As the world began its slowdown and shutdown, some people made modest changes.
Wayne Brady, however, required a full attitude adjustment. For decades, he seemed to be in a state of perpetual overemployment.
It was just two months ago, at a Television Critics Association session, that people were asking him about that. “Man, me got 15 jobs,” Brady(shown here winning “Masked Singer”) joked. “What you talking about?”
Now that “15” is closer to zero, but we still see him everywhere, from CBS (already-taped episodes of “Let’s Make a Deal” and “The Neighborhood”) to CW (“Whose Line Is It Anyway” reruns) to BYU TV, where “Wayne Brady’s Comedy IQ” is on Mondays, molding teens into a sketch-comedy troupe.
And yes, some people didn’t know there is a BYU TV. “We took a meeting with them and liked what we heard,” Brady said in a recent phone interview. “BYU is a family-first network.”
It’s a logical place for “IQ,” a show so family-first that Brady does it with his ex-wife (Mandie Taketa), with their teen daughter (Maile) working backstage.
“Wayne is such a great teacher …. It was a safe place for these kids to learn,” Taketa told the TCA.
He reflects experiences few of them have had. Many teens keep churning out comedy material online, even while social-distancing. “That’s why Tik Tok is blowing up now,” Brady said.
His youth was far from that. “You might call it nerdy. I was very much to myself, very introverted.”
He was born in Columbus, Ga., but soon sent to live with his grandmother in Orlando, Fla. There, he recalled by phone, he was sometimes bullied “because I talked like my grandmother,” with a West Indian accent, and “because I was being bused to a different school” for gifted students.
He sang and concocted ideas. “I tried to make things up; all kids do. I knew I had an imagination, but I didn’t know what to do with it.”
Then he was making an industrial film when he caught the interest of a woman who asked if he wanted to train with her group. “I was 17 and it was, ‘Oh, yeah!’”
Brady worked amusement parks, sometimes inside Goofy or Tigger suits. He went to the University of Miami and then to Los Angeles and beyond, he told the TCA, “being in cover bands, singing in lounges in Tokyo, bad cover bars in Vegas, doing crappy musical theater at dinner theaters all across the U.S.”
It was a mobile life he shared with Taketa, who grew up in Hawaii, with a Japanese father (a Carpenters Union official who chaired the Honolulu Police Commission) and Caucasian mother. They divorced in 2008, after nine years, but remain friends, working partners and (almost) quarantine mates. Maile alternates between two nearby homes, one with Brady and the other with Taketa and her boyfriend.
In “Comedy IQ,” Brady insists that the teens learn the full skills – singing and dancing and accents and more – that he’s used. “It’s something that has helped set me apart.”
He uses his improvisation skills on “Let’s Make a Deal,” his singing on Broadway (“Chicago,” “Kinky Boots”) and on records (including a Grammy nomination for his rendition of “A Change is Gonna Come”). He uses both on “Who’s Line” and in a club show he did four nights a week.
Still, many people were surprised when he topped music stars (Chris Daughtry, Seal, Patti LaBelle) to become the second “Masked Singer” champion. “I felt really validated,” he said.
That show required skills from his teen years – performing under a mask and (for months before the finale aired) not telling anyone he was on the show.
In the old days, Brady said, he didn’t tell kids he was a performer. “I was keeping secrets, even then.”
The “Comedy IQ” kids can’t do. Their success or failure is no secret; it’s on national TV.
– “Wayne Brady’s Comedy IQ,” 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) Mondays, BYU TV; rerunning at 11 p.m. ET.
– Opener (April 6) is preceded by the season-opener of “Studio C” (7:30 and 10:30 p.m. ET), a clever sketch-comedy show in the “Saturday Night Live” style.
– Owned by Brigham Young University, the channel is on cable, plus Dish, DirecTV and streaming devices. It has family-friendly shows, including reruns( “Highway to Heaven,” “Inspectors”), movies, sports, some Mormon religion shows (early-morning and Sundays) and music. In December, it had music specials with John Legend and (shared with PBS) Kristin Chenoweth and the Tabernacle Choir.