For Wanda Sykes, material for her stand-up routine is easy to find.
It comes from her life.
Sykes, a comedian, writer and actress called one of the 25 funniest people in America by Entertainment Weekly, will turn 50 this year. She’s raising 4-year-old twins with her wife, Alex Sykes, and keeping busy with stand-up comedy, producing and writing. It’s all fodder for her act, which she’ll share with local fans Sunday night at Northern Quest.
“My stand-up is a snapshot of what’s going on in my life,” she said in a telephone interview this week from New York City. “The kids and the family have taken over everything.”
Not that she doesn’t wade into more controversial topics. Health care and government gridlock come under her “take-no-B.S.” glare. She even has some perspective on the Edward Snowden revelations, having worked for the National Security Agency for five years after college.
Sykes admits she finds it crazy that people are up in arms about surveillance and privacy when they then turn around and post pictures of their dinners and vacations on social media.
“So it’s OK for Google to read my email to sell me stuff, but if the government does it to keep people safe, people scream bloody murder,” she said. “It’s crazy.”
Sykes comes by her interest in politics honestly. She was raised in the Washington, D.C., area – her dad was an Army colonel who worked at the Pentagon – and it’s where she cut her teeth doing comedy.
In 1992, she left her job at the NSA – she worked in procurement – and moved to New York. There she opened a show for Chris Rock, which led to her joining the writing team for “The Chris Rock Show” on HBO from 1997 to 2000. She went on to have a recurring role on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and co-starred in “The New Adventures of Old Christine.” Her movie credits include “Monster-in-Law” and “Evan Almighty” and voice work in the animated films “Over the Hedge,” “Rio,” and “Ice Age: Continental Drift.” She has seven Emmy nominations – one win – and a couple of HBO comedy specials to her credits.
She harkens back to her sketch comedy roots this weekend with a sketch variety special, “Herlarious,” airing Saturday on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN channel.
“We have some really funny sketches. The first thing is ‘Super Soul Train Sunday,’ which is like an homage to Oprah’s ‘Super Soul Sunday’ and the old ‘Soul Train’ ” she said. “I have the old Don Cornelius wig, the skinny mic and everything. It’s really funny.”
She loves writing sketch comedy, she said. “And I love being in them. Give me some makeup and wig and a funny costume, and I’m happy.”
Speaking of sketch comedy, as news was breaking this week that venerable “Saturday Night Live” had hired Sasheer Zamata as the show’s first black female cast member in six years, Sykes offered hope that Zamata would have a chance to shine in what’s bound to be pressure-filled job.
“If I were her, I would only play white characters. That’s the only thing I would do,” Sykes said, laughing. “The first character I would play would be Dame Judi Dench.”