Comedian Wanda Sykes Squads With Hollywood's Celebrity Writers: NPR

Wanda Sykes performs during her Netflix special at the Miller Theater in Philadelphia i am an entertainer

Aaron Ricketts/Netflix

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Aaron Ricketts/Netflix

Wanda Sykes performs during her Netflix special at the Miller Theater in Philadelphia i am an entertainer

Aaron Ricketts/Netflix

Three weeks later Hollywood writers strikeexperienced comic and WGA union Member Wanda Sykes says the “survival of the craft” is at stake.

“Right now…there’s no way (a staff writer) can survive unless they have another job, something that supplements their income,” says Sykes. “I’m praying and hoping (for an agreement) but… we can’t back down. That’s the limit in the sand.”

Sykes was at the forefront of the union final blowin 2007. This time, her Netflix series, The Upshawswhich Sykes co-produced and co-performs with Regina HicksHe’s on hiatus because of the strike.

Sykes’ previous appearances have spanned dozens of television shows and films, including Curb your enthusiasm, The wonderful Mrs. Maisel, Black and Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part II. In her new Netflix comedy special i am an entertainerShe talks about raising twins with her French wife, wonders what her life would have been like if she had come out sooner (she came out to her parents at 40) and what it was like surviving a pandemic and a riot — all while continuing through menopause.

While some comics have done so complained about the difficulty in a so-called “cancel culture,“It’s not something Sykes is worried about.

“People are mad because they can’t be racist, they can’t be fanatics and they can’t be prejudiced, and they’re upset about it,” she says. “You can say anything you want to say. There’s nothing stopping you from saying whatever you want to say, just understand that there are consequences.”

Interview Highlights

On the effect Moms Mabley had on her (she played Moms Mabley in The wonderful Mrs. Maisel)

I was a child. I remember sitting on the floor in front of the TV at my grandmother’s house…I think that was it The Smothers brothers. … When Moms Mabley came out we all just laughed, and then I saw them laugh at her and be like, ‘Oh man, I want to do that. I want to make my grandmother laugh like that.”

I was just fascinated, just fascinated by this old black woman who kinda dressed like my big mama. I just found them the funniest. It just stayed with me. Even in college my sisters used to laugh and stuff because they remember how after a few drinks I would just turn into this old lady and say all kinds of crazy things. I just channel them, I love them.

When meeting her wife

We met on Fire Island, New York, on the way to Cherry Grove. I saw her on the ferry, but then we met later, around the next day on the island. … I’m going to sound crazy here, but honestly I heard my dead therapist’s voice. … She had passed away, I would say, at least six months or something like that. And… looking back on the ferry, I saw this woman talking to a woman who was holding a baby and she was playing with that baby, so I thought they were dating. I thought it was family, and (a voice) said, “Hey, Wanda, that’s what you need.” And I thought, “You’re dead! What the hell?”

When she saw that her community was more supportive and less homophobic

It’s been a big change, and I think it starts with the church. The Church is more tolerant. Just walking through the streets and stuff. I’ve seen it. I felt it. I thought: Wow, this will get better. Just the support and love of the community. I remember the first time I was at CVS and this older black woman walked up to me, she was like “Wanda”. And I was like, ‘Oh man, what is she going to say?’ She’s like, ‘I want to talk to you.’ I was like, ‘Oh god, she’s going to hit me with that (gay) stuff.’ And she’s like, ‘How is your family doing How are these kids?” I literally had tears in my eyes as I walked to my car. I remember it. And little things like that just kept happening.

About raising white children as a black mother

I raise her the way I was raised because I don’t know any other way to raise her. I don’t know if white people raise their kids by saying, “Look, you know you can break the line, right?” Is there a white manual? It’s like the lecture black parents give their kids about what to do when you’re stopped by the police. It’s like I’m giving the lecture to my kids right now and I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t have to do this. They’re white.” I’m going to tell (my daughter) Olivia, “If the police stop you, just start crying. they will let you go you are white You are a beautiful young white girl. Just cry and they will let you go.

Heidi Saman and Seth Kelley produced and edited this interview for the broadcast. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Beth Novey adapted it for the web.

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