Wanda Sykes may be available for your next special
Comedian and actress Wanda Sykes started out doing
stand-up on the road. She went on to make numerous appearances
on the big and small screens, and won Emmy nominations for her
own stand-up special. In 2010, she brought her intelligent,
political humor to the White House, becoming the first
African-American woman, and first openly gay comedian, to
perform at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner.
Sykes was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, on March 7, 1964. She
grew up in Gambrills, Maryland, near Washington, D.C. Her father, a
colonel in the United States Army, worked at the Pentagon, while her
mother was a banker. Sykes also has an older brother, Harry. Sykes
enjoyed a comfortable middle-class childhood and attended Arundel
High School. She went on to get a bachelor's degree in marketing
from Hampton University in Virginia before moving on to a government
job in the D.C. area. Her position as a procurement officer at the
National Security Agency didn't particularly suit her.
As it turned out, Sykes was much better suited for the stage than
for government bureaucracy. In 1987, she performed at the Coors
Light Super Talent Showcase. She didn't win the contest but it
didn't really matter, the audience loved her. More importantly,
Sykes had found something that she loved. At 28, she was finally on
the road to becoming one of the most recognizable comedians of our
day -- someone who presents the world as she sees it, with
intelligence and likeability instead of abrasiveness.
The next big step in her life was a move to New York. After five
years of playing comedy clubs in the D.C. area, Sykes was ready to
quit her day job and make a life in comedy. In the Big Apple, Sykes
got her big break when she met the popular comic Chris Rock.
She opened for him at Caroline's Comedy Club, and soon joined The
Chris Rock Show as a writer, sometimes also stepping into screen
roles. Her writing team won a 1998 Emmy for the show, and earned
three additional nominations.
From there, it was on to more visible parts in both the movies
and television. Sykes first appeared in a feature film in 1998's
Tomorrow Night; two years later, she won a role in Nutty
Professor II: The Klumps. Her connections with Chris Rock led to
her next two parts, in Down to Earth (2001) and Pootie
Tang (2001). More recently, Sykes has appeared in My Super
Ex-Girlfriend (2006), Clerks II (2006), Monster-in-Law
(2006) and Evan Almighty (2007), while also voicing
characters in the animated features Barnyard (2006) and
Over the Hedge (2006).
Sykes has played recurring characters on several TV shows,
including The Drew Carey Show, Curb Your Enthusiasm
and The New Adventures of Old Christine. She also did a
humorous regular segment on Inside the NFL. When trying to
make it on her own in a leading role, however, none of Sykes'
projects had much staying power. In 2003, she tried out a sitcom on
Fox called Wanda at Large, which ran for two seasons.
Next up was Wanda Does It on Comedy Central,
which was a Curb Your Enthusiasm-style
fictionalized look at Sykes' life; only six episodes
were made before the show was cancelled. Finally, The
Wanda Sykes Show, a late night talk show, ran for
only the 2009-2010 season on Fox. Sykes says she prefers
supporting roles, in which she gets to play a
"variation" of herself: "There's times when I'm really
shy, so these roles that I get to play, they're how I
would love to really be."
Although she's spent
significant time on television, stand-up is still in
Sykes' blood, and she doesn't intend to let it ever fall
by the wayside. She performed her first HBO special,
Wanda Sykes: Sick and Tired, in 2006. In 2009, Sykes
released another stand-up special, I'ma Be Me.
That one earned her Emmy nominations for Outstanding
Variety, Music, or Comedy Special and Outstanding
Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Special.
Even with all of her visible roles, Sykes has
succeeded in staying highly protective of her family and
personal life. She and her wife, Alex, have twins,
Olivia and Lucas, but Sykes won't go so far as to give
her wife's last name or even her job. This is Sykes'
second marriage; she married record producer David Hall
in 1991, just before her move to New York, and they
remained married until 1998. Raised in a traditional,
religious community, Sykes knew that she was gay, but
felt compelled to live life as a straight woman. She
experienced the end of her marriage to Hall as a
"liberating moment" and began dating women.
Sykes had married Alex, who is French, during the
brief period in which California allowed same-sex
marriage; the couple held a small ceremony for close
family and friends in Palm Springs. But after
California's Proposition 8 passed in the November 2008
election, banning same-sex marriage, Sykes decided to
lend her celebrity to the cause of marriage equality.
After discussing it with her wife, Sykes came out in a
speech at a rally in Las Vegas. Since then, Sykes has
stayed involved in the political effort to restore
same-sex marriage rights in California.
In May 2009 Sykes was selected to perform at the
annual White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in
the first year of Barack Obama's presidency. In addition
to being the first African-American woman to fill the
role, she was also the first openly gay person, either
male or female. There seems to be no danger of Sykes
giving up her biting, personal style of comedy any time
soon: "I love doing stand-up, because it gives me the
freedom to say what I really want to say. I think that's
why it's my favorite thing to do," she said.
Wanda Sykes may be available for your next
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Born: ..in Virginia / born nVirginia
Born: ..in Portsmouth / born
Born: Mar 7, 1965
Raised: ..in Maryland / nMaryland
Gambrills / GambrillsMD
Washington, DC area / WashingtonDC
Based: ..in US
Based: ..in California / based nCalifornia
Based: ..in Los Angeles /
Based: ..in Pennsylvania / based nPennsylvania
Based: ..in Philadelphia
area / based PhiladelphiaPA
Based: ..in Media / based