After a successful trial run at the Venetian earlier this year, multi-hyphenate performer Wayne Brady returns August 4 with Making It Up, a variety show nearly as fast-paced as the 35-year-old’s real life.
What I wanted was a show that someone could come back to and never see the same show twice. With improv, you’re really not going to see the same show anyway, but I wanted the entire show to have that feel to it. Basically, there are musical numbers at the top and more musical numbers in the middle, things that I won’t do for a couple weeks I’ll throw in, different impressions, different audience bits, trying to make something that can be fun for the repeat people and also fun for me.
The sway that the Rat Pack and Sammy Davis Jr. and those guys have over me is that I believe it’s great to be a multiple-threat performer, and that’s what those guys were.
It’s a very modern show with a bit of a retro edge, especially when it gets to the music stuff.
I started off with an improv group in Orlando the same time I was doing theater down there, and the training came on the job. We had shows every night of the week. You get better as time goes on.
When I worked at the MGM Grand [beginning in 1994], I really loved playing around in the theme park, actually. There were only like three rides, I think. I had a great time. At night I used to go and sit in these various lounges. When I’d get off work, I’d go home and shower, and my big night out was I would just drive around, find a lounge and listen to a band. I think some of the most talented cats work in Vegas, and people just don’t know.
If you’re going to tell a joke, you’ve got to tell an amazing joke, because there are guys who can make things up that are funnier than your written material. And that’s pretty much the benchmark for me, even when I’m writing something. Myself and my partner, we always look at each other and say, “Okay, now is this something that we just put down on paper funnier than something that I can improvise?” Because if it isn’t, then I’m not going to use it. I’d rather improvise at that point.
I would completely do nudity.
I’m not saying you come to the show and there’s an F-bomb dropped every other minute, but it’s an audience-dependent show, so at certain times the audience may throw out something that’s not appropriate for a 12-year-old, and I’ve got to answer that.
I’ve done nudity before. Back when I first moved out to Los Angeles, I was doing a play, a boxing drama that dealt with homoeroticism and sports and all of this stuff. I was completely naked, and I had no problem doing that. I have a problem if it’s just for the sake of, “Hey, watch this! I’m going to get naked!” But if the character’s taking a shower because it involves the story, you will see my butt, nice, round and shiny.
I don’t think you ever get stumped by an audience suggestion; it’s how you choose to use that suggestion. Sometimes they may say something that is so incredibly stupid you are taken aback for a second. Instead of throwing the show into a downward spiral, I’ll address the audience member and say, “You know what, maybe that isn’t the best suggestion for me to use right now.”
If you want to become successful at anything, you have to have a certain degree of discipline or you might find yourself tap-dancing for change outside of 7-Eleven. But definitely the disciplinary aspects of having to get on the grind, to go up there and knock on doors, show what you can do, get doors slammed in your face, have someone say something stupid about you and keep on going.
Whose Line Is It Anyway? was great. It showcased a whole generation of improvisational actors, and it upped the ante. Of course there’s bad improv, but there is incredible improv. Improv at its best is an incredible art, so I think it just upped things comedically.
When I started acting in high school, my first drama teacher said one thing that stuck in my head: “Look, if you can do more than the next guy, you will always work.” That’s why I tried to learn as much as I could and be like those old-school performers. I never wanted to be pigeonholed. If I can do a drama like the basketball drama that I did last year called Crossover, and then do 30 Rock and How I Met Your Mother and Everybody Hates Chris, and then turn around and do kids programming, then turn around and do some of the mainstream talk and variety stuff, now I’ve got grandma, grandpa, I’ve got the parents, I’ve got the college-age folks, and I’ve got the little kids. So at a certain point, pretty much every generation in someone’s family has been a fan of mine at some point, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
That’s the aim.
I’m going on tour at the same time I’m playing in Vegas. Doing a symphony, the music of Sammy Davis Jr. and Sam Cooke. And I’ll have a CD out at the end of the year that will cover those tunes.
There’s action stuff that I’ve always wanted to do, in the vein of Rush Hour 3. I’ve always wanted to romantic stuff. The early Tom Hanks type of stuff really appeals to me. I haven’t had the chance to do it yet, but I’ve got to do so much so far that it’s just around the corner.
It happened a lot more when the sketch [of Brady as a murderous pimp on Chappelle’s Show] was being played a lot on Comedy Central, but at least twice a day [someone shouts “Is Wayne Brady gonna have to choke a bitch?”]. I wouldn’t want to be a hypocrite and say, “Oh, it’s awesome! I love it!” when I’m strolling down the street with my 4-and-a-half-year-old daughter. You know? It’s great that people embraced that sketch, and it’s still one of the funniest sketches I’ve seen. The Museum of TV History thought it was funny; they named it one of the top moments in TV history. But it’s funny that instead of just saying hello, people choose to yell that, thinking, “Hey, I’ll get Wayne’s attention. He’ll talk to me if I yell this.” People get your TV persona mixed up with your real life. Off-camera, I’m very no-nonsense, laid-back, low-key. I don’t run around with a microphone, smiling and making up songs. And most people go, “Hey ... would Wayne Brady ... be forced to ... choke ... a bitch?” No one gets it right. But it’s better to have people saying that than, “Hey, who are you again?”
She loves Vegas. She’s a little weirdo. She is truly, truly a showbiz baby. She likes to sing, she likes to dance, and she wants to direct. She’s seen the Vegas show a lot. She likes to go to the theme park at Circus Circus. She makes me take her to the Venetian pool. We go to Madam Tussaud’s. She makes me take her to GameWorks. So she thinks that Vegas is just the best place in the world.
I'm shooting more episodes of Everybody Hates Chris now. And I’ll be reprising my role as Neil Patrick Harris’ brother on How I Met your Mother. I’ve got this new show on Fox that got picked up for 13 more, Don’t Forget the Lyrics, where I get to be the host and make fun of people and have a good time, so I’m pretty much having a damn good time in general.
I believe that every person who lives in Las Vegas, it is their American duty to come see Wayne Brady Make Shit Up.
Making It Up, 9 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays, $83-$105. The Venetian Showroom, 414-1000.Julie Seabaugh is a Weekly staff writer.