Fall is truly Wanda Sykes’ season. Last November she came out at a post-election Prop 8 rally, revealing she had a wife to boot (she married Alexandra in California prior to Prop 8’s passage, and in April Alexandra bore twins, Olivia Lou and Lucas Claude). This fall sees a quadruple dose of Sykes on TV. In addition to her supporting role as Barb on CBS’s The New Adventures of Old Christine (season five debuted last month) and an appearance on the season premiere of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm (also last month), on which she regularly berates trouble-stirring star Larry David, HBO debuts a brand-new stand-up special, Wanda Sykes: I’ma Be Me, on Saturday, October 10, and FOX launches her late-night talk show, The Wanda Sykes Show, on November 7.
As summer nears its close, Sykes shared some details about these projects—including which deceased celebrity she wants to have as a talk-show guest—and her personal life.
Lawrence Ferber: You lobbed some ferociously funny, controversy-stirring snarkbombs at conservatives, including FOX’s Sean Hannity, during May’s White House Correspondents Dinner. So do you feel conflicted about your talk show being on FOX?
Wanda Sykes: You know what, I’m not on FOX News, the Bill O’Reilly FOX. I’m on the American Idol FOX. I’m on the Adam Lambert FOX.
What will make your talk show unique from all the others?
Well, let’s start with me, and there you go. We’re not trying to reinvent the late-night talk-show format—except instead of a white guy, you have me.
Any guests you would love to invite?
Condoleezza Rice. Wouldn’t that be great?
Sure, two lesbians in a room.
[Laughs] I did not say that.
Michael Jackson. Yeah.
I hear he’s not doing press.
I can get him. [Laughs]
Would you settle for LaToya?
No. No. I would have to have Mike. LaToya’s starting to look more like Janet. Notice that? She shifted. She was going straight for Mike, and I think she ran out of money and went, “Ah, let me go with Janet. Too much work.”
Will you try and get FOX’s Hannity and Glenn Beck on your show?
Oh, no. We want to have fun.
Does Larry David deserve the heaps of abuse you and other characters lay on him all the time?
Of course. He’s asking for it.
When people see you in public, do they ask you to insult them as if they’re Larry David?
Of course. And I’m looking at people like they’re crazy. You have to do something first. I can’t just rip into you for no reason.
Like spill a drink on you?
No, that’s a fight. And I’m extra mad because you’re wasting alcohol.
Did coming out last November change your life? What effect has it had?
It’s been great. Liberating. Total freedom. I’ve giving it a plug. I highly recommend it.
And was your family cool with it? What was their reaction?
Oh, no. No, no. It was more just loud noises. Something about praying for you. Let’s just say [they’re taking] baby steps.
You have a wife, Alexandra, and two kids. Do you mind them being in the public eye, or do you want them to be completely shielded, like “Blanket” Jackson?
I don’t think anyone wants anyone to be like Blanket. That’s just not nice. My wife is a private person and has her own career, and I think it’s only right she gets to keep and maintain that. I’m the one in show business. I love having that divide. We don’t want to be a Hollywood couple. And I don’t know if you know this, but the paparazzi don’t really mess with the black people too much. It’s great. I don’t know if it’s a fear thing or what, but it’s wonderful.
Is there anything else LGBTs can do to win the struggle for equal rights?
Just be vocal and let them know we’re here and demand our rights.
Jumping back to the talk-show thing—if Ellen’s trademark shtick is dancing and Rosie’s was singing and giving away stuff, what will be your show’s signature Sykes-ism?
Maybe it’ll be the “Sykes shot.” I’ll do a shot at the end of the show. How about that? We’ll have a drink of the night or something.
Lawrence Ferber is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.