Sunday, December 4, 2011

Out Spotlight

Today’s Out Spotlight has been called "one of the funniest stand up comics" by her peers and ranks among Entertainment Weekly's 25 Funniest People in America. This Emmy Award-winning comedian and actor was the first African-American women and the first openly gay master of ceremonies for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. In addition to entertaining people through her stand up act, television, movies, musicals, and books, she has also become an outspoken advocate of LGBT issues and marriage equality. Today's Out Spotlight is comedian Wanda Sykes.

Wanda Sykes was born March 7, 1964 in Portsmouth, Virginia, and raised in the Washington, D.C., area. Her father served as a US Army colonel employed at the Pentagon, and her mother worked as a banker. At a young age, she discovered her passion for making people laugh. Growing up making people laugh, she was outspoken and entertaining at Arundel High School in Gambrills, Maryland. In 1986, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from Hampton University and began working for the National Security Agency (NSA) as a procurement officer, where she worked for five years.

Not completely satisfied with her job with the NSA, she spontaneously began her stand-up career at a Coors Light Super Talent Showcase in Washington, DC, where she performed for the first time in front of a live audience in 1987. She quickly made close friends in the comedy world, including rising star Chris Rock. She continued to hone her talents at local venues while at the NSA until 1992, when she moved to New York City. Her first big break came when opening comedian for Chris Rock at Caroline's Comedy Club. In 1997, she became a performer and writer for “The Chris Rock Show”.

She spent 5 years as part of the HBO's critically acclaimed show. As a performer and writer on the show, she was nominated for three Primetime Emmy's and in 1999 won the Emmy for "Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Special." In 2001, she won the American Comedy Award for "Outstanding Female Stand Up Comic". She won three more Emmy’s, in 2002, 2004 and 2005 , for her work on “Inside the NFL” for “Outstanding Studio Show - Weekly- Inside The NFL".

In 2003, Wanda picked up the "Funniest TV Actress” award from Comedy Central. Her other writing credits include: the "MTV 1999 Music Video Awards", "The MTV Movie Awards" the "74th Annual Academy Awards," and "The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show.”

Also in 2003, Sykes launched her first television show, “Wanda at Large” which she help write and performed. On the show, she played Wanda Hawkins, an unsuccessful stand-up comic hired to be a correspondent on a political talk show. Sykes acknowledged, “Wanda Hawkins is basically me personified. We have the same attitude, the same point of view—pointing out hypocrisies in the way we see the world.”

She also did a one hour Comedy Central special called "Wanda Sykes: Tongue Untied". In addition, she has been on HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" or heard on Comedy Central's "Crank Yankers” as the voice of Gladys Murphy.She has starred in “Wanda Does It,” “The Wanda Sykes Show” and “The New Adventures of Old Christine.”

HBO produced two Wanda Sykes comedy specials, “Sick & Tired” in 2006 and “I’ma Be Me” in 2009. “Sick & Tired” garnered Sykes a nomination for a 2007 Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special.

She’s also taking her comedy to the big screen, appearing in such movies such as, “Evan Almighty,” “Monster-In-Law”, “My Super Ex-Girlfriend,” "Pootie Tang", "Nutty Professor 2; The Klumps", and "Down to Earth" and has provided the voice for characters in the animated movies “Over The Hedge” and “The Barnyard.”

An author, her first book, “Yeah, I Said It,” is a collection of comedic essays on current events, family and life.

In May 2009, Sykes was the featured entertainer for the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner, becoming both the first African American woman and the first openly LGBT person to get the job. Cedric the Entertainer had been the first African American to become the featured entertainer in 2005. At the event, Sykes made headlines when she responded to conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh's comments regarding President Barack Obama. Limbaugh, in reference to Obama's presidential agenda, had said "I hope he fails". In response, Sykes quipped: "I hope his [Limbaugh's] kidneys fail."

Sykes was married to record producer Dave Hall from 1991 to 1998. In November 2008, she publicly came out as lesbian while at a same-sex marriage rally in Las Vegas regarding Proposition 8, which forbids new marriages of same-sex couples in California. That year she performed as part of Cyndi Lauper's True Colors Tour for LGBT rights and appeared in a television ad for the Think Before You Speak Campaign, an advertising campaign by GLSEN aimed at curbing homophobic slang in youth communities. In the 30-second spot, she uses humor to scold a teenager for saying "that's so gay" when he really means "that is so bad."

On October 25, 2008, she married her partner, Alex, whom she met in 2006 and became a mother on April 27, 2009, when Alex gave birth to their twins, Olivia Lou and Lucas Claude.

"Crushed" after California voters passed state Proposition 8, she has continued to be active in same-sex marriage issues hosting events and emceeing fundraisers.

Sykes branched out in to musicals in late 2010 and early 2011 appearing as Miss Hannigan in a professional theatre production of "Annie" at The Media Theatre in Media, PA, in suburban Philadelphia.

During a September 19, 2011 appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, she announced that she had been diagnosed earlier in the year with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Although DCIS is a non-invasive "stage zero breast cancer", she elected to have a bilateral mastectomy in order to remove her chances of ever getting cancer. Sykes returned to her stand-up tour a month later and said her recovery was expedited by the support of her friends and family, including her wife Alex and their 2-year-old old twins.

"We never hid anything from the kids. They were a huge part of my decision because I wanted to be around for them. I feel whole again, I really do. I've told them, 'Mommy's boo-boo is much better now.' "

In addition to her nominations and her Emmys Sykes won the American Comedy Award for "Outstanding Female Stand Up Comic" in 2001. In 2010 she was honored by GLAAD with an award for promoting a good image of equal rights for gays and lesbians.

Sykes lives in California with her wife, Alex, and their twins and continues to entertain audiences as well as educating others about LGBT issues.

“They pissed off the wrong group of people. Instead of having gay marriage in California, we’re going to get it across the country.”


Sweet said...

Awww, loved your post on the previous thread Spesh about Austin's trip to Israel.

Love Wanda too - she's so funny and really quite a beautiful woman.

Jersey Tom said...

Wanda Sykes is awesome. What a funny lady.

Special K said...

A week later after he was back in LA, comes "official" Jake is back in LA.

Just Jared

destiny said...

I love Wanda Sykes.

Very interesting about Austin's reason for going to Israel. Wonder if they reach out to people, if or if Austin had to reach out to them and expressed interest in going.

And boy, isn't it funny how we get official confirmation of Jake in LA just as Austin is about to take off for Israel.

Seaweed said...

Thanks for the Wanda Sykes feature Special! The woman is pure energy, would love to see one of her shows in person.

Great to have her outspoken support in favour of Equal Marriage.

Shame she hasn't housetrained the dogs though...... eww.

the real m said...

Great spotlight. Wanda is one of my favorite comedians.

Jake turning up in CA recently is so much evidence that he can move around stealthily when he needs to. And he and Austin can meet whenever and wherever they want with no one the wiser.

the real m said...

Hey all, I hope it's not too late for you east coasters. Naomi had a guest role on Enlightened this evening. HBO. She did Great. I recognized her right away.

the real m said...

Actually, they reshow the show during the week so there is time to see it later if you missed it. Can't recall the episode name but something with comrade in the title.

Special K said...

Thanks M for the heads up.

Just looked it up and it's called "Comrades Unite!" They are reshowing it tonight at 10:30 EST

Enlightened was created by Laura Dern and Mike White. Laura's mom Diane Ladd is in the show as well as Luke Wilson.

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ihj said...

Jake at Bob Hope Airport Burbank

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Seaweed said...

Wow... scowling Jake for a Monday morning. Something to match my own mood at present. Will work on getting the sun to come out tomorrow.

Taking my sis out to select some flooring for her home renovation today, a dreary drive in this weather but time well spent I'm sure. She might even buy me lunch which will brighten up my spirits. Hope somebody special does something for Jake today too.

Cheers everyone!

Special K said...

Checking stuff out online this morning Zimbio is saying that Jake missed his flight.

Maybe that's the reason for an unhappy Jakey.

prairiegirl said...

What an interesting OutSpotlight, Special - very well done! I didn't know all of this about Wanda Sykes - I remember when she came out but all I knew her as at that time was a frequent voice in animated movies! Her voice is very unique and recognizable. Sounds like she came from a set of hard working parents and worked her way up to where she is now. Very, very admirable. She seems very active in working for the LGBT community as I just see her name mentioned fairly often.

I didn't realize she wrote for shows like the Academy Awards and stuff. But I guess that's what comedians do, huh? lol - I never think about where they get their writers.

prairiegirl said...

I have to love that wherever Austin goes, he seems to gravitate towards the water. His first twitpic from Israel near what I gather is the ocean and a sunset that borders on almost being dark. Look at those aqua blues in the picture.

prairiegirl said...

Wow, I need to check the time difference. He said sunset; he's way ahead of me.

prairiegirl said...
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prairiegirl said...

Yup, that was about right. He tweeted an hour ago and according to The Weather Channel, sunset in Jerusalem was 09:35:32 EST.

lol. Sorry, but I have to double and triple check on that ol' Austy. Can't trust a thing he does or says.

AUS10 said...

Beautiful sunset in Israel. #aviiIsrael
1 hour ago

Wow said...

Wow. I was hoping we'd get some pics! :)

tweet said...

israelconsulate Israeli Consulate
#OneTreeHill star @AUS10NICHOLS is in #Israel Looks like he's having an awesome time!
1 hour ago

Special K said...

Love the picture from Israel, and you're right PG, for Austin it's all about the water.

I bet it was Tel Aviv or somewhere very close to there. I don't think they would start in Haifa, but you never know. They could start in the north and work their way down the country.

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