In Living Color is in the spotlight more than it has been in years, thanks in large part to Bruno Mars’ Cardi B-assisted video, “Finesse,” which pays homage to the early 1990s sketch comedy show. Atlanta-based writer David Peisner has penned a book on the show’s impact, all because his original plans couldn’t contain the show’s true impact, according to The AJC.
“I pitched it for Details as an oral history of the show,” Peisner says of new book, Homey Don’t Play That! The Story of ‘In Living Color’ and the Black Comedy Revolution. “But there was way more here than was going to fit into a magazine story.”
“I started to think of the show as a hinge moment in culture. It was part of this movement that changed culture. And it happened slowly — it didn’t happen overnight.”
The new read explores the Emmy-winning series and the stars who were introduced to the world via the Fox hit, including Jamie Foxx, Jim Carrey and former Fly Girl, Jennifer Lopez. Peisner also dissects the Wayans family and how their upbringing almost guaranteed a career in comedy for most of them.
“Ten kids growing up in a small apartment, it was kind of a comedy boot camp for the family members inclined that way,” he says. “So many people said to me how incredible tightly knit that family is, they really look out for each other. Keenen was the first through the door, and he brought his family with him.”
While remaining a huge fan of the series, Peisner admits that many sketches have not aged well. Indeed, we live in far more politically correct times that wouldn’t allow a character like Damon Wayans’ handicapped superhero, Handi Man, to see the light of day. The same can be said about attitudes towards the LGBT community and the stereotypical gay film critics from “Men on Film.”
“The ‘Men on Film’ sketches can be hard to watch now, although they weren’t mean-spirited,” Peisner says. “In some ways, that makes you optimistic, since it shows how attitudes towards gay people and sexuality have improved since then.”
Peisner argues that the In Living Color influence has been felt since it’s inception, with several of it’s stars, writers and producers to later create quality African-American programming that we enjoy today.
“Larry Wilmore started as a writer on In Living Color and became a one-man wrecking crew who changed a lot of TV,” with creative or producer credits including The Bernie Mac Show, The PJs, Black-ish and Insecure.
Purchase Homey Don’t Play That! The Story of ‘In Living Color’ and the Black Comedy Revolution here.