Wanda Sykes

Active - 2000 - 2021  |   Born - Mar 7, 1964 in Portsmouth, Virginia, United States  |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Jason Buchanan

A quick-witted comedien who has transcended the comedy scene to become one of the funniest comics to hit the stage in some time, Wanda Sykes' unique blend of stinging humor and outspoken honesty has found her moving beyond a career in standup thanks to notable success in film and television. With an Emmy under her belt indicating a bright and enduring career in the years ahead, Sykes has shown a versatility that has gained her increasing attention on such acclaimed HBO series' as The Chris Rock Show and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Born in Portsmouth, VA, and raised in Maryland, Sykes rounded out her education by receiving her B.S. in marketing at Hampton University. It was around this time that an impromptu performance at Washington D.C.'s Super Talent Showcase sparked an interest in standup comedy, and in the years that followed, the rising starlet would continue to hone her skills on-stage.

In 1997, Sykes kicked off her small-screen career as a writer for both The Keenan Ivory Wayans Show and The Chris Rock Show, with the latter offering additional exposure by giving the comedien a place in front of the camera as well as behind. A supporting role in Louis C.K.'s 1998 feature Tomorrow Night was quick to follow, and a 1998 part in the HBO special Larry David: Curb Your Enthusiasm found Sykes in a scene-stealing performance as David's wife's best friend. By this time, Sykes' feature career was beginning to gain momentum, and after commendable supporting performances in The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps and Down to Earth, she delivered a winning performance in the little-seen C.K. comedy Pootie Tang. Though her next foray into television on the short-lived The Downer Channel proved almost as abysmal as Pootie Tang's box-office returns, Sykes endured to lend her voice to the hit Comedy Central series Crank Yankers and host the pay-cable channel's popular standup comic series Premium Blend. The following year seemed to find Sykes at her peak as she landed her own sitcom, Wanda at Large, and her first standup special, Wanda Sykes: Tongue Untied, and served as a field correspondent for HBO's Inside the NFL. Though Wanda at Large premiered to impressive ratings early in the year, the show was moved from Wednesday to Friday nights for its second season and died a quick death in the difficult time slot. Hardly deterred by the end of that sitcom, Sykes appeared in the hit comedy Monster-In-Law offering up zingers at Jane Fonda in her comeback film, and appearing in the Ivan Reitman comedy My Super Ex-Girlfriend. Considering that withering sarcasm comes easily to Sykes, it is little surprise that she has worked on a variety of animated films including Over the Hedge and Barnyard.

She had a bit part in Clerk II, and in 2008 she was cast in the hit sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine. She had her own cable series, The Wanda Sykes Show, for a brief period, and continued to work steadily in animated projects like Rio and Ice Age: Continental Drift.

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  • After college, worked at the National Security Agency as a procurement officer, which included negotiating contracts for spying equipment.
  • While at the NSA in 1987, heard about a talent showcase for aspiring comics and (though she had no experience) wrote five minutes of material at her desk. Although she didn't win, she was hooked, and eventually quit her day job in 1992 to pursue stand-up comedy.
  • Opened for Chris Rock at Caroline's comedy club in New York City in 1995; he hired her as a writer when he launched The Chris Rock Show in 1997.
  • In 2004, published the book, Yeah, I Said It, a collection of her comical observations and anecdotes.
  • Was one of the subjects one the PBS series Finding Your Roots in 2012.
  • Publicly came out as a lesbian in 2008 and has been an activist for same-sex marriage since.