The second-oldest child of the Wayans Brothers comic dynasty (brother of Damon, Marlon, Shawn, Kim, and Dwayne Wayans), "renaissance" man Keenen Ivory Wayans retains the highest profile among his siblings as a director and entrepreneur, and claims a brief but spectacular career, which qualifies him as a bona fide role model to young African-Americans interested in carving like paths in comedy or entertainment. A graduate of the Tuskegee Institute, Wayans entered the comic arena in the mid-'80s by stepping up to the mike and honing his stand-up act, but he later branched out into movies, by scripting the low-budget black satire Hollywood Shuffle (1987) and the aptly-titled comedy vehicle Eddie Murphy: Raw (1987), both for director pal Robert Townsend. Wayans broke through to a larger audience with I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988), a rollicking parody of 1970s blaxploitation flicks which he directed, produced, and starred in -- as Jack Spade, a black war vet who heads home to the ghetto, only to discover that his brother Junebug died from an "OG" (or overdose of gold chains). For credibility and weight, Wayans intuitively cast blaxploitation vets Isaac Hayes, Bernie Casey, and Jim Brown in leading roles; the film also features Chris Rock's debut.
In 1988, Wayans created, produced, and starred in the Fox network's iconoclastic, influential, cutting-edge comedy-variety series In Living Color, which not only made "Wayans" a household name (synonymous with African-American comedy), but also solidified the stardom of comedians Jamie Foxx and the rubber-faced Jim Carrey (who, with his Fire Marshall Bill character, appeared as the ensemble's obligatory white schmuck). A dispute over the show erupted between Wayans and Fox in late 1992, as Wayans felt that the network was overrunning In Living Color in syndication; he argued that it would reduce the program's longevity. Yet Fox refused to back down. Consequently, the whole Wayans family left the program, leaving Jim Carrey center stage. In Living Color lasted two additional seasons, and wrapped in late summer 1994.