While the recent Republican presidential debates have provided plenty of material for stand-up comics and late-night talk show hosts looking for a quick laugh, Wanda Sykes says adding that kind of stuff to your routine is not as easy as it looks.
“It’s hard to make a joke out of a joke,” said Sykes, who will bring her stand-up routine to the Palace Theatre in Albany Saturday night at 8. “It’s like saying, ‘Hey this is the Super Bowl,’ and you show up and it’s a Pop Warner game. It really is hard, but I’m sure I’ll be talking about the debates a little bit. I am socially aware. That’s all part of my act.”
Sykes, a gay black woman who grew up in Washington, D.C., has been one of the busiest comics/actors in show business since she started working as a writer for HBO’s “The Chris Rock Show” in 1999. She had recurring roles on “The New Adventures of Old Christine” with Julia Louis-Dreyfuss (2006-2010) and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” with Larry David (2000-2011). She also had her own talk show on Fox in 2009 and 2010, and in 2004 authored the book, “Yeah, I Said That.”
WHERE: Palace Theatre, 19 Clinton Ave., Albany
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday
HOW MUCH: $75-$20
MORE INFO: 465-3334, www.palacealbany.com
“I got a lot going on, and I’ve landed some TV shows, but if I’m not doing stand-up I feel like I’m out of work,” she said. “Stand-up is my day job. I feel like something isn’t right if I’m not doing stand-up.”
Sykes graduated from Hampton University with a degree in marketing and spent five years working as a contracting specialist for the National Security Agency. It’s part of her story she doesn’t usually inject into her comic routine.
“My parents told me, ‘You’re going to college,’ so I looked into marketing and thought, ‘Hey, not a lot of science and math, this may be my field,’” she said, laughing. “When I worked at the NSA it was all pretty secretive. We couldn’t talk about it much. There was no signage. Now, you drive on [Route] 95 and they’re these huge signs, ‘National Security Agency.’ We were more of a secret when I worked there.”
She did her first stand-up routine at 23, at a club in Washington in 1987. A few years later she left her job, moved north and began working as a stand-up comic in the New York metro area. It didn’t take long for her career to take off.
“I was doing my own material, and then I started getting writing jobs, and working with Chris Rock was the best gig I ever had,” she said. “I had so much fun. I had a blast working on ‘New Adventures of Christine,’ and Julia was delightful to work with and so funny. Working on ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ was also great fun, but I felt cheated. Here I am working with Larry David, this guy who wrote ‘Seinfeld,’ but it’s all improv and you have to come up with your own lines. But it was fun, especially trying to make him laugh.”
Sykes, who has also performed in the Philadelphia area as Miss Hanigan in “Annie,” said her stand-up routine includes a little of everything.
“Women are under attack from the far right; our gun culture — our love of guns I guess is the best way to say it — are things I’ll talk about,” she said. “I should be afraid to talk about some things, but I’m not. We just had another horrible shooting in Oregon. I guess I’ll talk about that some, but it will really be more about my dislike for guns in general.”
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