In the 1990s, the TV show "In Living Color" burst into the public consciousness and changed the world of sketch comedy forever.
The show, which won an Emmy in 1990 and ran for five seasons, was known for its mostly black cast, boundary-pushing sketches, Fly Girl dancers and for launching the careers of the Wayans family, Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Lopez, Carrie Ann Inaba and more.
"Good Morning America" caught up with the bold cast at the TV Land Awards earlier this month and the group was as rowdy as ever.
"We just put this group of funny people together that I was very confident in, that had very funny things to say, that were very different," said Keenan Ivory Wayans, the show's creator and executive producer. "That was why no one of us had done network TV before because we were different, so this was a chance to just let it all be said."
Wayans made the show a family affair, putting brothers, Damon, Shawn and Marlon, as well as sister Kim, in starring roles. Fellow co-stars say that gave the cast a family feeling that can't be manufactured.
"It was the unity and love [the Wayans brothers] brought to the show and that's just the honest truth. I would kill to have brothers like this," said comedian Tommy Davidson, who played the character Luther, the cook at Snack n Shack. "They were always around. The family was always around. ... It was so genuine ... when we came to work we were like a family and that is for real."
"We would sit around and laugh all day," Davidson added.
The show ripped apart cultural cliches and lampooned political correctness, which made the audience howl with laughter but often put the censors on edge, according to the cast.
"[The censors] didn't know what we were saying! They are like, 'What is that? Is that a dirty term?'" said Kelly Coffield, who impersonated Roseanne Barr, Barbara Bush, Cyndi Lauper and more on the show.
"We would do funny things to them, so we would make up something and we would all laugh and then the censor would go, 'Oh, no, no, no, you can't say that,' because he thought it was something dirty," Keenan Ivory Wayans said.
"You would just see his bald head running," said Jim Carrey. "We had pre-emptive lawyers as well looking for people who would sue us."
Sometimes the sketches even spiraled beyond the actors' control.
"When any sketch started there could be really crazy things happen," said Carrey, who played characters like Fire Marshall Bill and female bodybuilder Vera de Milo. "We had a thing called the chicken. If you were in a sketch and there was a little bit of a sweaty moment the chicken showed up ... and you would hear backstage bak, bak ... and actually brought the chickens out."
The show would be a launching pad for future movie stars -- notably the careers of Jim Carrey and Jamie Foxx, and who could forget the Fly Girls.
"A Fly Girl was sort of a street term for the hot chicks," Keenan Ivory Wayans said. "What that let me do was not only have sex appeal on the show but introduce what was at that time kind of an underground culture, which was hip-hop. It gave us a little pop of flavor."
Carrie Ann Inaba, now a judge on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars," started her career as a Fly Girl.
"She was always elegant. Always," Keenan Ivory Wayans said. "If you watch her dance, that's part of her style."
The most famous Fly Girl of them all was Jennifer Lopez. "She brought that East Coast Jenny from the block. She was rough raw and beautiful," he said.
And Ali Wentworth, the comedian wife of "GMA" co-anchor George Stephanopoulos, got her start on the show in 1993 as a featured player for two seasons.
"We had been on the air for about a year or so, and then I decided I wanted to bring in another group to develop them and Ali was my first choice for that. I saw her do a character called super bimbo that was hysterical and that was the first sketch that she did," he recalled, explaining that a super bimbo was a super hero that was also a bimbo.
With sketches like that, the cast had an undeniably fun time, which enlivened living rooms everywhere and set a TV legacy, whether they meant to or not.
"We were a bunch of kids who were just making people laugh and weren't really aware that it was that shocking to people. We knew we were being bad, but we didn't realize how in your face it was," Keenan Ivory Wayans said. "Once we became aware of it, we tried to not make the show about that, even if there was a sketch that had power to it. It was great but it had to be funny."
So where are all the stars today? Take a look and see what the cast has been up to for the past 20 years.
|Keenan Ivory Wayans|
After working as a comedian and actor in such films as "Hollywood Shuffle" and "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka," Keenan Ivory Wayans launched the family in show business when he created "In Living Color."
Keenan, 53, left the show completely in its fourth year amid complaints that Fox was censoring it and later went on to direct "Scary Movie," a parody of horror films, starring his younger brothers Shawn and Marlon Wayans. He'll return to the helm of the series, which gets a reboot on Fox this spring.
Two years younger than Keenan, Damon Wayans followed in his older brother to Hollywood, where he received his first role in Eddie Murphy's "Beverly Hills Cop." While starring in films, like "The Last Boy Scout" opposite Bruce Willis, he helped create such memorable characters on "In Living Color" as the gay film critic and Homey the Clown. Wayans later starred in the hit ABC series "My Wife and Kids."
Early in his career, Damon Wayans struck up a friendship with fellow standup comic Jim Carrey. When Keenan began developing "In Living Color," he cast Carrey, whose memorable characters included Fire Marshall Bill and female bodybuilder Vera de Milo. Carrey's film career took off with "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective," which premiered just months after the Fox series ended in 1994. The 49-year-old actor has gone on to play both serious and comic roles in some of Hollywood's biggest blockbusters.
Like Carrey, Jamie Foxx got his start on "In Living Color" before becoming an A-list movie star. Foxx joined the show in its third season and is best remembered for the character Wanda, the ugliest woman in the world. He went on to star in his own eponymous sitcom before his film career began taking off in the late '90s. Foxx, now 44, won an Oscar for his portrayal of Ray Charles. He also has a thriving music career.
Undoubtedly the most famous former Fly Girl is Jennifer Lopez, who joined the group in the show's third season. That led to a gig as a backup dancer for Janet Jackson. But Lopez wouldn't stay in the background for long. She soon broke into acting, becoming a big box office star before taking over the Billboard charts. Her debut last year as a judge on "American Idol" revived her flagging career and, along with her divorce from singer Marc Anthony and her romance with 24-year-old dancer Casper Smart, has J-Lo, 42, once again gracing magazine covers.
Rosie Perez's performance in the opening credits of Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing" probably helped her earn the job as choreographer for the Fly Girls. She held the role for four seasons while choreographing music videos for the likes of Janet Jackson and Bobby Brown. After "In Living Color," Perez, now 47, became better known for her nasally voice in such roles as "White Men Can't Jump" but showed serious acting chops in "Fearless," for which she earned an Oscar nod.
|David Alan Grier|
Yale-trained David Alan Grier got his start on stage as a serious actor, but he soon shifted to comedy, making a memorable appearance in Keenan Ivory Wayans' "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka." Keenan cast him in "In Living Color," where he played opposite Damon as a gay film critic. His success on the show led to comedic roles in movies and television. Grier, 55, recently returned to Broadway in a revival of "Porgy and Bess."
Like his brother and frequent collaborator Shawn, Marlon Wayans, now 39, got his start on "In Living Color." After leaving the show, the younger Wayans siblings starred in their own sitcom, the WB's "The Wayans Bros." Both went on to produce, co-write and star in the "Scary Movie" series.
Kim Wayans' career has taken a dramatic turn from "In Living Color" days. The 50-year-old comedic actress had been looking for an opportunity to show her dramatic chops but found few casting directors willing to take a chance until the indie film, "Pariah," where Wayans is nearly unrecognizable as Audrey, a religious mom at odds with her daughter's sexuality. The performance is earned her accolades. While Wayans awaits more dramatic offers, she will continue with her children's book series "Amy Hodgepodge," written with husband Kevin Knotts about a multiracial girl's trials and triumphs. She's in talks to turn it into an animated series. She is also shopping "Growing Up Wayans," a sitcom that pays homage to her mother, who raised Wayans and her nine siblings in New York's public housing.
Standup comedian Tommy Davidson got his first major exposure through "In Living Color," playing such memorable roles as Luther, the cook at Snack n Shack. His most recent film role was in 2009 blaxploitation film spoof "Black Dynamite."
|Carrie Ann Inaba|
Carrie Ann Inaba started her career as one of the Fly Girls. "She was always elegant. Always," Keenan Ivory Wayans said. "If you watch her dance, that's part of her style." Inaba went on to perform as a backup dancer for Madonna on tour, and landed cameo appearances dancing in movies and TV series through the years. Now, Inaba is a judge on ABC's hit show "Dancing With the Stars."