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Wayans brothers on a roll

Comedic franchise expands beyond films to comics, cartoons, trading cards
/ Source: The Associated Press

Brothers Shawn and Marlon Wayans are the ultimate partners. They're co-stars, co-writers and co-producers who finish each other's sentences and fuel each other's comedy, both on-screen and off.

They've made a string of successful films, including 2000's "Scary Movie," which earned $156 million at the box office and inspired a spate of sequels. ("Scary Movie 5" is slated for release in 2008.)

They played undercover agents disguised as white women in 2004's "White Chicks," which was a $70 million hit. Their latest effort, "Little Man," out Friday, involves more undercover work, with 6'2" Marlon playing a 2 1/2-foot-tall ex-convict. Shawn, who plays a wannabe dad, mistakes the little man for a homeless toddler and takes him in as a surrogate son.

Directed by older brother Keenen Ivory Wayans, the film is full of toilet humor, gross jokes and kicks to the groin — the kind of over-the-top silliness that has become the Wayans Brothers' trademark.

And they don't stop with film. Through their company, SMK Entertainment, Keenen Ivory, Shawn and Marlon Wayans produce trading cards, joke books, comic books and cartoons — a "theme park destination" is even in the works.

Shawn and Marlon sat down with The Associated Press to talk about their various comedic outlets and how being funny is a family affair.

AP: What are the advantages and disadvantages of working with your brothers?

Marlon: It's all advantage. We've got six eyes on a project with three different life experiences and three different points of view.

Shawn: Same taste, slightly different points of view.

Marlon: We've got crazier, more grounded and middle.

AP: Who's who?

Marlon: It depends. We take turns.

AP: Who's the craziest one?

Shawn: Keenen came up with this crazy idea. We're all crazy. We all come up with crazy (stuff).

Marlon: Somebody will play the middle, someone will be the voice of reason and say, "You know what, I think we should try it. Let's shoot it and if it doesn't work, then we can put it on a DVD."

Shawn: It's an amazing chemistry. It's like how those guys felt on the Chicago Bulls when it was Jordan, Pippen and Kukoc. Those dudes played with each other and had that camaraderie. That's what it's like with us with writing and doing our movies together.

Marlon: It's like the dude who created salt and put them elements together, NaCl. I don't know how he did it, but he made some real tasty stuff.

Shawn: I put it on everything.

AP:Do you ever run into creative differences?

Shawn: We know who does what well. There is a hierarchy because our brother raised us in the whole business. ... At the end of the day we will bow down to what he knows would probably be best for the scenario.

Marlon: Plus as a director, you've got to trust the stuff that we still laugh at 40 years later: "Living Color," "Scary Movie," "White Chicks." The dude knows what he's doing when it comes to comedy. He taught us about it. And as a director, that's his job. He makes the decisions.

Shawn: He was our hero. He was the dude that we watched and said, "I want to be like him." And then he trained us to be like him. And (brother) Damon as well. They both took us under their wings and taught us some amazing stuff.

AP: Are you guys workaholics? You've got the comic book, "Super Bad James Dynomite," the trading cards, "The Dozens," the "101 Ways" books, the "Thugaboo" cartoon.

Marlon: What's funny is we do all this while were working on movies. It's kind of like a hobby. Not really, it's another job, but it's what we do, man.

Shawn: When we were doing "White Chicks," we were in makeup pitching jokes back and forth for "The Dozens."

Marlon: We also wrote the "Ghetto Christmas" [book] in the makeup chair while we were doing "White Chicks." Then we wrote "Thugaboo," the Christmas episode and finishing touches on the third one...

Shawn: And we finished up the first one while we were shooting this [film].

Marlon: We're monsters.

AP: How do you refuel yourselves creatively?

Marlon: I don't get tired. It's funny, Shawn says one day I'm going to break down.

Shawn: I have a better gauge on what my breaking point is and Marlon is a little bit more in denial with what he says will break him. So I say, "Hey, enough now, let's go take a vacation." We'll do that and then we'll come back to work.

Marlon: I'm not going on vacation.

Shawn: He'll go.

AP: What inspires you to be funny?

Shawn: The journey of life just shapes you and you become a better person and just a richer artist.

Marlon: Being a class clown helps, too, because you've got that audience in school. Every day you're being silly with them and they're laughing and they can't wait for you to come to school because you make their day. We're just doing what we've been doing since we were all kids. Every one of us has been a class clown. So we have an audience in our head.