ESSENCE.com caught up with the hilarious Wanda Sykes before the launch of her new FOX late-night gig, "The Wanda Sykes Show." See why she decided to stop touring as a stand-up comedienne, why she'll never move back to D.C., and what the vibe of her show will be like.

Cori Murray
Nov, 06, 2009


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President Obama, Oprah and Chris Rock have one thing in common--they love Wanda Sykes. She's the funniest woman on the planet and this Saturday, the rest of us get will enjoy her side-splitting humor when she debuts her FOX late-night gig, "The Wanda Sykes Show." ESSENCE.COM.com catches up with her before tomorrow night's premiere.

ESSENCE.COM: Congratulations on your new show! Tell us about the format.
WANDA SYKES: We're doing a little bit of everything. I'll do a monologue, but it's not going to be just a string of random jokes. I want it to feel like a live stand-up performance. I'll have a co-host, Keith Robinson, one of my closest friends. I've known him for over 20 years, very funny. We'll have a panel discussion similar to Bill Maher, but it won't be as serious, not as confrontational. You want to feel like these people are on the show for a reason and that I enjoy them. But of course, they will be opinionated, but it's, "Hey, we'll still have our beer summit." We can sit down, have a drink and laugh about it.

ESSENCE.COM: Who can we expect to appear on Saturday's premiere?
SYKES: We'll have Mary Lynn Rajskub from "24," Daryl "Chill" Mitchell, he's on "Brothers" but he's a friend of mine, and Phil Keoghan from "Amazing Race," one of my favorite shows. I want to get to know Phil a little bit. I'm tired of just seeing him standing on that mat greeting people from all around the world. I wanted to sit down and have a drink with him.

ESSENCE.COM: Who are some other guests we'll see on the show?
SYKES: We'll get Chris Rock, and if I can track down Dave Chappelle, I'll get him to come by...Jana Fonda...

ESSENCE.COM: Why did you decide to do a late night show?
SYKES: Fox had some dirty pictures on me. No, they approached me, maybe like a year ago, and I said, "No," and then they came back maybe like a couple months ago, and pitched the idea again. I'm a mom now, so it just made sense not being on the road as much doing stand-up, because that's what I love to do. I'll be able to get that, whatever that need is to perform live, by doing this late night show.

ESSENCE.COM: We know you're from the Maryland/Washington, DC/Virginia area and your HBO special, "I'ma Be Me" was taped at the Warner Theatre in DC. Is it more fun to perform to a hometown audience?
SYKES: Oh, definitely. I love going back to D.C. It's where it all started and I love that crowd. They're smart, their soul is like ahead of you, they were sitting on it just waiting for the next line, so I love going back to D.C.

ESSENCE.COM: Do you think you'll ever move back there?
WANDA: Move back to DC? Probably not. There are too many politicians there for me. Those people are scary.

ESSENCE.COM: You've said coming out was one of your biggest risks, and that being gay is more of a stigma in the Black community. Do you feel Black folks will embrace your show?
SYKES
: I think the community, and just like everybody else, they respect honesty. People can't fault you for being open and honest. I think you get in trouble when you try to portray something that you're not and people find out and then you're hiding something. I think as long as you're open and honest that either if you like it, fine, and if you don't, at least you'll respect it. I get African-Americans coming up to me all the time, they show up to my shows. The community is very supportive, so I'm not worried about the gay thing turning viewers away, and besides, what else are you going watch?

ESSENCE.COM: You're fabulous and we love you.
SYKES: Thank you.

ESSENCE.COM: When you were on "The Oprah Show" recently, she mentioned that The Washington Post said "this is your moment." How does it feel to be closing out the year with your own show?
SYKES: It feels pretty good. Hopefully it'll continue and I can establish some roots here, because I would love to see this thing go on for awhile.

ESSENCE.COM: One last thing, are you going to join Twitter?
SYKES:  No, if it happens, it's not me Twittering. It's somebody else doing it. I don't Twitter, I don't Facebook.  I do face-to-face, that's what I'm good at.  I talk to people.

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