Wanda Sykes Mixes the Personal and Political in “I’ma Be Me”


Coming out has been good for Wanda Sykes

For proof, tune in to HBO this Saturday night to watch her new stand-up special I’ma Be Me, which features 90 minutes of smart, hilarious comedy from a more relaxed, more authentic Wanda than we’ve ever seen before.

The comedian admits as much in one of HBO’s behind-the-scenes video about the special, saying, “finally I’m being who I am, being myself, not caring what other people think.”

Sykes, who stars in the CBS sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine, has been a fixture on the late night talk show circuit in the last two years because of her smart, politically oriented comedy. She also hosted the White House Correspondents Dinner in May, to both acclaim and controversy. 

Sykes garnered even more headlines last November when she publicly revealed at a marriage rights rally that she’s gay and married. A few months ago, her wife, Alex, gave birth to twins.

In previous television appearances (this is her second HBO special), Sykes has avoided discussing anything too personal, sticking to political issues like Sarah Palin or gay rights issues like California’s Proposition 8. She has discussed motherhood on The Tonight Show in May, but has never mentioned her wife’s name on television before.

But in this strategically timed special — Wanda’s new Saturday night talk show debuts on Fox next month — the comedian spends almost as much time telling stories about her wife, motherhood, and what it’s like to be gay as she does riffing on more general topics like the metrics system, the Sotomayor hearings, and all the things black Americans can do now that Barack Obama is president (like buy whole watermelons).

Sykes’s new openness is also reflected in her physical demeanor — she moves easily across the stage, gesticulates frequently, and appears loose and confidant.

The result is stand-up comedy at its finest.

A few lines from the special:

On being in an interracial marriage: “I like to say [my wife] is French, because it’s better than ‘white.'”

On the pressure for black people to be dignified at all times: “We should’ve killed Flavor Flav years ago!”

On the recent violence at town hall meetings over healthcare: “I wouldn’t go to a town hall meeting unless I had some health insurance.”

Sykes talks more about the healthcare debate in this preview clip:


Other highlights from the special include Sykes’s opinion on the much-debated issue of whether it’s more difficult to be black or gay;  a spot-on impression of Obama’s walk; a rant about the “note” she was given just before going on at the Correspondents Dinner; and an explanation of why Wanda and Alex decided to use a white sperm donor.

Then there’s her Halle Berry joke…but I won’t spoil that one for you.

The show drags a bit in the second half when Sykes talks about weight, waxing, and other stereotypical topics typically addressed by female comics. But overall, this is one of funniest 90 minutes of television I’ve watched in a long time.

If this is any indication of the quality of commentary we can expect from Sykes’s new talk show in November, there may finally be something worth watching on Saturday nights again.

Watch I’ma Be Me this Saturday, Oct. 10 at 10pm on HBO

Wanda’s “press conference” announcing the special


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