Wanda Sykes is the first black woman and openly gay comedian to perform at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner in 2009. This sort of achievement can only be reached by a true game changer, and Sykes definitely fits the bill. She is a writer, actor, voice artist, and a stand-up. She has won an Emmy and a GLAAD award among many others. Her comedy is witty and sharp, and she started doing it purely as a means of enjoyment. She’s a game a changer.
Sykes was born in Virginia and raised around Washington D.D. Her father worked at the Pentagon. She attended college at Hampton University, and her first grown up job was with the National Security Agency. Working behind a desk did not bring her much gratification. She began to write jokes and entered into the 1987 Coors Light Super Talent Showcase sponsored by a local radio station. She did not win, but the live performance sparked something. Sykes spent the next five years honing her craft before making her big move to New York City.
By 1995, she opened for Chris Rock, at Caroline’s Comedy Club. Rock must have been impressed. He hired her as a writer for The Chris Rock Show, a late night comedy show airing on HBO at the time. Sykes made appearances on it as well. In 1999, the show’s writing staff won an Emmy. Her career was booming.
The American Comedy Awards recognized her as 2001’s Funniest Female Stand-up Comedian. Comedy Central gave her an hour special, Tongue Untied, in 2003. That same year, she had a FOX sitcom, Wanda at Large. When that ended, Comedy Central produced Wanda Does It, a reality TV show where Sykes learns an occupation. In addition to the previously mentioned hour special, she made two HBO specials, Sick and Tired (2006) and Ima Be Me (2009). During all this time, the comedian made many TV and film appearances.
Sykes’ joke delivery is cutting, and she isn’t shy to use the stage. She does a bit about being able to detach her main lady part while she is out jogging. In the bit, she actually jogs around stage and plays out a situation as though she has been stopped by some creeper. She tells the imaginary perp, “Sorry, I’m pussy-less.” The strength of her act is to set up a hypothetical situation usually infused with an analogy to create a huge amount of laughter. Another instance, she riffs on the differences between the struggles of being black and being gay. She invents the scenario of having to come out to her parents as being black. Dramatizing her parents reactions, she asks, “What did I do? I knew I shouldn’t have let you watch Soul Train. Was it Soul Train?” Wanda Sykes tackles divisive topics, and she diffuses them with pure comedy.
Her act is on the side of political, and it’s effective. She has garnered the attention of big league comedians, a US president, and gay activists. She is still active in comedy. Currently, she is developing projects with her production company, Push It. She comes in and clearly gets work done. Wanda Sykes has changed the game.