Photo illustration by Johansen Peralta
Apr 18, 2022
Wyatt Cenac and Donwill are still shouting at screens
The comedian-DJ duo are guests on the podcast where they discuss their blaxploitation film screening series, their careers and more
We’ve all had moviegoing experiences where someone talks through the film, cracking jokes, and either entertaining or horrifying the other folks in the theater. Sometimes—we’ll admit it—we’ve been that person. Maybe you’ve been that person.
On April 28 we can all be that person when comedian Wyatt Cenac and rapper Donwill bring their “Shouting at the Screen” series, which they’ve been hosting on and off for about a decade, to Nitehawk Cinema’s Prospect Park location.
The premise is simple: The two pick a surprise blaxploitation flick or cult independent Black film and provide running commentary, encouraging the audience to join in as well. Think of it as “Mystery Science Theater 3000” only live and in a Magic Johnson multiplex with full audience participation. And drinking games.
“We tend to have fun with the films but we also crack a lot of jokes,” says Donwill, a DJ and half of the hip-hop duo Tanya Morgan.
“For the audience, the hope is that you walk away from this both seeing a movie where you’re like, ‘What the fuck was that?’ And at the same time be like, ‘It was also fun. It was cool’,” adds Cenac, the Emmy-winning writer, comedian, actor and producer most recently behind the HBO docu-series “Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas.”
Donwill and Cenac are this week’s guests on “Brooklyn Magazine: The Podcast,” in which we discuss the film series, among a range of other things.
Having hosted some iteration of “Shouting at the Screen” for 10 years now, the two say their appreciation for the art of blaxploitation cinema has only deepened. Cenac points out that even with ridiculous films like 1972’s “The Thing with Two Heads”—where Rosey Grier’s head is plonked onto Ray Milland’s body—you can go down the rabbit hole and learn that makeup legend Rick Baker got one of his earliest credits on the movie.
“There’s also something fascinating about the independent spirit of a lot of these films … [that] were being made on these shoestring budgets by people who’d never made films before,” says Cenac. “There’s a line that could be drawn to a lot of filmmaking that was done there that doesn’t get celebrated with the filmmaking of somebody like John Cassavetes, who does get celebrated. For me, the more I watch these things, the less I see a difference between what Cassavetes was doing versus what some of these filmmakers were doing.”
(But then there are movies that are just completely insane, like 1975’s “Welcome Home Brother Charles,” for reasons Cenac describes on the podcast.)
We talk about their respective careers. Cenac—who famously left his gig as a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart over tensions with the host—is never shy about unpacking unpleasant experiences with past employers. On the podcast he explains what happened when HBO canceled “Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas,” which tackled heavy subjects with a comedic-journalistic approach, in 2019.
“When we got canceled the thing that I was told was, if we had been nominated for more awards it would have been hard to cancel us. Like, that’s not on me,” he says. “It’s like if someone breaks up with you and they’re like if only I loved you more—if only I invested more in this relationship—then I think it would work out.”
More recently Cenac, who started his career as a writer on “King of the Hill” and has worked on animated shows throughout, has signed a multi-year deal across both Warner Brothers Animation and Cartoon Network Studios.
“This was an opportunity to try to develop some stuff. Fingers crossed,” he says. “With animation, so much of it, it takes so long to get anything made. So hopefully by 2093 we’ll see some fun cartoons.”
On the podcast we also discuss the shared DNA between music and comedy, “Weird” Al Yankovic, going to the Apple Store, and what Brooklynites get wrong most often about Ohio, where Donwill is from. When he’s not working on new Tanya Morgan material, you can currently catch him on Mondays at Littlefield, where he provides the beats for the weekly comedy series “Butterboy” hosted by Aparna Nancherla, Maeve Higgins and Jo Firestone.
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