Fox premiered its first episode of “In Living Color” on this day in 1990. The hilarious sketch show kick-started a new generation of comedians and helped launch careers for stars such as Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, and even Jennifer Lopez. Keenen Wayans created, wrote, and starred in the sketch comedy series.
The cast of “In Living Color” also included members of the Wayans family—including Damon, Kim, Shawn, and Marlon—who all had recurring roles. The show also starred several previously unknown comedians and actors, including Foxx, Tommy Davidson, David Alan Grier, and T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh.
During its first two seasons, the show garnered high amounts of popularity with viewers. Over 22.7 million people watched its debut episode, making it the 29th top show for that week. However, in the third and fourth seasons, ratings slipped as the Wayans brothers got into a falling out with Fox over creative freedom.
‘In Living Color’ Competes With the Super Bowl
Despite the wavering ratings, the series was a hit with the critics. It won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series in 1990. It even competed with the nation’s most prominent sports event of the year. The show aired a live special to compete with the halftime show of the Super Bowl XXVI. As a result, “In Living Color” prompted the NFL to include celebrity acts for future Super Bowls to combat any competition.
In addition, actors like Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, David Alan Grier have “In Living Color” to thank for helping them launch their successful careers.
Even though the show consisted of hilarious goofs and gaffs, it often highlighted serious subject matter. For instance, the topic of race frequented the sketches. For example. Carrey played a character who criticized white musicians such as Vanilla Ice, who performed in genres associated with African American culture.
When asked about the show’s use of stereotypes of African American culture, Wayans had a rebuttal. “Half of comedy is making fun of stereotypes. They only get critical when I do it. Woody Allen has been having fun with his culture for years, and no one says anything about it. Martin Scorsese, his films basically deal with the Italian community. And no one ever says anything to him. I don’t even concern myself with that type of criticism because it’s racist in itself.”