Comedian, actress and writer Chaunte Wayans (yes, of the legendary comedic Wayans family!) will make her New York stage debut tonight at the MCC Theater in Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties, written by Jen Silverman and directed by Mike Donahue. Wayans plays Betty 5, alongside actresses Dana Delaney, Lea DeLaria, Adina Verson and Ana Villafane.
Recently seen on the Katt Williams special “Kattpacalypse,” and Fifty Shades of Black, and having earned a role as a featured cast member on MTV’s hit sketch comedy series “Nick Cannon Presents: Wild N’ Out,” Wayans is, indeed, a comedian like her famous aunt, Kim, and uncles Marlon, Shawn, Damon and Keenen Ivory (Emmy-award winning host and creator of 90s sketch comedy series In Living Color), but comedy wasn’t her first career interest.
“I was into computers and didn’t have an interest in being a comedian. I moved to L.A., and was behind the scenes doing editing work,” Wayans told TNJ.com. “Then one night, I went to a comedy club, thought about it later that night, and wrote two jokes. I performed at the club the next day and was asked to come back.”
Growing up, Wayans was a self-described introvert and uncomfortable speaking out. “But once I got on that stage,” she shares, “it was a big release.”
Since then, she’s garnered several film and television credits including Hollywood Misconceptions, Dance Flick, TLC’s “Trading Spaces,” Bounce TV’s “Off the Chain” and Nicktoons’ animated series, “The Boo Crew.”
Wayans, who counts Whoopi Goldberg, Wanda Sykes, Ellen DeGeneres and Tiffany Haddish as a few of her favorite comedians, says being one of the first LGBT Wayans is one way in which her work stands out from her family’s. “It’s not only talking about my lifestyle, but coming from my entire world which is a place of honesty and truth,” she notes.
And in reflecting on the family legacy, DNA she’s proud to come from, Wayans admits that for many years, she and other members of the next generation of Wayans had a tough time. “There were constant comparisons to our family members; often in auditions trying to get gigs, people wanted to talk about acting credits of my family. And I get it; they’re legends. But it took me a while to hone my voice, and become comfortable with it. When we first started out in the entertainment business, people were not nice!” she confides.
(In Living Color struck comedic gold in the 90s, launched the careers of several Black comedians including Tommy Davidson, David Alan Grier and T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh, and went on to have a long run in syndication.)
Now, she, her siblings and cousins have come into their own. “The second generation has a lot of talent in different areas,” she says. “My cousin produces beats, and I have several cousins who are artists; we all have something. There are enough of us where we are expanding on the empire and trying to make sure that each generation is, at least, aware of it, if they choose to be a part of it.”