In Celebration of Chaotic Black Pop Culture Characters, #6 and 7: Cephus and Reesie of “In Living Color”

Programming note: I am moving this tribute to our chaotic fictional Black brethren and sisteren to the blog rather than the newsletter, so that I’m not Spamming y’all and you stop loving me.

I doubled up today, as I didn’t get to write yesterday, but I’m no quitter. Ask my kid at bedtime. He wishes I was and he’s always disappointed.

So today, I introduce to you the Chaotic Chorus. The Pandemonium Players. Behold: Cephus and Reesie Mayweather (David Alan Grier and Kim Wayans), “In Living Color”‘s gloriously terrible singing duo. Their names seem to be a parody of Bebe and CeCe Winans, the famous and infinitely more talented sibling gospel duo, but they’re closer to if Ashford and Simpson were in a Donnie and Marie tribute band with no budget and a musical director who hated them. They sing off key, their banter is maddening and the best part of that they’re gleefully unaware of how terrible they are.

Behold their appearance as the last wish granted for a man on death row, where they say “Somebody’s not smiling!” at a man literally sitting in the electric chair. Or my favorite, “Get Off The Lord’s If You Ain’t Got Correct Change,” featuring the stirring “Don’t Talk To The Driver.” (If you know my sister, ask her to tell you about the bus etiquette video she did as a young actor, where she is, indeed, the person who talks to the driver, and was actually recognized by someone who had ridden a bus where the video was shown.)

The bit works because it, and the performers, embrace the silliness and go for it – the cheap sets. The bad costumes. The flammable wigs, and the idea that we know this isn’t that much of an exaggeration from stuff that’s out on the road. It’s hilarious, because it’s terrible and it knows it. Embrace that terrible.