As the mother of 1-year-old twins, Wanda Sykes has shifted her television viewing habits.
When asked whether she plans to watch Conan O’Brien’s upcoming late-night show for TBS, she says with you’ve-got-to-be-joking bluntness: “With two kids now? I will be in bed. I Tivo everything. I’m serious. I can’t make it past 10 o’clock watching TV.”
There have been other changes for her regarding television. Both “The Wanda Sykes Show,” her late-night series for Fox, and “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” the CBS sitcom in which she costarred with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, were canceled in May.
“It’s show business,” she says about losing two series in one year. “I’m never surprised or shocked ... especially in network television. I’m never surprised. Never caught off guard.” So now she’s back on the road with her stand-up act.
Among the liveliest segments on “The Wanda Sykes Show” were the panel discussions that drew big-name guests like Ray Romano, Chris Rock and Craig Ferguson. Would she be interested in doing another show with that sort of panel?
“Right now, I have no idea what I want to do, as far as another show, or if I want to do another show,” she says. “Right now, I’m focused on the live performance and getting back out onstage. ... I’ll get inspired from that and figure out what’s my next move.”
Still, she’s happy with what “The Wanda Sykes Show” accomplished. “For network television, I thought we kind of pushed the envelope a bit.”
Not having to devote her time to two TV shows has its pluses. “I’m enjoying spending time with my kids and catching up with some friends I haven’t seen in a long time, so this is nice,” she says.
The versatile comedian has worked on several TV shows, including HBO’s “Chris Rock Show” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” She’s had costarring roles in movies like the Jane Fonda-Jennifer Lopez comedy “Monster-In-Law” and Steve Carell’s “Evan Almighty.”
Her first book, “Yeah, I Said It,” a collection of essays, was published in 2004. Her first HBO comedy special, “Wanda Sykes: Sick & Tired,” aired in 2006. “I’ma Be Me,” her 2009 special for HBO, is now available on DVD.
Sykes is able to find the humor in everything from politics to her own network. When she was promoting her late-night show on “The Daily Show,” she told Jon Stewart: “I’m on the good Fox. The ‘Family Guy’ Fox. The dirty, filthy Fox. Not the crazy, Glenn Beck Fox.”
In 2004, she was included among Entertainment Weekly’s 25 funniest people in America. The magazine described her comedic energy, saying she “rarely fails to deliver a verbal smackdown.”
In November 2008, Sykes spoke out against the passage of California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage and declared at a rally in Las Vegas that she was proud to be gay. She and her wife became parents in April 2009.
Last year, she stirred controversy with her jokes slamming Rush Limbaugh during her routine at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.
On “I’ma Be Me,” which was filmed in Washington, D.C., Sykes shared her thoughts on topics like coming out, health care reform and growing older. USA Today’s review of the special said Sykes was “at the absolute top of her form: smart, blunt, a little combative, but never abrasive.”
Sykes says venturing into edgy territory requires a certain approach from a comic.
“Really, it’s all about the level of confidence that you have. If I start talking about something that’s edgy and if I look like I’m uncomfortable talking about it, then the audience, they’re going to be uncomfortable, and it’s going to be hard to be funny because everybody is just feeling weird.”
Although she says doing stand-up comedy isn’t easy, it’s an arena of show business she thoroughly enjoys. “This is all me, by myself, so it’s like you’re out there without a net. But it’s what I love the most, and it’s, I think, where I’m the most comfortable.”