Fresh off of a command performance for the commander-in-chief, Wanda Sykes brings her brash, blunt stand-up comedy act to Spokane on Saturday in a benefit for Planned Parenthood of the Inland Northwest. Sykes was the featured entertainer at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner on May 9, in front of President Barack Obama and the rest of the political and media establishment.
Reviews were divided down partisan lines. The Huffington Post said that Sykes “killed” – high praise in the stand-up world – while the National Review called it “particularly awful.”
Sykes remained blithely unaware.
“Honestly, I didn’t watch TV the next two days,” she said in a phone interview this week. “I’m a new mom … and I just focused on being a mom and hanging out with kids and changing diapers.
“I got calls from my comedian friends, Jay Leno, Chris Rock and Denis Leary, and when your comedian friends say you kicked butt, it feels good. … But I’m sure I didn’t make any new friends over at Fox News.”
Her jabs at Rush Limbaugh particularly incensed conservative commentators.
“Rush Limbaugh: ‘I hope the country fails,’ ” she said, quoting him. “I hope his kidneys fail, how about that?”
Conservatives called it “mean-spirited,” “hateful” and “disgusting.” Would Sykes say it again if she had the chance?
“Oh, definitely,” she said. “I have said it, in my live act, yeah.”
She poked fun at Obama, too, which is traditional at the Correspondents’ Dinner.
For instance, she said people are proud of the “first black president” but as soon as he makes a few mistakes, they’ll be saying, “What’s up with the half-white guy?”
At one point she looked over at Obama and said, “What’s with you and Joe Biden hanging out and getting a hamburger? The two of you can’t hang out together. Whose idea was that? Nancy Pelosi?”
Michelle Obama didn’t escape, either. Sykes took the first lady to task for going to London and touching the queen.
“You can’t do that!” she said. “You’re over there patting the queen on the back like she just slid into home plate!”
This was all perfectly in keeping with Sykes’ comedy persona, that of a woman who puts up with no nonsense, no hypocrisy and pulls no punches.
When she told an off-color joke involving Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, she listened to the crowd’s scandalized hoots for a long moment and then said, “Oh, shut up. You’re gonna be telling that one tomorrow.”
Sykes is also known for her recurring characters on the TV shows “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Her HBO comedy special, “Wanda Sykes: Sick and Tired,” filmed at the Moore Theatre in Seattle, was nominated for an Emmy.
During Saturday’s show at the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox, she’ll be trying out material for a new HBO special, which she’ll tape in August.
“I’m still working on that,” she said. “Right now, I’m knocking around ‘Eternally Tired.’ Being a mom with twins, it’s eternally tired.”
Sykes said she’ll be doing material based on motherhood and on the ravages of turning 40. She’ll also address the topic of gay marriage.
“I got married in California, but my marriage is still valid, and we’ll talk about that,” she said.
Her wife, Alex, gave birth to the twins six weeks ago.
Sykes also has been signed by the Fox TV network to do a weekly hour-long talk show on Saturdays at 11 p.m., beginning Nov. 7.
How will she have time to do that show and remain a major character on “The New Adventures of Old Christine”?
“I’m sure I’ll end up on one drug or another,” she said. “That will just give me more material for my book.
“I’ll be pulling some stint in rehab and the press will say I’m hospitalized for exhaustion.”