Comedienne talks family and future projects with Echo

By Laura Latzko – Oct. 9, 2014

With her witty and honest style of comedy and discussion of topics affecting women, the LGBT community and people of color, Wanda Sykes has set herself apart and become known as one of the funniest comics in the industry.

Sykes returns to Phoenix, and to her standup roots, during her appearance at Celebrity Theatre on Oct. 17 as part of her latest tour.

In the midst of a career filled with everything from voice-over work to acting, Sykes came out during a 2008 gay rights rally in Las Vegas and shortly thereafter started a family with her wife, Alex. The couple became mothers to twins, Olivia Lou and Lucas Claude, in 2009.

Just before her children were ready to start the school year, Sykes took time out of her hectic schedule to talk to Echo about standup, parenting and other projects she has in the works.

Echo: What makes you continue to want to tour and do standup when you have so many acting and producing projects going?

Sykes: It’s where I started. It’s where I feel funny. I still feel like it is a challenge for me. Doing standup comedy is my day job. I feel like I’m moonlighting with the acting, writing and producing jobs.

Echo: Has doing standup changed for you over the years?

Sykes: The traveling is the hardest part. Getting there, the airports and the airplanes. Air travel is getting worse. I’m not complaining though. I love what I do.

Echo: What topics are you exploring now in your standup? Do you feel you have more family-related topics?

Sykes: I am more family. It’s more about what’s going on in my life, and honestly that’s where I am right now. My kids and my wife, they take up a majority of my time, so that’s what I talk about. It’s weird for me because before I was very political and knew everything that was going on in the world. Today, I haven’t even turned on the news yet because the kids are home, so I’m spending my time with them. That’s what I have to talk about, but it’s still funny. I think that’s what my job is, to make people laugh.

Echo: When you started doing standup, what kind of topics were you talking about then?

Sykes: When I first started, it was observational stuff. It wasn’t anything personal. It was just, ‘Hey, have you ever noticed...?’ and to me, it was like I was impersonating a comedian. I was doing jokes that I thought comedians should be doing. It was nothing about me or my sensibilities. It was just, ‘Hey, here’s some good jokes.’

Echo: Did it take a lot of work on the road and doing standup to get better and find your voice?

Sykes: Yeah, yeah. The more you do it, the more confident you become. Once you get the confidence, you can widen your material and talk about other things. Go a little deeper. At first, everything is just so superficial.

Echo: Even though your standup has changed over the years, do you still approach political topics?

Sykes: I still touch base on it if it’s a big story or if it’s just in general. Right now, I just find everything so frustrating, so it’ll be more about that.

Echo: What do you feel like is the most frustrating topic for you now, that you just have to talk about?

Sykes: Just overall the frustration of politics itself; how we got to a place where it’s like, ‘screw everybody else.’ It seems like the Republicans and Democrats, they are just fighting while we’re the ones who are getting screwed. We don’t give a damn about the party. Just get some shit done. They are acting like they’re a sports team. It’s not the Yankees versus the Red Sox.

Echo: I know you’ve been a big advocate for LGBT rights, breast cancer awareness and anti-bullying efforts. How’s it going and are you still involved in these efforts?

Sykes: Oh yeah, definitely. Especially with the LGBT homeless youth. I try support those organizations. I’m a big supporter of the Ruth Ellis Center, which is in Detroit. It is an important issue to me, so I am on top of that.

Echo: Have you worked with homeless youth organizations for quite a while?

Sykes: They reached out to me … several years ago, I wasn’t even aware they existed. I was doing a show in the area, and they reached out, and I went by and I visited, so I’ve been in touch with them and been doing events with them. The gay and lesbian center in LA, they do a lot of that too. I try to lend my name or donate whatever I can.

Echo: Can you tell me about the projects you have been involved in with Push It Productions?

Sykes: We’re pretty busy. We have just finished Last Comic Standing, and we are gearing up for next season. We got picked up for season nine. We have a pilot we are in the process of doing now for USA. We have a show we are doing for Nickelodeon Mom. Yeah we’re pretty busy.

Echo: What do you hope Phoenix audiences take away from seeing you do live standup?

Sykes: A lot of laughs. Just come in, laugh and have a good time.

VITAL STATISTICS

Wanda Sykes

Celebrity Theatre

440 N. 32nd St., Phoenix

Tickets: $46-$96; 602-267-1600

Photo courtesy of The Dinah

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