Wanda Sykes talks Detroit and ‘Last Comic Standing’

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Comedian, actor, writer and producer Wanda Sykes brings her sarcastic and straight-to-the-point comedy to Caesars Windsor on Thursday.

The Virginia native talked to The Detroit News earlier this month about her new material and being executive producer of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” which airs this summer.

Q: You’ve had a full career as an actor, a writer. Lately you’ve been on tour a lot as a comedian. Is stand-up your main thing?

A: I love it. I love doing stand-up. It’s where it all started for me. For me, I look at stand-up like it’s my day job. If I’m available, if I’m not in the middle of a TV show or shooting a movie, I need to be back at work. This is my first love, what I enjoy doing and it’s really fun because I’m working on a new hour, a new special, so I’m getting out there and taking it around with my act and working it out.

Q: What’s is your new material like?

A: A lot of it is kind of ‘how did I end up in this situation.’ If I look back, let’s say 15 years ago or 20 years ago, nowhere in the world would I think that this would be my life. Here I am, 51 years old, married to a French woman with two little white kids, twins, they’re 5 and here I am… I’ve become a minority in my own home (laughs). Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and we are happy, but I’m just looking at the reality of it all. There’s a lot of things that I had to change up. When my friends come over I’m like ‘hey hey, no (saying) n-words in the house.’ Let’s not get my kids killed.

Q: Are you going to release your new show as Netflix special or release it on television, or something else?

A: I guess I’m old school. To me a special is an HBO special, that’s just me. I like to get that static “crrrrrk” in front of my special. For me, it’s either in the movie theater or it’s HBO. We’ll see, maybe (Netflix) for the right price.

Q: You’re coming to Windsor for this show, but Detroit’s just across the border. You have a good history with the city, and even helped out with the youth social services agency the Ruth Ellis Center.

A: I was introduced to the Ruth Ellis Center through (former executive director) Laura Hughes. She was the director over there and she reached out to me because she saw I was coming to town and I thought, oh this looks interesting. This looks like a very cool place. I went by and met them and met with some of the kids and immediately said ‘OK, I want to help.’ I’ve been working with them for while.

I know Detroit is going through some rough times, but now it has this energy. It’s rebuilding, and it’s exciting, and every time I come back it’s different. Some new buildings are opening and things are turning around. I think it’s exciting and it just feels positive. You have to credit that to the people of Detroit; they didn’t just say ‘oh well we’re done’ and close it up and take off, they’re strong and they’re staying.

Q: You’re the executive producer of “Last Comic Standing” on NBC. How’s that going and what do you think of the up-and-coming talent?

A: This is such a fantastic format to get comedians out there. We had so many comics from last season, even if they didn’t win, they got exposure and now their ticket sales are going up and they’re getting more opportunities. I’m all about that. Right now on “Last Comic Standing” there’s like five or six of them that I think could really win the whole thing, and it’s going to be a tough competition.

It’s just fun to watch, and now we have (judges) Roseanne Barr and Keenan Ivory Wayans and we added Norm Macdonald. He’s so funny. Anthony Jeselnik, he is killing it as the host. It’s going to be a great season and I’m excited about that.

Q: We have an election coming up kind of soon, and politics are always good fodder for comedians. What do you think of the upcoming political season?

A: We’re going to have so much fun with all the Republican candidates. Ted Cruz signed up for Obamacare, that’s just hilarious. The very thing that you want to destroy. To me, if people are really that passionate about ‘I have to get rid of Obamacare,’ he would just go without insurance. It’s just the hypocrisy of that whole life. It’s interesting to see exactly what is your plan, because right now the Republican platform is “NO,” that’s all it is. Basically their platform is whatever the president wants to do, we’re not doing it. They’ve offered no alternatives, no options. It’s going to be fun.

As far as the Democrats, I just would love to see a nice fire fight. (If) Biden decides that he’s going to run and Hillary and Elizabeth Warren, throw Al Sharpton on in there. I just want it to be like thunderdome!



Wanda Sykes

8 p.m. Thursday

The Colosseum at Caesars Windsor

377 Riverside Drive East, Windsor

$20 Canadian and up

(800) 991-7777