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CoastLine: Damon Wayans on why there's a laugh on the other side of every groan in stand-up comedy

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The breakout moment for Damon Wayans came on the show, In Living Color, which ran for four years in the early 1990s. It was the first Black sketch comedy show on network television. And while he’d already enjoyed a season on Saturday Night Live, In Living Color gave him the chance to showcase not only his comedic performing chops – but also his ability to write sketches and create characters.

Damon Wayans is a three-time Emmy nominee. He is a New York Times Bestselling Author. He is a film and TV writer, director, producer, and actor – with credits such as The Last Boy Scout, Mo’ Money, Blankman, and Spike Lee’s Bamboozled. He starred in the TV series Lethal Weapon. He produced and starred in My Wife and Kids, and wrote, directed, produced and starred in the film, Behind the Smile.

His breakout moment came on the show, In Living Color, which ran for four years in the early 1990s. It was the first Black sketch comedy show on network television. And while he’d already enjoyed a season on Saturday Night Live, In Living Color gave Damon Wayans the chance to showcase not only his comedic performing chops – but also his ability to write sketches and create characters.

Stand-up comedy, however, remains his favorite form. Even after four HBO specials under his belt, One Night Stand, The Last Stand, Still Standing, and WayOut, he still tours as a stand-up comic.

Damon Wayans performs at UNCW’s Kenan Auditorium on Friday, September 16, 2022.

But first up on this edition of CoastLine, we explore what we’re learning about the inclusion of arts programming in education – including stand-up comedy.

What do the things we find funny tell us about ourselves, what educational opportunities can we find in comedy, and how can we be open about problematic content without shutting down dialogue or getting into what’s widely being called cancel culture?

Here to guide us on this exploration is Dr. James DeVita. He is the Director of High Impact Pathways at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where he is also an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership. And he teaches at a local dance studio where he also performs.

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Professor James DeVita appears in a dance performance with Forward Motion Dance Company at Thalian Hall on September 22-23, 2022.  

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.