Shawn and Marlon WayansShawn & Marlon Wayans.jpg

Funny and funnier: brothers Shawn and Marlon Wayans.

When you hail from a family as big and talented as that of New Yorkers Howell and Elvira Wayans - with 10 children - you have to work to get noticed.

For Shawn and younger brother Marlon, the necessary attention was gained through making people laugh, and now they are arguably two of the most recognisable members of their clan.

Making their acting debut in 1989 in their older brother Keenen Ivory's blaxploitation parody I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, Shawn and Marlon became network TV stars in the '90s sketch-comedy show In Living Color and their own sitcom, The Wayans Bros.

Australian audiences might know them best from their horror-spoof Scary Movie franchise and the lowbrow caper White Chicks. Now they are coming to Australia for the first time for the Melbourne and Sydney comedy festivals.

''I always wanted to be a comedian,'' Shawn says. ''The only other thing I ever wanted to be was a baseball player, and for a while I thought I could be both. But then I got hit by a fastball and I knew it was time to change my career.''

Born in 1971, Shawn grew up idolising Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy. ''They were the guys as far as I was concerned - aside from my brothers,'' he says. ''They were relatable and honest. They made you want to hang out with them.''

Though he's best known as a movie performer and co-writer with Marlon, Shawn regards himself primarily as a stand-up comedian, a craft he has honed for 25 years.

''It was the first thing I ever did and it's a great training ground for all the other creative skill sets,'' he says.

''As a stand-up, you're a writer, an actor and a producer. You're everything you need to be on that night: the show you want to do, the things you want to say, you have the final say. In movies and TV, you have a committee approach and you have to answer to other people.''

Shawn, 42, and Marlon, 40, are no double act. Each performs his own set. Marlon goes first, Shawn says. ''The difference between our shows is the difference between what he finds funny and what I find funny.

''You get a real sense of two very different points of view.''

It's a situation that might breed competitiveness, but Shawn insists it does not. Instead, they give each other notes on how the other's routine went down.

Delivering ''constructive criticism'' is something of a Wayans family tradition, apparently. ''If I see something Marlon could do to make something better, I'll tell him and he has no problem at all doing the same for me, you know?''

On the face of it, it's Marlon who has everything to learn in the stand-up arena. Better known as an actor - and an increasingly serious one - he's a relative newcomer to the art of live comedy, having taken to the stage in 2010 in order to prepare for his role in the Richard Pryor biopic Is It Something I Said?

''[Marlon] didn't like doing stand-up at first. He was always more comfortable doing comic characters and stuff,'' Shawn says. ''But in order to play the greatest comedian, he had to go find what that journey was like and he fell in love with stand-up.

''So he started out by playing one of the greats and now he wants to be one.''

Shawn is cagey regarding what punters can expect (''pretty raw, pretty physical and honest'' is all he's letting on at this stage). But he admits he's researching the Australian zeitgeist before making his Down Under debut.

''My process is to try to have a sense of what's at the front of your minds. Watching TV, talking to people, just being around and going to the coffee shop, that's how I get it.

''But at this moment I have no idea outside of Kangaroo Jack and Crocodile Dundee. That's about it. And yeah, The Hobbit. I'm just going to be another freakin' American idiot.''

The Wayan Brothers perform on May 8 at Hamer Hall and May 9-11 at The Athenaeum in Melbourne.

They also perform on May 16 and 17 at the Enmore Theatre ($69.90, premier.ticketek.com.au) as part of the Sydney Comedy Festival, which begins on April 22.