Wanda Sykes
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Wanda Sykes

Wanda Sykes
Wanda Sykes 2010 GLAAD Media Awards.jpg
Sykes at the 2010 GLAAD Media Awards
Wanda Yvette Sykes

(1964-03-07) March 7, 1964 (age 55)
Alma materHampton University
  • Actress
  • comedian
  • writer
Years active1987-present
Dave Hall
(m. 1991; div. 1998)

Alex Niedbalski (m. 2008)
WebsiteOfficial website

Wanda Yvette Sykes[1] (born March 7, 1964) is an American actress, comedian, and writer. She was first recognized for her work as a writer on The Chris Rock Show, for which she won a Primetime Emmy Award in 1999. In 2004, Entertainment Weekly named Sykes as one of the 25 funniest people in America.[2] She is also known for her roles on CBS' The New Adventures of Old Christine (2006-10), HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm (2001-11), and ABC's Black-ish (2015-present).

Aside from her television appearances, Sykes has also had a career in film, appearing in Monster-in-Law (2005), My Super Ex-Girlfriend (2006), Evan Almighty (2007) and License to Wed (2007), as well as voicing characters in animated films such as Over the Hedge (2006), Barnyard (2006), Brother Bear 2 (2006), Rio (2011), Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012), Ice Age: Collision Course (2016) and UglyDolls (2019).

Early life

Born in Portsmouth, Virginia,[3] Sykes' family moved to Maryland when she was in third grade.[4] Her mother, Marion Louise (née Peoples), worked as a banker, and her father, Harry Ellsworth Sykes, was a U.S. Army colonel employed at the Pentagon.[5]

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."[6]

Sykes attended Arundel High School[7] in Gambrills, Maryland, and went on to graduate from Hampton University,[7] where she earned a bachelor of science degree in marketing[3] and became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha. After college, her first job was as a contracting specialist at the National Security Agency,[7][8] where she worked for five years.[9]


Not completely satisfied with her role with the National Security Agency (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.[9][10]

She continued to hone her talents at local venues while at the NSA until 1992, when she moved to New York City. One of her early TV appearances was Russell Simmons' Def Comedy Jam in the early 1990s, where she shared the stage with Adele Givens, J. B. Smoove, D. L. Hughley, Bernie Mac, & Bill Bellamy.[9] Working for the Hal Leonard publishing house, she edited a book entitled Polyrhythms - The Musician's Guide, by Peter Magadini.[11] Her first big break came when opening for Chris Rock at Caroline's Comedy Club.[9]

In 1997, she joined the writing team on The Chris Rock Show[12] and also made many appearances on the show.[10] The writing team was nominated for four Emmys, and in 1999, won for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Special.

Sykes on the cover of Ms. magazine in 2004

Since that time, she has appeared in such films as Pootie Tang[13] and on TV shows such as Curb Your Enthusiasm.[14] In 2003, she starred in her own short-lived Fox network sitcom, Wanda at Large.[15] 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,[16] hosted Comedy Central's popular show Premium Blend, and voiced a recurring character named Gladys on Comedy Central's puppet show Crank Yankers.[17] She also had a short-lived show on Comedy Central called Wanda Does It.[18]

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.[19]

In 2006, she landed a recurring role as Barb, opposite Julia Louis-Dreyfus, on the sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine;[20] she became a series regular during the series' third season in 2008. She also guest starred in the Will & Grace episode "Buy, Buy Baby" in 2006.[21] She provided voices for the 2006 films Over the Hedge,[22]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.[23] 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".[24][25]

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.[26][27] 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."[28]

Her second comedy special, Wanda Sykes: I'ma Be Me premiered on HBO in October 2009.[27] 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.[27] She voices the Witch in the Bubble Guppies episode "Bubble Puppy's Fin-tastic Fairlytale Adventure".

In 2012, Sykes role the voice of Granny in Ice Age: Continental Drift, and In 2016, she was returned voice of Granny in Ice Age: Collision Course from the Blue Sky Studios' "Ice Age movies".

In May 2013, Sykes was a featured entertainer at Olivia Travel's 40th anniversary Music & Comedy Festival in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.[29]

In 2013, Sykes appeared in eight episodes of Amazon's Alpha House, a political comedy series written by Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau.[30] Sykes plays Rosalyn DuPeche, a Democratic Senator from Illinois and the next door neighbor of four Republican senators living together in a house on Capitol Hill. Sykes also appeared in Season Two, which became available in October 2014. The series was canceled after the second season.

In 2018, it was announced that Sykes would be the head writer for the revived tenth season of Roseanne.[31] This attracted attention due to Roseanne's far-right and conspiratorial views.[32] On May 29, 2018, Sykes announced on Twitter that she would no longer be working on the series after a since-deleted Twitter rant by Roseanne Barr about Valerie Jarrett.[33][34]

Personal life

Sykes in September 2004

Sykes was married to record producer Dave Hall from 1991 to 1998.[9] In November 2008, she publicly came out as a lesbian while at a same-sex marriage rally in Las Vegas regarding Proposition 8.[9][35] A month earlier, Sykes had married her wife Alex Niedbalski, a French woman,[36] whom she had met in 2006. The couple also became parents in April 2009, when Alex gave birth to a pair of fraternal twins, a daughter and a son, named Olivia and Lucas.[37]

Sykes only came out to her conservative mother Marion and father Harry when she was 40, who both initially had difficulty accepting her homosexuality. They declined to attend her wedding with Alex, which led to a brief period of estrangement; they have since reconciled with Sykes and are now proud grandparents to the couple's children.[38]

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 lower her chances of getting breast cancer.[39] Sykes splits time living in both Los Angeles and Media, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia.[40]


Sykes publicly expressed being devastated when 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."[41][42] 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.[43]

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.[44][45][46]


Sykes has been nominated for ten 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".[47] In 2010 she won the GLAAD Stephen F. Kolzak Award.[48][49] In 2015 she won the Activism in the Arts honor at the Triumph Awards.[50]


Year Film Role Notes
1998 Tomorrow Night Wanda (Mel's Date) credited as Wanda Sykes-Hall
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 (voice) Direct-to-video
Over the Hedge Stella (voice) Nominated - Annie Award for Voice Acting in a Feature Production
Clerks II Angry Customer
My Super Ex-Girlfriend Carla Dunkirk
Barnyard Bessy (voice)
Brother Bear 2 Innoko (voice) Direct-to-video
CondomNation Linda
2007 Evan Almighty Rita Daniels
License to Wed Nurse Borman
2011 Rio Chloe the Canada goose (voice)
The Muppets Officer Ethel Cameo, deleted scene
2012 Ice Age: Continental Drift Granny (voice)
2013 The Hot Flashes Florine Clarkston
2016 Ice Age: Collision Course Granny (voice)
Bad Moms Dr. Karl
2017 Snatched Ruth
A Bad Moms Christmas Dr. Karl
2018 Hurricane Bianca 2: From Russia with Hate Prison Matron
2019 UglyDolls Wage (voice)
The Wedding Year Janet/Grandma
Jexi Denice
Friendsgiving Fairy Gay Mother
TBA Breaking News in Yuba County Post-production


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 2 episodes
2001 The Drew Carey Show Christine Watson 3 episodes
2001-11 Curb Your Enthusiasm Herself 9 episodes
2002-03 Crank Yankers Wanda/Gladys Murphy (voice) 50 episodes
2003 MTV: Reloaded The Oracle TV film
2003 Wanda at Large Wanda Mildred Hawkins 19 episodes
2003 Chappelle's Show Herself Episode: "The Best of Chappelle's Show: Volume 2 Mixtape"
2003 Mad TV Season 9 episode 903
2004 Wanda Does It Herself 6 episodes
2006 Will & Grace Cricket Walker Episode: "Buy, Buy Baby"
2006-10 The New Adventures of Old Christine Barbara "Barb" Baran 54 episodes
(Recurring Seasons 1-2, Starring Seasons 3-5)
2007-11 Back at the Barnyard Bessy (voice) 50 episodes
2009 Wanda Sykes: I'ma Be Me[27] Herself HBO comedy special
2009 White House Correspondents' Dinner Herself (host) TV special
2009-10 The Wanda Sykes Show Herself 21 episodes; also creator, writer, executive producer
2011 Drop Dead Diva Judge Episode: "Prom"
2011 Bubble Guppies The Witch (voice) Episode: "Bubble Puppy's Fin-tastic Fairytale Adventure"
2012 Futurama Bev the vending machine (voice) Episode: "The Bots and the Bees"[51]
2013 The Simpsons School Therapist/Counselor (voice) Episode: "What Animated Women Want"[52]
2013 Real Husbands of Hollywood Wanda Sykes 2 episodes
2013-14 Alpha House Senator Rosalyn DuPeche Recurring role
2015 Repeat After Me Herself 1 episode
2015, 2017 Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero Shirley B. Awesome (voice) 2 episodes
2015-present Black-ish Daphne Lido Recurring role
2016 Bob's Burgers Sofa Queen (voice) Episode: "Sacred Couch"
2016 Animals. Chance (voice) 2 episodes
2016 What Happened Ms. Sykes? Herself Epix comedy special
2017 Lip Sync Battle Episode: "Don Cheadle vs. Wanda Sykes
2017 Doc McStuffins Thea (voice) Episode: "The Emergency Plan"
2017-present Vampirina Gregoria the Gargoyle (Voice) Main role
2017-present Broad City Dara Recurring role
2018 Ask the Storybots Doctor Episode: "How Do People Catch a Cold?"
2018 BoJack Horseman Mary-Beth (voice) Episode: "INT. SUB"
2019 Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? Herself (voice) Episode: "Peebles' Pet Shop of Terrible Terrors!"
Harley Quinn Recurring role
The Other Two Shuli Kucerac Recurring role
Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's All in the Family and The Jeffersons Louise Jefferson ABC television special
Wanda Sykes: Not Normal Herself Netflix comedy Special
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Episode: "Bias in Medicine"


Year Title Role Notes
1997-98 The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show Writer 11 episodes
1997-2000 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 6 episodes
2006 Wanda Sykes: Sick and Tired Writer Stand-up
2009 Wanda Sykes: I'ma Be Me[27] Writer Stand-up
2016 What Happened... Ms. Sykes? Writer Stand-up
2018 Roseanne Writer Sitcom
2019 Wanda Sykes: Not Normal Writer Stand-up


Year Title Label Formats
2003 Tongue Untied[53] Comedy Central Records DVD/Download/Streaming
2007 Sick & Tired[54] Image Entertainment DVD/Download/Streaming
2010 I'ma Be Me[55] HBO Home Video DVD/Download/Streaming
2018 What Happened... Ms. Sykes?[56] Sykes Entertainment Download/Streaming


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  4. ^ Bonko, Larry (January 6, 2005). "Wild, blue Wanda". The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Virginia). p. E9.
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  6. ^ Lee, Felicia R. (March 19, 2012). "Family Tree's Startling Roots". The New York Times.
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  28. ^ Bolcer, Julie. "Wanda Sykes Rips Into Rush Limbaugh[dead link]" The Advocate. May 11, 2009. (Retrieved May 11, 2009)
    Farah, Joseph, "Long Live Rush - And Free Speech Archived October 23, 2013, at the Wayback Machine", Creators Syndicate, 2009.
  29. ^ "Olivia Launches Milestone 40th Anniversary with Unparalleled Entertainment and Itineraries on Four 2013 Vacations: San Francisco-based lesbian travel company adds second Southern Caribbean cruise and second Punta Cana resort vacation due to high demand" (PDF) (Press release). Olivia. 2012. Retrieved 2013.
  30. ^ Goodman, Tim (November 14, 2013). "Alpha House: TV Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2014.
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  32. ^ "The Roseanne revival, and the argument over how TV depicts Trump supporters, explained". Vox.com. March 30, 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  33. ^ "Roseanne Barr sorry for comparing Obama aide to ape". BBC News. May 29, 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  34. ^ Gonzalez, Sandra (May 29, 2018). "Wanda Sykes quits 'Roseanne'". CNN. Retrieved 2018.
  35. ^ McKinley, Jessie (November 15, 2008), "Across U.S., Big Rallies for Same-Sex Marriage", The New York Times, retrieved 2009
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  39. ^ {{cite web|last=Silverman|first=Stephen M.|url=https://people.com/celebrity/wanda-sykes-breast-cancer-surgery/%7Ctitle=Wanda Sykes: I Had a Double Mastectomy|work=People|date=September 23, 2011|accessdate=March 3, 2019
  40. ^ "Molly Eichel, "Wanda Sykes loves the small-town life of Media", Philadelphia Daily News, May 1, 2013." [1]
  41. ^ Lisotta, Christopher; Scholibo, Corey (November 15, 2008). "Wanda Sykes Comes Out Amid Passing of Prop. 8". The Advocate. Archived from the original on January 5, 2009. Retrieved 2008.
  42. ^ Sarah Warn (November 15, 2008). "Wanda Sykes Comes Out as Gay and Married". Archived from the original on December 3, 2008. Retrieved 2008.
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  45. ^ Mercer, Monica (September 2012). "Q&A: Wanda Sykes, Ruth Ellis Center Fundraiser Host". Hour Detroit.
  46. ^ Broverman, Neal (October 4, 2012). "Detroit's Invaluable LGBT Youth Center Has a Friend in Wanda". The Advocate. Retrieved 2013.
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  48. ^ Wanda Sykes accepts her GLAAD award Archived August 29, 2011, at the Wayback Machine After Ellen, April 20, 2010.
  49. ^ ""TV Week GLAAD to honor Wanda Sykes", February 2010". Tvweek.com. Archived from the original on November 4, 2013. Retrieved 2013.
  50. ^ "John Legend, Tyrese Gibson, Wanda Sykes Honored at 2015 Triumph Awards". Good Black News. Retrieved 2015.
  51. ^ "Countdown to Futurama: Bev Character Design". Comedy Centr. May 1, 2012. Retrieved 2012.
  52. ^ "School Counselor". FOX [sic]. May 1, 2012. Retrieved 2013.
  53. ^ "Wanda Sykes - Tongue Untied". Discogs.com. Comedy Central Records. July 22, 2003. Retrieved 2018.
  54. ^ "Wanda Sykes: Sick & Tired". Publisher website. Image Entertainment. January 16, 2007. Archived from the original on July 13, 2011. Retrieved 2010.
  55. ^ "Wanda Sykes - I'ma Be Me". Discogs.com. HBO Home Video. February 2, 2010. Retrieved 2018.
  56. ^ "What Happened... Ms. Sykes?". iTunes.com. Sykes Entertainment. May 4, 2018. Retrieved 2018.

External links

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