Wanda Sykes returns to stand-up… and couldn?t be happier

Wanda Sykes returns to stand-up… and couldn?t be happier

Even before she came out in 2008, Wanda Sykes had legions of LGBT and straight fans. The veteran of the recently-canceled The New Adventures of Old Christine also saw the axe fall on her own Fox talk show. But now she has plenty of time to tour and she’s stopping at Hard Rock Live in Orlando on Saturday, Sept. 11.

WSykesQuote_515307024.jpgHer take on same-sex relationships, our first African-American president and the challenges of child rearing have been the focus of her recent stand-up specials and will no doubt return for her live performance. She took time out before her tour to talk with us about life after television and what to expect on tour.

WATERMARK: What’s the best part about doing stand-up?

WANDA SYKES: It’s just raw. I love that it’s live. You get the immediate feedback. There are no editors, there’s no “let me do another take.” It’s so spontaneous. It’s also my first love. It got me in the business and to the point where I am now. I always have to go back to stand-up because that’s the place where I get confirmation that, yeah, I’m funny. If I go for too long without doing stand-up, I think, “Hmmm, is this all smoke and mirrors? Or am I funny?”

And it always looks like you are having such a good time doing it and that you are enjoying yourself.
I do! I love it up there. Let’s face it, Mama needs a lot of attention [laughs]. Mama loves looking out in the audience and seeing everybody focused on me. Seriously, it’s powerful being able to make people laugh, really. To change their moods—it’s such a high.

WSykes2_712664643.jpgIs your family able to travel with you when you are on the road?
When I was in L.A. doing …Old Christine or doing my show, my family was there with me. With the stand-up dates, we haven’t gotten to the point where they all go with me. It’s just too much. I get there in the morning or afternoon of the performance, I do the show and after the show my tour manager and Keith Robinson, who opens for me, we go out to dinner and then it’s back to the hotel. It’s not usually a good spot to drag the family along.

Do you think that the “gay as punch line” homophobia in stand-up has dissipated amongst your peers or do you think it still exists?
It depends on the comic. If that’s the audience that he attracts, where his jokes are inappropriate or whatever and they still find it funny to say “that’s gay” or whatever, it’s going to stay there; it’s going to live. I have to say that I do see there has been a reduction in the number of comics who are successful who do that type of humor, especially in the big rooms. I’m happy to see that the big comics don’t do that.

You were awarded the Stephen F. Kolzak Award for being an openly gay professional promoting equal rights. What does that mean to you?
I was really touched. At first I was like, “Man, it’s so much so soon. Do I really deserve this award?” I understood what they were saying. Being one of the few African-Americans performers who is open and out, I know I reach a lot of people. I still feel [laughs] kind of like how a lot of people felt about President Obama receiving the Nobel (Peace) Prize [laughs]. A little bit too much too soon. But I was truly honored and I will continue to be deserving of the award.

Amongst your upcoming shows, you have some dates in the Midwest. How do Midwestern audiences rate as compared to those on the coasts?
I think they’re a little more appreciative as far as you made the stop when going from coast to coast [laughs]. “Hey, thanks for stopping in!” They really get into it. I think the people on the coasts are used to seeing so many acts, it’s like they’re doing you a favor. I love those audiences, too. But it seems like Midwestern people are happy you stopped by; they’re appreciative.

You mentioned …Old Christine, and aside from having you in the cast, what do you think was the secret to the success of that show?
It definitely was the writing. Kari Lizer is a genius. She’s funny as hell. The show was so well-written. In rehearsals we got so much time to play around and try things, because we didn’t have to worry about the script or the story not working. And then add Julia [Louis-Dreyfus]. From day one, I couldn’t believe I got to work with this woman. She’s awesome. She loves to work, she loves to rehearse. But she also likes to go home. She’s normal.

Best known as a comedian, Mo’nique won an Oscar for her serious dramatic turn in Precious. If you were offered a serious dramatic role, would you take it?
It depends. I don’t want to say no, because you should never say never. But I don’t think I would. I don’t know. For one, I don’t know if I would enjoy it. I have no desire to do that. I like being funny. I like making people laugh. It would depend on the role. If it was something that I thought was a story that needed to be told and they said, “We need you to film this, to get it done,” which I doubt…I mean, come on, Queen Latifah is busy? [laughs]. I enjoy comedy too much.

Your resume is impressive. Humanitarian, actress, comedian and talks how host. Now that you don’t have a regular show, is there anything else you’d like to do?
Nurse. Yes [laughs], I have some free time. I think I’m going to go to nursing school. They get to wear such comfortable outfits—comfortable shoes.

Sensible shoes!
Yeah! Any time you can wear sensible shoes to work, that’s what I want to do.


Who: Wanda Sykes
When: 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 11
Where: Hard Rock Live! Orlando
Tickets: HardRockLive.com

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