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Wayans works hard at comedy (and sometimes we laugh)

Published May 4, 2007


The cashier apologized last week after carding me for a six-pack of beer:

"Oh, sorry about that, " she said after examining my birth year, 1969. "I'm always embarrassed when I check and it's before '70. You look much, much younger."

I would have kissed her, except I thought store security might frown on it. Sure, I could run away, but what's that going to accomplish? The girl's holding my ID.

So I just thanked her for the flattery. At 38, I know I don't look 21 anymore, or even 20-anything. I look a little young for my age, but not that young.

She's just doing her job: Cashiers, bartenders and servers are supposed to card anyone who doesn't look clearly over 30. I suppose I don't look clearly over 30. That's why I spend my hard-earned money on gray coverage and blond highlights.

Actually, the cashier carded me one day after I shaved my head, ridding me of the gray, the blond, the brown, the red and the lice. I'm kidding, of course. There's no red in my hair.

I thought the new 'do made me look older, but she disagreed. Guess the chrome dome had turned me into a 5-foot-10, 170-pound baby.

And why shouldn't it work for me? The cue ball action is certainly working for Damon Wayans, one of the better-known members of the comedic Wayans clan.

Damon, who performs at Tampa Improv this weekend, turns 47 this year. You wouldn't guess from those Gap ads that the comic is closing in on the half-century mark.

Credit the work ethic, I suppose. Sure, all the Wayans stay busy. There's Keenan Ivory's directing career (Little Man, White Chicks), Shawn and Marlon's acting gigs (Little Man, White Chicks - anyone seeing a trend here?), and Kim's ... okay, Kim hasn't done much.

But Damon has been nonstop, from his early days as a featured player on Saturday Night Live to his breakthrough on In Living Color (Homey don't play that!)

After In Living Color, he bounced straight to making films full time. Sure, most of them were terrible: Mo' Money, Major Payne and (especially) Blankman all tanked. Damon, who wrote or co-wrote all three, deserves a healthy share of the blame.

Which is too bad, because for my money, he's the most talented of the bunch. In Living Color had a solid cast, but Damon and Jim Carrey always had the best, most outrageous characters.

His sitcom Damon, which lasted barely half a season on Fox in 1998, is an undiscovered treasure. (Somebody needs to release that sucker on DVD.)

Plus, the guy can do drama, too, as evidenced by turns in Harlem Aria in 1999 and Spike Lee's Bamboozled in 2000. But Damon first proved his dramatic chops as a believably down-and-out athlete in the action flick The Last Boy Scout, back in 1991.

Sure, Damon spent most of his 21st-century career treading water on the sitcom My Wife and Kids. And all copies of Marci X, in which he starred with Lisa Kudrow, should be burned. But hey, a guy's gotta put food on the table.

Less excusable is the sketch comedy show he produced last year for Showtime, The Underground. Freed from his PG-rated burden of ABC family fare, Damon crafted a show 10 times more vulgar than funny.

Still, I'm guessing Wayans will be back in form performing in the undiluted world of stand-up. He's a genuinely funny guy in a direct setting.

So swing out to Ybor City and give Damon a shot. If this tour goes well, it might keep him from writing any more movies. And we'd all appreciate that.

Yer in what?

On another note, I had a little fun a few columns ago at the expense of the Largo Cultural Center, taking a little jab at its, um, "unhipness" by cracking on a John Denver tribute show there.

But to be fair, the center is a lot more hip this week. A production of the wildly popular Urinetown: The Musical premieres there tonight and runs through May 20. So perhaps I judged the LCC too quickly.

And if you're starting to presume this apology exists only so I could work the term "Urinetown" into this column, well ... good call.

Rick Gershman can be reached at or 226-3431. His Ill Literate posts are at


. if you go

Damon Wayans

Performs through Sunday at Tampa Improv in Centro Ybor, 1600 E Eighth Ave., Ybor City. Shows at 8 and 10:30 tonight, 7:30 and 10 p.m. Saturday, and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets $35. Visit tampa or call 864-4000.

. if you go

Damon Wayans

Performs through Sunday at Tampa Improv in Centro Ybor, 1600 E Eighth Ave., Ybor City. Shows at 8 and 10:30 tonight, 7:30 and 10 p.m. Saturday, and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets $35. Visit tampa or call 864-4000.


[Last modified May 3, 2007, 06:40:56]

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