There’s no better time than now for Wanda Sykes to return to her stand-up roots. Her eponymous Fox late-night show was canceled after one season and “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” the CBS sitcom she shares with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, suffered the same fate.
Come June 10, though, the ballsy comedian’s going back to where she started: the stage. Sykes, also known for stealing scenes in the J. Lo romantic-comedy “Monster-in-Law” and the cult classic “Pootie Tang,” will perform that night at MotorCity Casino’s Sound Board Theatre and then the following evening at the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort.
We nabbed Sykes for a few to chat about her first love, winning a GLAAD Media Award and drinking with her kids.
You know what I love about you: You say whatever’s on your mind. So, what’s on it now?
I should’ve worn a T-shirt. I’m hot! (Laughs) I’m just running errands and I have a long-sleeved shirt on. I’m like, Shit. I didn’t know it was going to be this hot!
How does it feel returning to stand-up after shifting to TV, political activism and raising babies?
It’s getting back to my first love. Where I started is stand-up; that’s how I got here, so it’s my favorite thing. I love doing it, and it’s the most stressful part of the business. You can’t go, “It wasn’t my fault!” It’s just you – totally naked.
Will your upcoming stand-up shows be all-new material or recycled from the HBO special “I’ma Be Me”?
I’m writing some stuff, so I’m sure there will definitely be a lot of new stuff. Maybe not from “I’ma Be Me,” but Esther’s still around (the fat roll on her tummy she named during the comedy special), so maybe some new Esther stories. The kids are now 1, too. So I’ll just bring you up to date. There will be elements from “I’ma Be Me,” but mainly a lot of new stuff. What? I have no idea yet. We’ll see.
When do you know you have a good joke? Do you test it out on your wife?
If it makes me laugh, that’s a good joke. It’s hard to test out material on your spouse or your family or friends because they know you’re testing the stuff out. You don’t know until you do it for an audience.
What does being an out lesbian add to your stand-up?
To me, it makes me funnier because I’m being totally out and open and free. Not having to worry about anything: If I say this, they might think this. Just not hiding anything. Total freedom. It’s very liberating.
What was it like sharing a closet with Ricky Martin for so long?
(Laughs) I was so shocked! I was really shocked! I get it. Good for Ricky. And he has kids now. Once that happens you can’t hide anything because you’re going to pass that on to your kids, so I totally get it. I’m very happy for him.
As someone who came out during a Prop. 8 rally in Las Vegas and who’s been very involved in speaking on gay issues since, how do you feel Obama is handling LGBT issues?
A lot of us really want him to speed up a little bit and move forward faster, but I think the strides that we’ve made have been great. With what’s going on in the world with our economy and unemployment, it’s really hard to put our issues out on the forefront because there are so many things affecting everybody in the country. We don’t want to come off as the whiny gays (laughs).
We still do whine, though.
We have to whine! It’s been a nice balance of the whining and the progress that we’ve made. I never expected the president to ram equality down the rest of America’s throats, but I think he’s making the right moves. We should continue that.
You recently received a GLAAD Media Award from Constance McMillan, the high school student who wasn’t allowed to attend prom with her girlfriend. How would you have handled her situation being as bold as you are?
Hey, when I was in high school that just wasn’t going to happen. It’s very bold of her; she’s in Mississippi, so to make that move in such a conservative state is like, Wow! I applaud her and her family because I don’t even think I would be black in Mississippi, let alone gay. So when I heard about her story, I was like, Man, I would really love for her to present the award to me – and also get her out of Mississippi for a minute. Good Lord! Have a night out in West Hollywood.
When you win awards like that one, honoring your work in such a serious platform, do you feel the need to act more appropriate in your professional career?
No – I’m honored to get the award, but I’m still going to be me. I warned GLAAD. They should’ve known better (laughs).
How do you feel “The Wanda Sykes Show” went?
I’m very proud of the show, and I thought it was really funny. I don’t think there was anything like it on TV, so I’m very happy about it. Doing it, it was grueling because I was doing “Old Christine” at the same time I was on this show. So it’s really hard to get a show off the ground, one, but doing it while you have another full-time job, it was rough. I don’t mind working hard and I don’t mind putting in the hours, but doing that and being a new mom, it was tiring, but we got through it.
What kind of humor do you find in the kids?
It’s just funny how they can crush you. They really can. Some days they’re all lovey-dovey and they just want you to pick them up. Then all of a sudden all they want to do is watch the pool guy. It’s funny how they just shift their attention and you can easily equate that to, if you’re soft, “Oh, they don’t love me today.” It’s just funny how you go, “I’m the most important thing to them.” And then the next day they want nothing to do with you.
Who’s on diaper duty: You or your wife?
Whoever smells it first (laughs).
I imagine now, because the kids are so young, you can’t slip up too much in front of them. Are you anxious for the days when you don’t have to censor yourself anymore?
You know what, I’m not really foul-mouthed. I’m not really cursing all the time or anything in my everyday life. I’m cool around the kids. But it will be nice when they get of age and we can have a drink together.
Of course. You like your drinks.
I love the alcohol!
If you could be any drink, what would you be?
(Laughs) I would probably be a very nice Cabernet Sauvignon – they’re complex, taste good and enough of it will knock you on your ass.
8 p.m. June 10
MotorCity Casino’s Sound Board, Detroit
8 p.m. June 11
Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort, Mount Pleasant