Wanda Sykes has been making people laugh her entire life. Her successful career as a writer, author, actress, and stand-up comedienne has garnered a solid following of fans, numerous comedy awards and even an Emmy.
Her public coming out in 2009 at a marriage equality rally and speaking for LGBT rights has earned her the love and admiration of the queer community at large.
Wanda will be performing her standup routine at the Cobb Energy Centre during Atlanta Pride weekend on Oct. 12. In an interview with GA Voice, Sykes talked about her multilingual family, coming out to her parents later in life and her expectations for the Atlanta show audience.
When I found out your wife, Alex, had twins, I secretly wished I could be your housekeeper just to hear the funny things that were sure to occur. Your twins are now three years old – tell me about motherhood.
I think that you would really enjoy being my housekeeper because it’s nuts. I look around in my house and ask myself how the hell this happened? How did I get here? I am married to a French woman, we have 3 year old twin toddlers and they speak French and the whole thing is just crazy to me. I’m a minority in my own house now.
I walk around listening to all of this French-speak and I just have to call my friends and say, “Hey, can you just come over here, please? There’s just too many of them.”
It’s fun, though. I’m enjoying it. It’s stressful and frustrating at times just because of the language but overall, it’s great.
But your children are bilingual, right?
No. No, they are not. My wife likes to say that but, no. They speak French. That’s what they do.
So there is a communication barrier for you?
Right. Either I have to work on my French or my kids have to work on their English because I’m pretty sure that my daughter asked me for an eight ball the other day. (Laughs)
You came out in a surprising and very organic way. It was at a rally for marriage equality and it took place just after you married your wife. You later said you hadn’t planned it and it just felt right to you.
Yes, very much so. I hadn’t planned on saying anything but it was just a natural thing for me to do at the time. I have absolutely no regrets. Most of the people who knew me already knew I was gay anyway so it wasn’t really a matter of letting everyone know – just the people who didn’t know me.
What was your private coming out like?
I came out privately to my parents about 5 years before I came out publicly. It didn’t go well at all. I was having surgery and my mom, who lives on the east coast, wanted to come out to Los Angeles to be with me. I had to let her know that the person that I was living with at the time was not my roommate as my mom had thought.
I mean, I’m a grown woman in my 40s and doing really, really well. I don’t need a roommate to help me out financially and pay half the rent and utilities… (laughs) I figured that my parents just knew but they didn’t.
My mother just lost it. It was painful. She didn’t even come out to L.A. and it was very hard for all of us.
But now, we’re great. She’s grandma and it’s all good. It just took time and me being comfortable with myself and who I was and that made them more comfortable. They knew that they were going to either embrace it or not have the relationship with their daughter. I’m happy that it all worked out.
You had a career in Washington, D.C., at the National Security Agency after you graduated from college. What made you leave that and go in the direction of stand-up comedy?
I can look in my high school yearbook and read comments that people wrote and it’s just full of classmates saying things like “Thank you for making class so much fun” or teachers saying “You always make me laugh.” I always enjoyed making people laugh. It was the encouragement I got from others to keep going. People kept telling me how funny I was and that I should be on stage. So I just listened and went for it.
Who is your celebrity crush?
Is my wife going to read this?
No. Definitely not.
I am going to go with Halle Berry. She is just jaw-dropping gorgeous.
Atlanta looks forward to seeing you on Oct. 12 during Pride weekend. Is there anything you want to say to your fans before they come see you?
Yes, I always have a great time in Atlanta. I’m really looking forward to coming down there. I respect everyone’s right to be proud and do your thing but I just wanted to say that I really don’t need to have the ass-less chaps at my show (laughs). If you could just pass that on to everyone, I’d appreciate it. They make me pay to clean those seats after the show.