Wanda Sykes on being a new parent: "I've learned the Octomom is out of her freakin' mind."
The Wanda Sykes you meet on the telephone is a much-toned-down version of the sassy, wisecracking character she's played everywhere from CBS's New Adventures of Old Christine to films such as Evan Almighty and My Super Ex-Girlfriend.
Maybe it's just fatigue: After years playing the best friend and sidekick, Sykes have moved to centerstage, sparking headlines with a spicy routine at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, developing a nighttime talk show for Saturday nights on Fox and preparing a new stand-up special for HBO.
To preview her stop at Ruth Eckerd Hall tonight, Sykes spared a few minutes to talk about the birth of her twins and how it feels to be both the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama of late-night television.
Deggans: With so much stuff going on at once, are you trying to kill yourself?
“You know what – I’m close to it — death by work. It’s so funny how – it seems that’s the way it goes. My worlds collide. When one things happens, it just starts a domino effect – everything else goes on. Don’t forget I’m shooting an HBO special in August.”
Were you surprised that a guy like Bill O'Reilly, who regularly tells guests to shut up on his show, was calling you mean during your White House Correspondents' Dinner appearance?
“I guess people needed something to talk about. It would have been boring TV to just say ‘She was funny.’ We had the kids with us in D.C. so right after the dinner we went up to room and was with the kids. I went to one party because my name was on the invitation, the Capitol Party. Everyone there was very positive, saying how great I did – our mayor from Los Angeles he was really applauding me and saying what a great job I did. I felt really good about it. The next day was Mother’s Day, so I was getting’ my first Mother’s Day on, with the kids. It was the first time my mind wasn’t elsewhere – thinking 'Okay, what am I going to do about this dinner thing?' Just really be present and enjoy the kids. Then I started getting e-mails and texts from friends saying ’Are you alright? I'm thinking, 'What are you all talking about?' I got a couple of phone calls from Jay Leno and Chris Rock, they were very positive. I didn’t hear or see a lot of the criticism. Which is good – because I have a bit of a temper.”
Considering that there's now six late-night talk shows hosted by white guys on the networks, you're going to be like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton combined. Are you ready for that?
Fox approached me, and I said – I’m happy, I’m doing Old Christine. I’m loving it over there. I don’t want to do another show (dog starts yapping a bit). I love doing stand up. I love going on the road. If I did a talk show, this would allow me to speak on what’s happening at that moment. I can be current, and I get to flex my stand-up muscle but stay at home without doing the traveling. That was appealing to me. There was so much going on in the news. I would have a blast with Octomom – I would have had the sheriff’s department seize her uterus. Padlocked it and everything. Have a press conference.
So will it feature a roundtable of comics, or something?
“It’s going to be a little bit of that – to me, it’s more of the Daily Show meets the old Politically Incorrect, but also it will have some fun part of it that’s more lighter. Also, maybe kinda like The View meets Howard Stern, but without the naked girls and all that stuff. I’d have to explain that to my wife, (says in apologetic voice) 'It’s part of the comedy, baby. It’s just comedy.'”
Yeah…I thought somebody would have picked that up a long time ago. When Dave Chappelle came on, I was like wow – it took them forever to get to this. I really thought what we did on the Chris Rock Show was so different. I’m surprised they didn’t find somebody to pick that ball up. But that’s Chris Rock (left), and you can’t find somebody else to be Chris Rock. That speaks to him – how much he made that show. It was his voice, his attitude. Everything I know right know about show business and doing a show I give credit to being on the Chris Rock.”
I've heard you don't like seeing jokes on the Internet, but your crank call reporting a turd in the back of a rental call is seriously viral -- all over YouTube. How does that feel? (Click here to listen -- WARNING explicit language.)
“That is good – I don’t mind that. What’s going around is the finished product. That’s what we intended people to see. That’s great. I have problems with YouTube and things like that, when you catch it mid production. If I’m doing a show and I’m working on a bit and someone’s there with a phone they record it and put it online -- its not the finished product. They catch something out of context, and you look like a crazy person. When I’m performing, especially in a large venue, I’m definitely aware. It bugs me, it’s limits my creativity, it hampers me from trying stuff. And usually, that’s when you find your best jokes. I can’t do it. I do it in a smaller place when I can control it.”
Considering how anti-gay some black folks can be, we you worried how your black fans would react when you came out as a lesbian last year?
“I wouldn’t say worried. I would say a little concerned, I guess. But then again, to be a fan of mine, you’re already a little open-minded, I think. The black community -- I was hoping it would get people to talk about it. I still hope it would help our community. We are killing ourselves being so homophobic and not talking about it. AIDS is steadily increasing in our community. We have all these brothers on the down low – they can’t be gay, they can’t be who they are. And infecting black women, basically. We need to be a little more, get a dialogue going and remember that God loves us all.”
The most flack I've ever gotten from black folks was when I wrote a story comparing the civil rights movement for black people to gay people's fights for their own rights.
“Sometimes black people really want to hold onto our oppression – ‘This is ours! This belongs to us’ You can’t just talk about equality for somebody else. Let’s pass it on. Let’s pass it on to somebody else.At the end of the day, it is all about inequality. So when that’s the basis of it, what other move can you do – but argue civil rights and equality?”
You and your wife had twins in April; What have you learned about parenting so far?
“What I have learned so far, is that the Octomom is out of her freaking mind. With two babies we are -- and there’s two of us -- we are pulling our hair out. We’re loving every minute of it. It is truly a blessing. But I’m going to be tired for the rest of my life. When you’re up at 3 o’clock in the morning and they pee on you, you just have to smile. We have twins, but I say there’s nothing twin-like about them. We brought home two babies. I don’t even think they know each other. They don’t do a thing together. They don’t sleep together. She loked at me the other day, looking at her brother like -- who is this guy? Hey – what’s up with that?’ ”