Thanks to the popular sketch comedy TV series “In Living Color,” created by Keenen Ivory Wayans, the Wayans Brothers helped launch the careers of legendary stars, including Jamie Foxx, Tommy Davidson, Jim Carrey, Jennifer Lopez, and more.
The show also played a role in popularizing the Super Bowl Halftime Show as we know and love it today.
Before the groundbreaking show, originally broadcast on the Fox channel, the intermission during America’s most significant football game ranged from reenactments from the comic strip “Peanuts” to a magician dressed as the singer Elvis Presley, and other not-so-entertaining acts, per a report from Mental Floss.
According to the National Football League (NFL), the first documented Super Bowl game dates back to 1967. It was not until the January 1992 matchup between the Washington Commanders (formerly known as the Washington Redskins) and the Buffalo Bills, that a sketch from “In Living Color” changed the course of modern pop culture forever.
An idea originated by Keenen Ivory’s former manager, Eric Gold, and marketing specialist Jay Coleman led Fox to take a risk on the sketch comedy as an alternative to the competing CBS network’s halftime show.
In the end, Fox’s dreams of capitalizing on the big game paid off. Despite CBS officially having the air rights for the Super Bowl, Fox grabbed some of its viewers with “In Living Color.”
Not only did the Fox Network love it, but so did everyone else watching.
“It was prime for a takeover,” “In Living Color” actor David Alan Grier said in an interview with ESPN. “Real simple. We were just going to do our show during halftime. And they started running ads all over Fox, wherever they could – ‘Be sure to tune in to ‘In Living Color.’ We had a very young audience, very urban, but everybody loved it.”
At the time, Fox scored 11% of the Super Bowl’s then 79.5 million viewers and “managed to dent the monolithic program’s viewership in the process,” per Mental Floss.
It wasn’t long before the NFL shifted its stance to providing quality entertainment during one of the most televised events of the year. From there, the Super Bowl Halftime Show was born.
“The NFL didn’t acknowledge this for years,” Kennen Ivory previously told ESPN.
He continued, “They really just huddled up and said, ‘Let’s get Michael Jackson, and let’s make sure this never happens again.’ They just kept getting big names, like Prince and Madonna.”
Jennifer Lopez is also among many entertainers who have graced the stage for the game break. Lopez’s claim to fame was ushered through “In Living Color” as a famous Fly Girl dance troupe member — a full-circle moment.
For decades, the NFL has tapped major celebrities such as Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, and more to perform at the championship game even though they do not walk away with a big check from the sports organization, as one would think.
As previously reported by AFROTECH, artists do not receive compensation for their halftime shows. NFL spokesperson Joanna Hunter confirmed that the league, however, does cover “expenses and production costs.”
In recent years, celebrities have seen a return on their investment with an uptick in streams immediately following the show and benefit in other ways. For instance, when singer-turned-serial-entrepreneur Rihanna decided to apply a product from her Fenty Beauty brand during the 2023 halftime show, it resulted in massive sales for her business.
With the countdown to Super Bowl LVIII underway, game viewers anticipate R&B to take the main stage as musical artist Usher Raymond IV prepares to wow fans for the show. The Super Bowl Halftime Show is now spearheaded by Apple Music (for years, its previous sponsor was Pepsi) under the leadership of rap icon and business mogul Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter.