"In the early days, TV was in black and white," Whoopi Goldberg said as she presented the Groundbreaking Award to the cast of "In Living Color" at the TV Land Awards earlier this month.
"But let's be honest," she went on. "It was really more white than black. But in 1990, a new show changed the face of television, not to mention comedy."
Created by actor/writer Keenen Ivory Wayans, the sketch comedy series "In Living Color" ran on Fox from 1990-1994, and "brought a new multiculturalism to the primetime variety genre, which basically means there was nothing like it on television anywhere," continued Goldberg.
"With a bold, comedic edge, hip-hop energy and streetwise sensibility, it not only shattered stereotypes, it shattered everybody's idea of what sketch comedy was and could be, and more importantly, what it was supposed to look like," she said. "It was the ultimate water-cooler show because when you see old white men sitting around talking about 'two snaps up,' it meant somebody was watching."
"In Living Color" was a family affair - brothers Keenen and Damon Wayans created, wrote and starred in the program, which also starred their sister, Kim. The series launched the careers of Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx and David Alan Grier, and characters such as Fire Marshall Bill, Homey D. Clown, and Blaine & Antoine from the "Men on Films" sketches have since become part of American pop culture.
Most of the cast attended the awards ceremony, though Foxx was noticeably absent, as well as several members of "In Living Color's" in-house dance troupe, The Fly Girls. (Nope, former Fly Girl Jennifer Lopez didn't attend.)
"This is truly an honor to accept this award," said Keenen Ivory Wayans, "and an even greater honor to be back together with all these talented people.
"We were just a bunch of, ah, geniuses," he joked before adding, "no, we were just a bunch of young kids who had an opportunity to be funny. There was no great intention behind it other than to come to work every day and have fun and give what we had to an audience who had never seen what we had before."
David Alan Grier recalled that he "loved doing the show," to the point that he can't remember missing a day of work, and Jim Carrey also took a moment to reflect.
"This is a tsunami, a wave, a crest of talent I feel so incredibly lucky to have been sucked up into," the actor said. "It was bigger than us, and we all knew that... we had every experience under the rainbow in this show. We laughed, we cried, we broke down walls, and eventually we elected a president."
Kim Wayans added that the show "was such an amazing ride for us. I knew we were doing something special back then. The fact that the show is still popular in reruns after all these years is really a testament to the creative, comedic brilliance of my big brother, Keenen Ivory Wayans; and I want to say thank you."
And, she added, "on behalf of Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Kim Wayans and David Wayans, I say thank you for upholding the wonderful Hollywood tradition of nepotism."
The classic sketch program is being rebooted, with Keenen Ivory Wayans serving as executive producer. Fox is set to shoot the pilot episode in the coming weeks with a cast of newcomers.
The TV Land Awards will air on April 29.