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January 15, 2014
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Comedian Wanda Sykes performs in Beaver Creek

Wanda Sykes’ life is like yours, only funnier.

She transformed from, “They’re not my kids!” to “They’re my kids?!”

Not so long ago, Sykes was doing bits about corrupting her nieces and nephews, joking about giving them liquor and cigars, and forcing them to play Nintendo instead of going to bed. When their parents called to ask if she had trouble getting them to bed, she’d reply, “Bed?! They’re drinking liquor and playing Nintendo. They’re not my kids!”

Sykes will be 50 in March. She and her wife have twins, a boy and a girl. They’ll be 5 in April.

“They’re at the age when they keep each other company, and that’s good,” she said in her unique cadence, drawing out the vowels for emphasis. “My daughter cannot stop talking, and if she didn’t have him to talk to, she’d be talking to us.”

Her son is a typical guy, which is to say, he’s predictable. There’s a guy-sized portion of hold–my-beer-and watch-this in him.

“When we go somewhere and it’s a new space ... (we) wonder, ‘what can he kill himself on?’ And I have to move that. ‘That looks pretty dangerous, he’ll go straight for that.’”

They are a blessing, she said, “but there are still times when I ask, ‘How did I get here?’”

“Some mornings, I wake up and there’s all this noise in my house — kids screaming and yelling.

“I’ve had this dog 10 years, and sometimes he still looks at me like he remembers when it was just him and me and said, ‘You effed up,’” Sykes said.

Romancing the road

When she’s on stage, as she will be Thursday when she comes to Beaver Creek’s Vilar Performing Arts Center, she said she still has those moments when she flinches a little about some of the things that come out of her mouth.

“There are times I’ve said things that I could have said a little better. But it’s out there now,” Sykes said.

She loves performing; the best sound on earth is a crowd’s laughter rolling over you, she said.

“I love the road,” she said. “I still get the biggest rush and most anxiety. There’s nothing like being out there with people who care for you and love you. Stand-up comedy, that’s the purest form of what I want to do. If I don’t do it, I don’t feel funny.

“Movies and television are great and I had fun doing that,” she continued. “I was working with a bunch of funny people. And the stand-up is still the hardest and most intimidating.

“After I finish a movie and I’m back out performing, that first night I always wonder, ‘Do I still have it?’ As soon as you get that first laugh you’re back in the groove.”

Out is in

Sykes came out of the closet years ago, when it was edgy and dangerous. Now it seems like more of a fashion statement. Figure skater Brian Boitano came out a couple weeks ago. Broadcaster Robin Roberts, actor Jim Parsons … the list keeps getting longer and longer.

“It’s a stampede with people coming out. It’s like a jailbreak,” Sykes said, laughing.

It’s not much of an issue these days, at least not for her.

“People still do come up to me, usually to say thank you. It’s usually about a family member and ‘you coming out helped them and helped us talk about it,’” Sykes said.

Sykes hit the big time when she won an Emmy for her writing on “The Chris Rock Show.” She’s a fixture on television and has some of the funniest comedy specials in the history of laughter. Her latest is, “I’ma Be Me,” and she tackles topics like the first black president, gay cruises, being a new mom and aging. It was nominated for two Emmy awards.

She was named one of the 25 Funniest People in America by Entertainment Weekly, and it’s right.

“Wanda Sykes is one of those talented performers you seem to see everywhere,” said Kris Sabel, executive director for the Vilar Performing Arts Center. “We’re lucky to have her.”


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The VailDaily Updated Mar 2, 2014 04:35PM Published Jan 15, 2014 10:15PM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.