Sykes’s monologue had the feel of one of her stand-up routines, with twice the political play and half the swearing.
After commercials, Wanda grinned into the camera: "Hey, welcome back to The Wanda Sykes Show — we haven’t been canceled yet!"
In the "Strong But Wrong" segment, she and long-time pal Keith Robinson deconstructed a video of a lecherous texting teen at an Obama rally. After reading her lips on camera, they decided: "Three feet from the president, she’s texting: ‘Girl, turn on CNN; I’m about to rape the president.’ Have you ever seen anything so ignorant?"
Nope, and I’ve also never heard anyone use "rape" and "president" in the same sentence. Fifteen minutes into the show, and Sykes was as bawdy as ever.
The "Wandarama" segment followed, and it included the funniest bit of the night: In an attempt to go green ("recycle, reuse, reduce") Wanda decided to dispose of her sex toys in an environmentally-friendly way, and then buy some new toys. ("Can’t I please Mother Nature and myself?")
First up, she asked her New Adventures of Old Christine cast mate Julia Louis-Dreyfus where she could recycle a some used toys. Louis-Dreyfus gasped when Sykes showed them to her: "You take the stuff that’s in this box, and you just burn it. I wish I had never seen it."
"What about the environment?" Sykes asked.
"F–k the environment!" Louis-Dreyfus replied.
"I thought about taking Julia’s advice," Sykes voiced-over. "But then I thought about prison."
After selling her old sex toys in a thrift store and deciding that new toys were too toxic, she tried to peddle some hand-crafted sex toys at an adult entertainment conference. She introduced a solar-powered vibrator ("Yeah, you might have some trouble on a cloudy day"), a dildo made from a stick ("I call it the woodchuck"), and some homemade lube ("Does it smell like bacon grease? That’s because it’s bacon grease").
The final segment was a guest panel that included 24‘s Mary Lynn Rajskub, Brothers‘ Daryl Mitchell, and Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan. Over drinks from the Wanda Bar, they discussed spanking kids and vacationing on the moon, and they played an Inappropriate Game called "Know Your Asians," in which they guessed the nationality of various Asian celebrities.
Overall, Sykes pulled some big laughs last night, but it was obvious that it was the show’s premiere. There were some glaringly awkward moments; the banter didn’t flow as easily as it could have and even Sykes’s jokes felt a little over-rehearsed. But I’m sure those kinks will iron themselves out.
The Wanda Sykes Show has potential to set itself apart. Not only is Sykes the only person of color hosting her own late night gig (until George Lopez‘s show premieres on TBS), her writing staff includes four women and four African Americans. It will be nice to see what kind of rhythm they settle into after a few weeks.
Sykes may not plan to use her show as a gay rights platform, but she’ll be the first to admit that coming out last year changed the way she entertains.
"Being out and just open: It’s very liberating," she told USA Today. "Now I don’t have to dance around anything. I don’t have to think ‘Well, if I say that, they’re going to figure this out and that’s going to lead to this.’ Now, everything is out on the table. I don’t have anything to hide; I can be even bolder."
The bolder, the better. If Sykes is selling, I’m buying.
Except for those handmade sex toys. The last thing Gay PR in America needs is another dildo wildfire.