Chris Rock’s Heckling Made Marlon Wayans Quit Stand-Up for 20 Years
It’s hard enough for stand-up comics to deal with run-of-the-mill hecklers. Their drunken insults distract others and interrupt the flow of a show (although comedians who are skilled at the clap-back can turn heckles into comic gold). But what happens when the guy heckling you is one of the best stand-up comedians of all time, armed with a razor wit that slices lesser men to shreds? If that guy heckles you — and if you’re Marlon Wayans — it might be enough to make you quit the business altogether.
Stand-up life started so well for Wayans. Comedy was always something he wanted to do, he told Best of Montreal. “My start was in college,” he says. “I did five minutes at this place in Washington, DC and, it went well, and that felt good.” Wayans kept building his comic confidence, getting another fifteen or twenty sets under his belt.
And then Chris Rock showed up.
“I got heckled by Chris Rock and I quit for 20 years,” Wayans says. We're guessing it was something a little more incisive than “You suck, Marlon!” Wayans doesn’t elaborate on exactly what Rock said that was so devastating but rest assured, the insults cut to the bone. “It had to be for me to quit for 20 years.”
Does Wayans resent the harsh treatment from a fellow comic, especially one that he lists among his comedy heroes? Just the opposite. “You know, in comedy he was doing what big brothers do,” Wayans says. “I love Rock — Rock has always been a friend of the family (Rock even appeared on a season of Keenen Ivory Wayans’ In Living Color series). You know I love him. It made me better that night because it tested me to see if I really wanted to do it.”
So we guess that means Marlon’s heart wasn’t really in it? Or at least it wasn’t for twenty years, at which point he was cast to play Richard Pryor in a movie. That was all the motivation he needed. “I was like, ‘If I’m going to play the greatest comedian ever, I better get my Black ass back on stage,’” he says. “So I started doing standup again and I never stopped and I’ll never stop. I love it.”
To set the comic scales back into balance, Wayans spent his entire last comedy special, God Loves Me, essentially heckling Rock about the Will Smith slap.
“So,” he says, “look at karma.”