Wanda Sykes

Wanda Sykes Biography

Wanda Sykes (born March 7, 1964) is an American writer, comedian, actress, and voice artist. She earned the 1999 Emmy Award for her writing on The Chris Rock Show. In 2004, Entertainment Weekly named Sykes as one of the 25 funniest people in America. She is well known for her role as Barbara Baran on The New Adventures of Old Christine and for her appearances on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm.

In November 2009, The Wanda Sykes Show, her own late-night talkshow, premiered on Fox, airing Saturday nights, until it was cancelled in April 2010. Sykes has also had a successful career in film, appearing in Monster-in-Law, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Evan Almighty, and License to Wed, and voiced characters in Over the Hedge, Barnyard, Brother Bear 2, Rio, and Ice Age: Continental Drift.

Early life

Sykes was born in Portsmouth, Virginia and raised in the Washington, D.C., area. Her mother, Marion Louise (née Peoples), worked as a banker, and her father, Harry Ellsworth Sykes, was a US Army colonel employed at the Pentagon. Sykes attended Arundel High School in Gambrills, Maryland, and went on to graduate from Hampton University where she earned a bachelor's degree in marketing and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha. After college, her first job was as an officer with the National Security Agency (NSA), where she worked for five years.

Sykes' family history was researched for an episode of the 2012 PBS genealogy program Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr. Her ancestry was traced back to a 1683 court case involving her paternal ninth great-grandmother Elizabeth Banks, a free white woman and indentured servant, who gave birth to a biracial child Mary Banks fathered by a slave, who inherited her mother's free status. According to historian Ira Berlin, a specialist in the history of American slavery, the Sykes family history is "... the only such case that I know of in which it is possible to trace a black family rooted in freedom from the late 17th century to the present."


Not completely satisfied with her role with the NSA, Sykes began her stand-up career at a Coors Light Super Talent Showcase in Washington, DC, where she performed for the first time in front of a live audience in 1987. She continued to hone her talents at local venues while at the NSA until 1992, when she moved to New York City. Working for the Hal Leonard publishing house, she edited a book entitled "Polyrhythms - The Musician's Guide", by Peter Magadini. Her first big break came when opening for Chris Rock at Caroline's Comedy Club. In 1997, she joined the writing team on The Chris Rock Show and also made many appearances on the show. The writing team was nominated for four Emmys, and in 1999, won for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Special. Since that time, she has appeared in such films as Pootie Tang and on TV shows such as Curb Your Enthusiasm. In 2003, she starred in her own short-lived Fox network sitcom, Wanda at Large. The same year, Sykes appeared in an hour-long Comedy Central special, Tongue Untied. That network also ranked her No. 70 on its list of the 100 greatest all-time stand ups. She served as a correspondent for HBO's Inside the NFL, hosted Comedy Central's popular show Premium Blend, and voiced a recurring character named Gladys on Comedy Central's puppet show Crank Yankers. She also had a short-lived show on Comedy Central called Wanda Does It.

In addition to her film and television work, she is also an author. She wrote Yeah, I Said It, a book of humorous observations on various topics, published in September 2004.

In 2006, she landed a recurring role on the sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine; she became a series regular in the second season. She also guest starred in the Will & Grace episode "Buy, Buy Baby" in 2006. She provided voices for the 2006 films Over the Hedge, Barnyard, and Brother Bear 2. She had a part in My Super Ex-Girlfriend and after playing in Evan Almighty, had a bit part in License to Wed. Sykes' first HBO Comedy Special, entitled Wanda Sykes: Sick & Tired, premiered on October 14, 2006; it was nominated for a 2007 Emmy Award. In 2008, she performed as part of Cyndi Lauper's True Colors Tour for LGBT rights.

In October 2008, Wanda Sykes appeared in a television ad for the Think Before You Speak Campaign, an advertising campaign by GLSEN aimed at curbing homophobic slang in youth communities. In the 30-second spot, she uses humor to scold a teenager for saying "that's so gay" when he really means "that is so bad."

In March 2009, it was announced that Sykes would be the host of a new late-night talk show on Saturdays on Fox, The Wanda Sykes Show which was scheduled to premiere November 7, 2009. In April 2009, she was named in Out magazine's "Annual Power 50 List", landing at number 35.

In May 2009, Sykes was the featured entertainer for the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner, becoming both the first African American woman and the first openly LGBT person to get the role. Cedric the Entertainer had been the first African American to become the featured entertainer in 2005. At this event, Sykes made controversial headlines as she responded to conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh's comments regarding President Barack Obama. Limbaugh, in reference to Obama's presidential agenda, had said "I hope he fails". In response, Sykes quipped: "I hope his [Limbaugh's] kidneys fail, how 'bout that? Needs a little waterboarding, that's what he needs."

Her second comedy special, Wanda Sykes: I'ma Be Me premiered on HBO in October 2009. November 2009 saw the premier of The Wanda Sykes Show, which starts with a monologue and continues with a panel discussion in a similar format to Bill Maher's shows Real Time with Bill Maher and Politically Incorrect.

She appeared as Miss Hannigan in a professional theatre production of Annie at The Media Theatre in Media, PA, a suburb 25 minutes southwest of Philadelphia. Her first appearance in a musical, she played the role from November 23 " December 12, 2010, and again from January 12"23, 2011.

She voices the Witch in the Bubble Guppies episode "Bubble Puppy's Fin-tastic Fairlytale Adventure".

In May 2013, Sykes was a featured entertainer at Olivia Travel's 40th anniversary Music & Comedy Festival in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Personal life

Sykes was married to record producer Dave Hall from 1991 to 1998. In November 2008, she publicly came out as gay while at a same-sex marriage rally in Las Vegas regarding Proposition 8, which forbade new marriages of same-sex couples in California. One month earlier, Sykes married her wife, Alex, whom she met in 2006; they have two children.

During a September 19, 2011 appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Sykes announced that she had been diagnosed earlier in the year with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Although DCIS is a non-invasive "stage zero breast cancer", Sykes had elected to have a bilateral mastectomy in order to remove her chances of getting breast cancer.

Sykes splits time living in both Los Angeles and Media, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia.


Sykes publicly expressed being devastated after California voters passed state Proposition 8. She said: "with the legislation that they passed, I can't sit by and just watch. I just can't do it." She has continued to be active in same-sex marriage issues hosting events and emceeing fundraisers. She has also worked with PETA on promoting dog anti-chaining legislation in her home state.

She has been an outspoken supporter of Detroit's Ruth Ellis Center after the organization's staff sent Sykes a letter asking her to visit during her 2010 tour's stop in Detroit.


Sykes has been nominated for seven Primetime Emmys, with one win (in 1999) for "Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Special". In 2001, she won the American Comedy Award for "Outstanding Female Stand Up Comic". She won a Comedy Central Commie Award for "Funniest TV Actress in 2003". In 2010 she won a GLAAD award for promoting a good image of equal rights for gays and lesbians.


Year Film Role Notes
1998 Tomorrow Night
2000 Nutty Professor II: The Klumps Chantal
2001 Down to Earth Wanda
Pootie Tang Biggie Shorty
2005 Monster-in-Law Ruby
2006 The Adventures of Brer Rabbit Sister Moon Direct-to-video
Over the Hedge Stella (skunk) Voice
Nominated - Annie Award for Voice Acting in a Feature Production
Clerks II Angry Customer
My Super Ex-Girlfriend Carla Dunkirk
Barnyard Bessy the Cow Voice
Brother Bear 2 Innoko Direct-to-video
CondomNation Linda
2007 Evan Almighty Rita
License to Wed Nurse Borman uncredited
2011 Rio Chloe (Canada goose) voice
The Muppets Officer Ethel Cameo, Deleted
2012 Ice Age: Continental Drift Granny voice
2013 The Hot Flashes Florine Clarkston


Year Title Role Notes
1997"2000 The Chris Rock Show Various Characters 7 episodes
1999 Best of the Chris Rock Show TV special
2001 The Downer Channel Various First 2 episodes
The Drew Carey Show Christine Watson Episode: "Eat Drink Drew Woman"
Episode: "Mr. Laffoon's Wild Ride"
Episode: " Drew and the King"
2001"2011 Curb Your Enthusiasm Wanda Episode: "Thor"
Episode: "The Massage"
Episode: "The Benadryl Brownie"
Episode: "The Terrorist Attack"
Episode: "Krazee-Eyez Killa"
Episode: "The Surrogate"
Episode: "The Bowtie"
Episode: "Funkhouser's Crazy Sister"
Episode: "Car Periscope"
2002, 2003 Crank Yankers Gladys/Wanda/Gladys Murphy 3 episodes
2003 MTV: Reloaded The Oracle TV film
Wanda at Large Wanda Mildred Hawkins All episodes
Chappelle's Show Herself Episode: "The Best of Chappelle's Show: Volume 2 Mixtape"
MADtv Season 9 episode 903
2006 Will & Grace Cricket Episode: "Buy, Buy Baby"
2006"2010 The New Adventures of Old Christine Barbara "Barb" Baran 2006 - 2007 Recurring Role, 13 episodes; 2008 - 2010 Main Cast, 40 episodes
2007"2011 Back at the Barnyard Bessy the Cow 45 episodes
2009 Wanda Sykes: I'ma Be Me Stand-up HBO comedy special
2009-2010 The Wanda Sykes Show Herself; also creator, and writer Talk show
2011 Drop Dead Diva Judge Episode: "Prom"2011
2011 Bubble Guppies The Witch Guest Appearance "Bubble Puppy's Fin-tastic Fairytale Adventure"
2012 Futurama Bev the vending machine Episode: "The Bots and the Bees"
2013 The Simpsons School Therapist/Counselor Episode: "What Animated Women Want"


Year Title Role Notes
1997"98 The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show Writer 11 episodes
1997-00 The Chris Rock Show Writer Wrote 33 episodes
Co-produced 14 episodes
1998 Comedy Central Presents Herself and writer (as Wanda Sykes-Hall) Episode: "Wanda Sykes-Hall"
2001 Best of the Chris Rock Show: Volume 2 Writer TV special
The Downer Channel Writer Wrote the first 2 episodes
2002 The 74th Annual Academy Awards Special material written by Award show
2002"03 Premium Blend Writer 4 episodes/Stand-up
2003 Wanda Sykes: Tongue Untied Writer Documentary
Wanda at Large Creator, writer and producer 19 episodes
2004 Wanda Does It Creator, writer and executive producer Episode: "Wanda Does Repo"
Episode: "Wanda Does Vegas"
Episode: "Wanda Does the Sky"
Episode: "Wanda Does the Night"
Episode: "Wanda Does the WNBA"
Episode: "Wanda Does Photos"
2006 Wanda Sykes: Sick and Tired Writer Stand-up
2009 Wanda Sykes: I'ma Be Me Writer Stand-up


Year Title Label
2007 Sick & Tired Image Entertainment

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nomination work Result
1998 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program The Chris Rock Show
1999 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program The Chris Rock Show
2000 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program The Chris Rock Show
2001 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program The Chris Rock Show
2001 American Comedy Awards Funniest Female Stand-Up Comic Herself
2003 Teen Choice Awards Choice Comedian Herself
2003 Teen Choice Awards Choice TV Actress - Comedy Wanda at Large
2003 Teen Choice Awards Choice TV Breakout Star - Female Wanda at Large
2004 Satellite Awards Best Performance by an Actress in a Series, Comedy or Musical Wanda at Large
2004 BET Comedy Awards Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Wanda at Large
2005 BET Comedy Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Theatrical Film Monster-in-Law
2005 Image Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Curb Your Enthusiasm
2005 People's Choice Awards Favorite Funny Female Star Herself
2006 Image Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Curb Your Enthusiasm
2006 Black Reel Awards Best Supporting Actress Monster-in-Law
2007 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special Wanda Sykes: Sick and Tired
2007 Annie Awards Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production Over the Hedge
2008 People's Choice Awards Favorite Funny Female Star Herself
2009 Image Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series The New Adventures of Old Christine
2010 GLAAD Media Awards GLAAD Stephen F. Kolzak Award Herself
2010 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special Wanda Sykes: I'ma Be Me
2010 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Special Wanda Sykes: I'ma Be Me

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