On this day in comedy, on March 7, 1964, Comedienne, Actress, Writer, Voice-Over Artist, and Producer Wanda Sykes was born in Portsmouth, Virginia
Raised in the Washington, DC area, Sykes was a NSA (National Security Agency) contracting specialist before getting into comedy. After five years of that day job she tried her hand at being funny in 1987 at the Coors Light Super Talent Showcase. She honed her skills for five more years (while still working for the NSA) until in 1992 she moved to New York. Sykes got a gig there working for Hall Leonard publishing as a book editor. At night, she’d step out and do comedy. One evening she got a break which led to Sykes opening for Chris Rock at the famed Caroline’s Comedy Club. In 1997, she joined Rock’s writing staff on The Chris Rock Show for HBO, where she also appeared on camera. In 1999, she won an Emmy as part of that writing team.
Further success followed Sykes. She’s done theater (Annie), films (Pootie Tang, Monster-in-Law, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Evan Almighty, License to Wed, Down to Earth, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps) and plenty of television (Curb Your Enthusiasm, The New Adventures of Old Christine (as friend, Barb Baran), The Drew Carey Show, Chappelle’s Show, MADtv, Will & Grace, Alpha House, Real Husbands of Hollywood and Black-ish). Sykes has also done voice-overs for animated features (Over the Hedge, Barnyard, Brother Bear 2, Rio, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Ice Age: Collision Course), television (Bubble Guppies, Futurama, The Simpsons) and did a voice for the televised puppet show, Crank Yankers.
Wanda Sykes had her own sitcom, Wanda at Large on Fox in 2003 and one on Comedy Central, (Wanda Does It). She also debuted her hour-long standup special, Tongue Tied on Comedy Central in 2003. In 2006, she did her first HBO special, Wanda Sykes: Sick & Tired. It was nominated for an Emmy Award. She did her second for HBO in 2009, Wanda Sykes: I’ma Be Me. Also in 2009, she hosted her own late night talk show, The Wanda Sykes Show on Fox. Sykes has hosted Premium Blend on Comedy Central and was a sports correspondent on HBO’s Inside the NFL. In 2004, she published the best-selling book, Yeah, I Said It.
In 2014 Wanda Sykes co-produced the languishing NBC standup comedy competition show, Last Comic Standing and brought it back to its previous prominence. She has written for The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show, the 74th Annual Academy Awards, The Downer Channel and of course every show she was ever on or hosted.
Wanda Sykes was active in the anti-gay bashing campaign, “Think Before You Speak” and has been an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights. She performed as part of Cyndi Lauper’s Tour for that cause. In 2009, she was the first openly LGBT person as well as the first African-American female to be a featured entertainer at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.
Sykes was named by Out magazine as number 35 on their Annual Power 50 List. She was one of the 25 Funniest People in America by Entertainment Weekly in 2004 and ranked by Comedy Central as #70 on their list of the 100 Greatest All-Time Standups. In 2001 Sykes won the American Comedy Award for Outstanding Female Stand Up Comic, the 2003 Comedy Central Commie Award for “Funniest TV Actress”, the 2010 GLAAD Stephen F. Kolzak Award and the Activism in the Arts at the Triumph Awards in 2015.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton
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