Comedy’s topiary queen

By |2018-01-16T04:11:43-05:00May 18th, 2006|Entertainment|

Wanda Sykes appears comfortable dressed casually in hip-hugging blue jeans and a sequined blouse. She’s also in tip-top shape. “So don’t blow it,” she tells me.
But there’s not much I could do or say to ruin Sykes’ evening. She’s nearing the end of a promo tour for the DreamWorks’ animated flick “Over The Hedge,” in which she’s lent her easily distinguishable voice to a skunk.
Since Sykes remained isolated in the studio from crewmembers through a glass window, she was unsure of her vocal performance and whether they’d want to replace her. “They’d laugh, but you couldn’t hear them,” she says. “It felt like they were laughing. It could been like, ‘Ah! Get Mo’Nique on the phone!'”
The rest of the cast recorded their characters’ voices at different times, and she wasn’t able to bounce her lines off of them. “It was hard because I didn’t have the other actors to play off,” she says. Much of the help came from the crew, who coached her. “It’s really just listening to the director and just trying to give him what he’s looking for,” she says.
While “Over The Hedge” brings Sykes down a few notches from her risque and outspoken humor, it’s easy to still think she’s inhaled a bit too much caffeine. “It’s also me cranked up,” she says. “It’s this persona magnified. I’m not always on, I’m not one of those people at all,” she says. “It’s easier than being grouchy and down and all. That takes work. I’m too lazy not to have fun.”
Fun is not something she’d call her post-college job at a national security agency. “I was bored silly,” she says and then she thought, “This cannot be my life.”
After sifting through high school yearbook comments from students and teachers, which complimented her comedic talent, she entered a talent show with a comedy category. “It all made sense to me after being on stage just once,” she says. “I was like, ‘I got it. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.'”
Now with a resume that includes stand-up and several supporting roles in films, Sykes doesn’t have to jump to an offer. “If it’s a project that speaks to me, that appeals to me, I’ll do it. That’s what I love about being a stand up comic … I don’t have to do something for a check. I did ‘Pooty Tang’ cause I thought it would be fun, I thought it’d be a good movie,” she says, and adds, “Maybe I was wrong.”
Known for her abrasive, biting humor and roles in non-family films, Sykes’ dabble into kid-friendly flicks is a pleasant change of pace for her. “It was nice to be a part of something for the whole family,” she says. “When I work night clubs, people don’t bring their kids,” she pauses and laughs. “I don’t know why.”
To prepare for her role as Stella, Sykes had the luxury of skipping out on hair, make-up, pacing around a trailer and waiting for the lighting crew; she simply rolled out of bed, kicked on some shoes and headed to the studio. “As soon as you step in the door you’re being creative,” she says. “It’s time to do the work, not focus on all that other crap.”
While Sykes is a simple woman, she’s intrigued by rumors of diva demands on set, which were negated once she worked with Jennifer Lopez on “Monster In Law.” Sykes calls Lopez “sweet” and “professional” but expected to return with some outlandish stories. “I was very disappointed,” she says. “I wanted to see something crazy. I figured there would be background dancers all over the place, hanging out, but nothing.”
Jane Fonda, her other “Monster In Law” co-star, still gives her a ring from time to time. “Sometimes she calls and I’m in the middle of something. I’ll look and my phone will say, ‘Jane Fonda.’ [I think] I don’t have time to fool with Jane, [and then I think] ‘You’re not gonna answer? She’s an Oscar winner!'”
For “Over The Hedge,” Sykes jokes about running off with a family of skunks to get in the mind, and under the fur, of one. Even still, she felt a bond with the defensive critter Stella, who gets profiled for the rank aroma she emits.
“People see her and they have all these negative vibes and thoughts,” she says. “They see her and they wanna run away… As females we’re judged by our appearance. It’s all about how we look. Stella goes through the same thing.”
Sykes blames getting profiled for the cancellation of her short-lived, unscripted reality show “Wanda Does It” on Comedy Central. Since the show followed the “Chappelle’s Show’s” timeslot, Sykes believes the network was holding her up to his standards.
“I had to get the same numbers that Chappelle was getting,” she says and adds, “It made sense. He’s black, I’m black; we have the same audience.”
But now Comedy Central no longer has “Chappelle’s Show,” and Sykes has “Over The Hedge.”
“Karma is a beautiful thing,” she says.

About the Author:

Chris Azzopardi
Chris Azzopardi is the Editorial Director of Pride Source Media Group and Q Syndicate, the national LGBTQ wire service. He has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, GQ and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter @chrisazzopardi.