy after only a season on the air. The show also helped to launch the careers of other aspiring comedians such as Jim Carrey, Rosie Perez, Jamie Foxx, and David Alan Grier, in addition to his other siblings Damon, Shawn, Marlon and Kim.
In 1994, Wayans left the show to focus on his film career. He produced and starred as private investigator Andre Shame in the film A Low Down Dirty Shame (1994). He also appeared in 1996's Glimmer Man, and co- starred with Jon Voight in the film Most Wanted (1997).
In the summer of 1997, Wayans returned to television to host and executive produce his own late night show, The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show. He also directed and appeared in the comedy Scary Movie (2000), which made Wayans the highest-grossing African-American director of all time. The film became such a box-office success that it led to the sequel, Scary Movie 2 (2001), which Wayans also directed. He also returned to the small screen with the sitcom My Wife and Kids, which ran on ABC from 2001 until 2005.
Recent film projects for Wayans include producing and directing credits on 2004's White Chicks, followed by its sequel White Chicks 2, which is rumored for release in 2011. He also appeared in another parody, Dance Flick, in 2009. Most recently, he was a judge for the eighth season of Last Comic Standing.
Wayans currently lives in Los Angeles.
June 8, 1958
- Has been in a long term relationship with Brittany Daniel from the television shows The Game and Sweet Valley High along with the Wayans’ films Little Man and White Chicks.
- Wayans was the first movie director that Hollywood ever allowed to depict a rape scene that was designed specifically for laughs. (Little Man).
- In Living Color alum Jim Carrey credits Keenen for giving him his start in comedic acting.
- Is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.