Born in 1972 in Columbus, Georgia, Wayne Brady auditioned for the British comedy series Whose Line Is It Anyway?, and he was cast in several episodes and later starred in the American version as well. In 2001, The Wayne Brady Show first aired, and although the show earned two Daytime Emmys, it was canceled in 2004. Brady returned to host 2007's Fox network game show Don't Forget the Lyrics and in 2009 took the reins of the reboot of the game show Let's Make a Deal.
Wayne Brady was born on June 2, 1972, in Columbus, Georgia. Raised primarily by his paternal grandmother, Valerie Petersen, Brady had a pronounced stutter and shied away from public interaction. At home, Brady proved to be intelligent and creative. By age three his grandmother had taught him to read, and by age six he began to create his own plays, commercials, songs and interviews, basing them on models drawn from television. As he embraced his theatrical side, young Brady was inspired by 1950s- and '60s-era music and television, and admired celebrities like Danny Kaye, Sid Caesar and Gene Kelly.
Brady attended Dr. Phillips High School, where he excelled in his studies. At 16, he joined the ROTC, which provided both discipline and self-confidence. He intended to join the military, but after appearing in a high school play (and enjoying the resulting rave reviews), Brady altered his plans. Upon his graduation in 1989, Brady made a deal with his grandmother: If he could earn a living as an actor within six months, he would forgo the military.
Brady was soon cast in a theme park show at Universal Studios, and immersed himself in the local theater scene. He appeared in classics including A Chorus Line, Jesus Christ Superstar, and A Raisin in the Sun. A regular at Orlando's SAK Theater Comedy Lab, a haven for improv and sketch comedy, Brady earned his comedic chops performing in multiple shows a night. By 1992, the SAK honored him as "Rookie of the Year for Theater Sports/Improv." That same year, Brady moved to Las Vegas to dance, sing and act in a musical revue. He soon discovered a talent for mimicking musical genres and performing seamless impressions of rock 'n' roll greats including Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard.
In 1996, after performing in showcases across the country, Brady was hired to work in a musical revue based in Oahu, Hawaii. It was there that he met Mandie Taketa, a dancer in the show. The two began dating and, after the revue closed, the couple moved to Los Angeles.
Rise to Fame
In California, Brady began earning television parts, including guest-starring roles in In the Heat of the Night and I'll Fly Away. Around the same time, several former compatriots from the SAK relocated to the West Coast. Along with Brady, they formed the critically lauded improv group, "Houseful of Honkeys," which still performs regularly at the Acme Comedy Theatre.
In 1997, Brady auditioned for the established British comedy series, Whose Line Is It Anyway? The improv-based show featured a rotating quartet of comedians performing lightning-speed comedy games and improvised songs in front of a live audience. The content closely mirrored Brady's skill set, and his audition made a huge impact on the producers. He was subsequently cast in several episodes. When the same company, Hat Trick Productions, brought the show stateside in 1998, Brady auditioned once again. After a grueling six-hour tryout, he was cast as a series regular. The following April, he wed Taketa.
As a result of his work on Whose Line, Brady's career skyrocketed. His good looks, easygoing nature and triple-threat virtuosity not only made him an audience favorite and an Emmy winner but also gave him the leverage to start his own television show.
In 2001, ABC debuted The Wayne Brady Show, a weekly variety revue featuring a mix of music and comedy. A year later, the network revised the format and added a talk show element to the program. The show thrived for several years, during which time Brady became a father. His daughter, Maile, was born in 2003.
Although The Wayne Brady Show earned two Daytime Emmys, it was canceled in 2004, so Brady hit Broadway that year to star as Billy Flynn in the revival of Chicago. He also appeared in a notable role on Chappelle's Show, hilariously skewering his "nice guy" image.
Post-Wayne Brady Show Years
After touring with his own live stage show, Brady returned to the small screen in 2007 to host Fox's network game show Don't Forget the Lyrics. That same year he and Taketa divorced. Brady has since made appearances in multiple television series, including How I Met Your Mother, Everybody Hates Chris and the animated series Sophia the First. In 2008 he released the Grammy-nominated album A Long Time Coming, and the following year he took on hosting duties of a new version of daytime game show Let's Make a Deal, which entered its sixth season in 2014.
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