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Damon Wayans Jr. on Happy Endings, Working With Dad, and ‘Sex Noses’

‪When Happy Endings debuted last spring alongside five similar ensemble comedies — think six people, big city, plenty of brunching — it was easy to dismiss as “just another Friends knockoff.” But the sleeper success managed to shake its Central Perk rep with pop-culture-heavy dialogue and a cast of truly wacky characters — none more so than Brad, the giggly, Parkour-loving married guy played by Damon Wayans Jr. (Yes, that Wayans.) Vulture caught up with Wayans to discuss the show, his brief stint on New Girl, and sex noses. ‬

This is one of your first forays outside the family biz, as it were. How’s that going?
Well, this is our second season of the show, but it kind of feels like our first — because our first season, no one really saw it. It was on so late. But it definitely feels good to know that people are starting to dig the show and more people are coming along for the ride to see how silly we are.

What was it like having your dad (Damon Wayans) on the show?
It was good. He listened to everything I said, and I made sure he didn’t get the funniest joke in the scene because he’s on my show. It was good. It was great. Me and him, we’re good buddies. It was like getting paid to hang out with someone you always hang out with anyway.

It’s our working theory here that you and Eliza Coupe have one of the best marriages currently on television. Did you guys instantly hit it off?
We pretty much hit it off. I think once it got past the pilot, once we actually got picked up for the season, we were kind of inseparable, especially onstage. We still are, because most of our episodes are with each other. So, we have very like minds. We write together and we shoot sketches together.

I know that you all improvise a lot on set. How much do you and Eliza improvise?
Oh, we improvise a ton. You’re not guaranteed to get it all in, but they definitely let us do whatever we want, as long as we get the writers’ stuff.

Do you have any sense of what percentage of the improv stuff makes it on the show?
Oof. It depends. It varies with each story, but I think, on average, 30? Maybe 3o percent, which is really good for an ABC network show.

Do you have a favorite bit that you’ve made up? Or that she’s made up that’s made it?
Last season, I got to call my penis a sex nose. I made that up on the spot, and they kept it and added it on in another scene later on.

What about the parkour?
The parkour … I just made up whatever was there.

So did you practice that at all?
I actually do parkour. I was just doing a funny version of that. I do martial arts. I flip around and stuff. I know how to do all that stuff. And that was just like, doing a funny version of what I know how to do anyways.

On the subject of improv, we talked to Adam Pally last year and he said he’s determined to drop the N-word in an improv on the show. How’s that going?
He hasn’t gotten it in yet, but he’s tried. He’s said words that sort of rhyme with it, like vinegar and trigger. He’s said that and gotten of couple of those in, but he hasn’t gotten the real word in yet.

Who cracks up the most on set?
I feel like it’s even almost. I feel like Elisha cracks up a lot. But I laugh a lot, too, so I don’t know. Everybody laughs a lot. Because of the improv, we crack up, because no one knows what anyone is about to say.

Speaking of your laugh, you do a pretty amusing giggle on the show. Is that actually your real laugh?
It is my real laugh. I have a really weird laugh. My whole family, on my dad’s side, we all have the same laugh, from my grandma all the way down.

How much of the rest of the character is you?
How much of Brad is me? I think his positivity is me. How he treats his lady in a relationship is me. And that’s about it. I don’t really wear too many suits, and I’m a little edgier than he is as far as my comedy goes. Aside from that, I like to be happy just like him.

You were on the pilot of New Girl, too. Was that a tough call?
You know, it was a tough decision. But ultimately it’s whatever contract you sign first. So, I pretty much didn’t have a choice.

Do you watch it a lot?
I do. My buddy Jake Johnson is on it; he plays Nick on the show. And I used to go to high school with Zooey. So I support them. I watch it a lot.

How about the Happy Endings cast — do you hang out with them in real life?
We’re all buddies. We go pretty much out every weekend, every Friday when we wrap.

Do any of your running off-screen jokes make it into the show?
I mean, we try. But who knows. Sometimes we’ll have jokes, then we’ll forget about them; then they might pop up on an episode later on and we’ll be like, “Oh, did we? This feels familiar.” But there are too many jokes going on left and right 24 hours a day for us to even remember or recall.

Related: Vulture On Set: Watch the Happy Endings Cast Discuss Bad Pickup Lines, Sex in Bathrooms, and Drunk Karaoke