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Wanda Sykes - Biography

By

Wanda Sykes
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Born:

March 7, 1964

Overview:

Wanda Sykes is an outspoken, brutally honest comedian from the Richard Pryor school of stand-up. Focusing on hot-button issues like politics, race relations and current events, Sykes is fearless in her willingness to speak her mind and embraces a take-no-prisoners approach to comedy. When Sykes came out as a lesbian in 2008, she became one of biggest and most popular stand-ups to be openly gay.

Quick Wanda Sykes Facts:

  • Wanda Sykes hails from Portsmouth, Virginia.
  • She began performing stand-up comedy in 1987.
  • In 1997, Sykes joined the writing staff and cast of The Chris Rock Show on HBO.
  • She taped her first stand-up special, Tongue Untied, in 2003.
  • In 2008, Sykes publicly came out as gay and married her partner of two years.
  • Sykes caused controversy with jokes she performed as the featured entertainer at the 2009 White House Correspondents Association dinner. She was both the first African American and the first homosexual to ever be featured entertainer.
  • She became host of her own FOX talk show, The Wanda Sykes Show, in 2009.

Wanda Sykes' Early Life:

Wanda Sykes was born in Portsmouth, Virgina, in 1964 and raised in Washington, D.C. After graduating from Hampton University and taking a job at the National Security Agency, Sykes began performing stand-up around D.C. in 1987. She performed around the city for five years before moving to New York City in 1992. There, she began performing at clubs and got her big break when opening for Chris Rock at Carolines Comedy Club.

Wanday Sykes on TV:

Now a successful stand-up, Sykes joined the writing staff and cast of HBO's The Chris Rock Show in 1997. While there, she was nominated for four writing Emmys and won one in 1999.

In 2001, Sykes began a recurring role on Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm.

In 2003, Sykes got her own FOX sitcom called Wanda at Large. The show was canceled within one season. The same year, Sykes taped her first comedy special, Tongue Untied, for Comedy Central.

In 2004, Sykes published her first book, called Yeah, I Said It. The same year, she got a second series, Wanda Does It, on Comedy Central. It lasted only six episodes.

Sykes joined the cast of the CBS sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine in 2006.

She taped her second comedy special, Wanda Sykes: Sick and Tired in 2006, this time for HBO. It was nominated for an Emmy in 2007.

Her third HBO special, I'ma Be Me, debuted in 2009.

In November of 2009, Sykes became the host of her own weekly late-night talk show, The Wanda Sykes Show, on FOX.

Wanda Sykes Gets Political:

Though she had been married to record producer David Hall for seven years, Sykes came out as a lesbian in 2007 when she married her partner of two years in California. She actively rallied against Proposition 8, which would ban same-sex marriage in the state. When it passed, Sykes was public about her disappointment and continues to campaign for same-sex marriage rights.

In 2009, Sykes became both the first African-American and the first openly gay entertainer to be featured at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner for President Barack Obama. Sykes drew controversy for remarks made about conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh (calling him the "20th hijacker on 9/11" and saying she hopes his kidneys fail in response to Limbaugh's statements that he hopes Obama fails) and former Vice-President Dick Cheney.

Additional Wanda Sykes Facts:

  • In 2001, Sykes won the American Comedy Award for Oustanding Female Stand-up.
  • Entertainment Weekly named Wanda Sykes one of the 25 funniest people in America in 2004.
  • She was voted #70 in a Comedy Central poll of the 100 Funniest Stand-ups of All Time.
  • Sykes served as a correspondent on the HBO sports show Inside the NFL and won three Emmys for her work in 2002, 2004 and 2005.
  • In 2011, Sykes announced that she had undergone a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ -- sometimes called "Stage 0" breast cancer.
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