Wanda Sykes – Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Does Wanda Sykes’ name ring a bell for you? Probably. She has featured in many TV shows that have graced your screen at some point such as Curb Your Enthusiasm, the Emmy award winning Chris Rock Show and The New Adventures of Old Christine. Aside from her numerous screen roles, Sykes is first and foremost a stand up comedian known for her opinions and her honesty. Vulture Magazine got the chance to talk to her before she touches down in Australia for her debut tour as part of the Melbourne Comedy Festival.
Born and raised in conservative Virginia, USA, Sykes began her professional career working for the National Security Agency. “It wasn’t like a secret job, I basically was just a procurement officer, I just bought stuff for the government.” The next obvious move was to change into comedy. When asked what her family thought about this Sykes is quick to state that they were not excited about it at all. “They thought I had lost my mind, really. They thought I had lost it. I was working for the government, so it was all kinda crazy to them. So from working a regular government job, I was just going to wing it basically.”
And that is where it all began. From there Sykes has faced many hurdles, including her own show being cancelled. When asked in a very shrink-like way how this made her feel Sykes gives a usual, candid answer that is closely associated with her personality. “I guess it’s kind of getting fired, so nobody likes that. I always approach it as I do my best and put the best product out there. You never know what’s going to happen – you don’t know if people are going to like it. As long as I can walk away going ‘hey, I was happy with it, I liked it’ then I’m okay.”
A strong willed woman, Sykes is currently married to her wife Alex with whom she has twins. When asked about her views on other people’s attitudes to same-sex marriage Sykes is clearly angry and hurt by it. “I really don’t understand it because my marriage has nothing to do with anybody else’s marriage. The sanctity of marriage is what you make it. It’s what your vows mean to you. It kills me that over here you have people that… don’t want the government prying too much into their lives, yet they want to make laws to tell me who I can marry, what I can do with my uterus- it really is insane.”
It is this discrimination and sense of injustice that feature so prominently in Sykes’ comedy routines alongside other topical issues, finding the funny in some very serious matters. “My comedy is pretty much just a snapshot of what is going on in my life. That’s why I have so much fun doing it because it’s always changing, always growing.” Sykes portfolio also keeps growing and changing with the many television, movie and voice roles she plays, most recently on the HBO comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm. “Oh man, I loved that show and I was a Seinfeld fan so to get to work with Larry David, I just jumped at that chance. Also, come on, my job is I get to curse at him… So that’s great to be able to yell and curse at a rich white guy – I mean why not?” Her trademark voice will also appear in the latest installment of the Ice Age franchise where she will provide the voice for a character called Granny. “Granny is this old sloth and she gets to say whatever is on her mind and that’s always fun for me to play.” When asked whether she feels that she has been typecast into these roles, Sykes responds: “I’m always going to do comedy and always try and be the funny one so I guess that’s how I look at it as far as being typecast, that’s what I enjoy.”
And her best advice for the aspiring or wannabe comedians out there is to write. “That’s the big thing. To write your material and just do it, really. You just have to keep getting on stage and the more you do it, the more comfortable you’d be with it.”
Sykes will feature in the Melbourne Comedy Festival from March 29th armed only with her razor sharp wit and her hilarious routines. Tickets and more information about her shows are available through Ticketmaster and the Melbourne Comedy Festival website.