Beyond the Surface: Comic Chaunte Wayans on Opportunities to Change the Way We Think, Using Our Gifts and Being the Happiest We Can Be

To be one’s true self is the goal in life. This blog series would not exist if it werent for a reunion with an old friend who had all the makings of a modern-day Mozart. But at a pivotal fork in the road, he chose the path behind a desk, instead of one behind a keyboard, which would’ve honored his gift - like Mozart did. Now, 20 years later, he’s unrecognizable, this friend who once had music radiating from every cell, especially when singing in random bursts of happiness. The years have taken their toll - not just in the added 20 pounds that don’t belong, but in the heaviness that comes when living someone elses life, and not one’s true purpose. The life you came here to live.

As a writer, this inspired me to highlight the special souls who chose to follow their true path. The tougher path, but one that honors and expresses the powerful gift of music they’ve been given. To live the Mozart life. May some of their words help or inspire you to find your true calling in life.

Comic Chaunté Wayans has toured nationally with Katt Williams, Russell Peters, and her uncles Marlon, Shawn and Damon Wayans. She was also a cast member on MTV’s “Nick Cannon Presents: Wild N’ Out” and most recently seen in the movie “50 Shades Of Black.” She’s a writer on CBS’s Diversity Showcase 2017. You can catch her at the Richmond Funny Bone Aug. 17 – 20 and at Ontario Improv Aug. 22.

How do you find inspiration for your work? Is there somewhere deep within where the inspiration comes from? I’ve often heard comics say their humor comes from pain, perhaps a tough childhood or life, etc. What’s your take on that?

My life is my inspiration for my work. The people I meet, the experiences I have good or bad, the things I see. Comedy definitely comes from pain. Sometimes when everything is going so well for you there’s nothing relatable to the general audience. The larger part of the audience can’t relate to private jets and expensive vacations. What most can relate to is getting on an airplane and having to sit next to the bathroom because it was the cheapest ticket, or getting a Groupon for Disneyland for the family thinking you’ve gotten a really good deal, only to spend your life’s savings once you’re inside.

What do you do to help pick yourself up when you’re feeling down, and help you stay the course?

I remember my past times of feeling down and remember how I thought it was impossible before, and no matter how hard or painful it was, felt I got out of it. When we wake up another day we have to realize that this is another opportunity to change the way you thought, how you do things, and how you respond to others. Use that opportunity to work on being a better you than you were ever before.

When you create and write, do you feel that in those inspirational moments you’re most connected to your true self?

I do feel most connected to myself when I create, write, but most importantly when I’m on stage. I am experiencing the entire process of taking an idea and writing it out and then performing it on stage to translate to people that will hopefully laugh, and when they do there is a high that can’t be sold on the streets.

Do you have a daily routine or process?

I wish I could focus enough to have a daily routine. (laughs) I am trying out a new technique of writing for at least a minute a day. For the most part I try to stay productive. Whether it’s writing, reading, or performing, I’m doing something.

When did you know you had this gift of making people laugh and how did it manifest for you? How did you start to do the human discipline it takes to channel your gift, hone it and bring it forth?

The funny thing is growing up I was a bit shy. Didn’t really express myself too much, but when I moved to California I saw my cousin, Damon Jr., perform. I went home that night and couldn’t sleep because I had two jokes that I thought were funny that I wanted to perform at the open mic the next day. I went and performed it, the audience laughed, and the booker asked me to come back to perform on the main show. I know it sounds like a fantasy, but something clicked and I fell in love.

There are divine moments of serendipity, where a catalyst opens the door that leads to the path we’re meant to be on, the one where we live out the fullest expression of our true selves. What was that moment for you and how did it happen?

Ok. Ok. With all of these spiritual questions. I love it. (laughs) Well if you call being abused, becoming an alcoholic leading you to rock bottom, and then no one wants to be bothered with you, and then you find out Michael Jackson died, so you drink some more while you cry listening to all of his songs because you feel like you know him, “I’ll be there. JUST LOOK OVER YOUR SHOULDERS, HONEY!” serendipity…

What inspired this blog series was seeing an old friend who has a special gift of music, but didn’t choose that path, who, 20 years later, isn’t living the life he thought he would live. People who make music or make people laugh and get to travel the country or the world doing so are a rare example of a life where one is able to honor and channel their gift. What are your thoughts?

I think if you’re not living using your gifts, then you’ll never be the happiest you could be. It comes with knowing oneself. Through my journey I’ve allowed the world around me to affect my choices, my happiness. You have to listen to your inner self. Find your happy place, becausethat’s the one thing that will keep you thriving.

Do you feel you’re consciously living the life you thought you would be living?

Who knows. I thought I would be living down in Fraggle Rock, dating Betty Boop. So I can’t say it’s the life I thought I would be living, but I can say that I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. Still have a lot of growth, but I enjoy every minute of it.

I’ve said in that blog post about living the Mozart life, that it may be a tougher road to choose, but you’re fully living your true selves. Do you resonate to that? You didnt choose the 9 to 5 path.

Ha. I was the worst in a 9 to 5. I will say that most of my bosses liked me so I got away with a lot of stuff, but I can’t see myself doing anything different. It’s a rush and when you are able to set your own goals and achieve them, not reach company goals and don’t receive even a promotion, you find that you’ve been missing out.

But to embark on this path you chose, was that difficult? You didn’t know youd get here.

It was difficult for me because it was hard for me to believe in what I was doing when I first started. I knew it was funny, but I didn’t know how it was really being received. People would tell me I shouldn’t talk about my lifestyle or maybe I should dress differently - happy I went against the odds.

How did you know that this is your life path, your calling? How does someone know when they’re on the correct path?

I knew I was on the right path when I performed at a show and I had a family approach me. The husband and wife had their daughter with them who just told them she likes girls. Well, through my story, I was able to talk to them about understanding and support and to the daughter about understanding as well, because it may be difficult for the parents to take it in all at once. It was an amazing conversation, to say the least.

What is your idea of success, especially on the path you chose?

My idea of success is being able to show people that it’s possible. And if I can change one person’s life in this world for the better, than I truly feel like I’ve done my job.

Life gives us catalysts, a release valve, which often is our lowest point in life, that allows us to push up to the next, hopefully better chapter. Like a desert, wilderness period in life, that helps raise our consciousness and stay true to yourself and your own path. What was that low point for you that helped you push yourself further, evolve and do better, and what did you do when you had that epiphany?

My low point was seeing me disappoint people that believed in me. I knew I was meant for something and I was constantly putting myself in a downward spiral by drinking. I realized that I couldn’t get away from myself and my duty, I honestly felt a peace in me, wanting to be a better me.

It’s been a tough time in recent years, losing many of our legends or those we grew up with whose music were our soundtrack. Do you think about time much and what you want to achieve in the time we have?

Yes it’s so sad. I cried more at Prince and Charlie Murphy passing then my second cousin’s funeral. No, I try not to worry about time. More so just living in the moment and appreciating the seconds I have to use the better part of me.

Unlike any time in history, we’re in a overwhelming digital era. There is so much detritus, noise and schadenfreude. What’s your view on that and what do you do to connect with your Higher Self, your true self? Do you have a day you unplug for example? How do you ground yourself, focus on your own life path and purpose?

I am guilty of binge watching series, reading one meme that leads me to a 1,000 more and many more distractions, but I have slowly been trying to pull myself away. It’s hard when you need to stay up to date because you may need it for auditions, comedy, interviews, but one thing I’ve learned was to give myself a day of relaxation or experiencing the world’s beauty. I meditate often. It’s funny because my brain is always working so even when I’m relaxed I find things to talk about.

I’m a firm believer in doing mitzvahs, especially in the tougher times of our lives. To give back, be of service in some way, to use our time most wisely, can only help us in the end. What are your thoughts and do you try to do your own mitzvahs to help others, even in the smallest way?

I’m always finding ways to reach out and be of service. It could be feeding or performing for the homeless/shelters, being a part of helping kids through arts, or even opening myself up via social media if people need to talk. I love it. It’s what makes me feel whole and that my struggles didn’t exist for nothing.

What advice do you have for people who have the gift of comedy, but don’t know how to start channeling it, to develop that gift and bring it out?

Pay attention to the world around you and study the greats. There’s always a good book for structure, Judy Carter has a good one. Most importantly get on that Got Darn stage!

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