- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 22, 2001

NEW YORK — His eponymous half-hour program, on a six-week tryout on ABC, drew nearly 11 million viewers, making it rank 13th in households for its recent premiere. (It airs tonight at 8:30 p.m.)
"If you look at a lot of the nonsense that's on TV right now, there's only so many times that you can watch someone eat bug larvae, win a million bucks, get chased by dogs, fall off a waterfall or vote someone off the island," Mr. Brady says. "It's time for something you and your family can look at."
Best known as the guy on ABC's "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" who can make up a song about anything from sinks to tsunamis, Mr. Brady says the new format incorporates what he already is doing but "stepped up a notch."
"The Wayne Brady Show," heralded for attempting to revive a genre that had its heyday decades ago, displays Mr. Brady's many talents.
The 29-year-old sketch comedian with a razor-sharp mind for improvisation is a dead-on impersonator and a talented singer who could make Michael Jackson take notice, especially when he's satirizing the moonwalking pop star.
His antics include a sketch of his West Indian grandmother and of James Brown, portrayed in the pilot as an emergency medical services technician responding to a 911 call.
Although this generation hasn't seen much of the variety-show format as it was in the days of Flip Wilson and Carol Burnett — complete with a host, a supporting troupe, a band, guest appearances and song-and-dance routines —Mr. Brady says the show can succeed.
"If the people enjoy it, then it will be on," says the Emmy nominee. (He's in the running at the Sept. 16 awards show with Steve Martin, Barbra Streisand, David Letterman, Ellen DeGeneres and Will Ferrell for best individual performance in a variety or music program for his work on "Whose Line.")
His influences include other versatile performers: Sammy Davis Jr., Billy Crystal and Robin Williams.
"I think a lot of the people I've gravitated toward are the people that can do more than one thing," he says.
Comparisons to Mr. Wilson, the first successful black host of a TV variety show, elicit a positive response, but Mr. Brady is quick to point out that "we are two completely, utterly different people."
Racial identity, for instance, seems less of an issue for Mr. Brady, even at a time when the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is threatening a boycott over what it sees as a lack of diversity in network programming.
"I'm the only person doing a variety show like that; that's why it sticks out," Mr. Brady says. "I don't think color is relevant."
One similarity between the comedians, though, is the belief that you can be positive and still be funny, Mr. Brady says. It's a Wilson trademark he takes on as his own.
Mr. Brady, a native of Orlando, Fla., must wait until Sept. 7 to find out whether his show will be renewed.
He continues to tour the country doing improvisation and also is co-producing a play titled "The Only Game in Town" with his wife, Mandie. It opens in November.
Admittedly, he has come a long way from the days when macaroni and cheese dinners were staples in the L.A. apartment he and Mandie shared when they arrived in 1996.
Now the actor boasts that he even can afford to add sausage and hamburger to his macaroni.
"I'm just ecstatic that people embraced [the show] as they have," Mr. Brady says. "It's such an incredible feeling to know that people like your work."


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