As a journalist, rarely does a celebrity call you.
Not to get too behind the curtain here, but typically — even for the mildly famous — it’s their PR person who calls at the scheduled interview time. He or she then puts you on hold while they try to connect you. Within a couple minutes, said celebrity magically appears on the line with you via 3-way calling. Ta-da.
So the last thing I ever expected to hear when I picked up the phone for my Wanda Sykes interview was, “Hey Miles, it’s Wanda Sykes.”
I mean, we’re talking about Wanda fucking Sykes here. One of the smartest, funniest people in America. One of the (very) few woman to ever host her own late-night show. The acid-tongued comedian whose blunt humor landed her HBO specials and appearances on The Chris Rock Show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and The New Adventures of Old Christine. She’s also the first-ever black woman and the first-ever gay person to perform at the White House Correspondents’ dinner, where she downright skewered the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.
But then there’s a lot you might not know about Wanda Sykes.
“Like I’m not this loud-mouth crazy woman,” she says, laughing. “I’m not angry all the time. Maybe 60 percent of the time. But you might catch me during that 40 percent, and then I’m quite kind. I’m actually pretty quiet. And, you know, pleasant. ”
She ain’t lying. Even in just a 15-minute phone call, it was hard not to fall in love with Sykes. She’s genuine, down to earth, funny (obviously). A conversation with Sykes is as casual and comfortable as talking with a neighbor, or chatting with the person next to you at the bar about who’s got the best hair in the NFL.
“Oh, that’s Tom Brady,” Sykes says without a second of hesitation. “You thought I was going to say Troy [Polamalu], huh?”
And it’s exactly that ability to personally connect with people from all different races, genders, and backgrounds that has made her such a household name. Yes, she’s black. She’s gay. She’s a woman. A mother. A die-hard football fan. But unlike so many other comedians, Sykes has never let any one of those aspects define her humor. All they do is give her that much more ammunition.
“I don’t think about race all the time. I don’t think about being gay all the time. I don’t think about being a woman all the time,” she says. “It’s just case by case. If something happens, I may see it through the eyes of a woman. I have so many things going on, so I don’t have time just to focus on one of them.”
And right now, about all she has time to focus on is her 3-year-old twins, Olivia and Lucas, that she has with her wife, Alex.
“Thank God the kids are starting pre-K, which I thought was ridiculous at three years old, but I’m telling you, it’s so nice to drop them off and to come back to a quiet house for a few hours. Usually you’re up early and it’s non-stop, just non-stop with the kids. That’s why I tour,” she says in her trademark deadpan.
“And [with twins] you’re just thrown into it. Which is bizarre,” she laughs. “You know, no one just tosses you a set of car keys and says, ‘Go for it.’ But parenting, they just throw you right in. It’s like, ‘Shouldn’t I have to take a class or something?’ The kids are just such a huge part of my life now. They’ve taken over my life. I don’t know how I can do a show without talking about them. Because I just talk about what’s happening, and that’s what I know. I’m pretty authentic. It’s not like I’m sitting down making up this other life of things I think would be funny. To me reality is always funnier.”
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