Sept. 17--Even if Wanda Sykes had become something other than the award-winning writer, actor and comedian that she is, she said her true passion would have come through.
"I want to make people laugh," she said during a recent interview. "Even if I were a doctor, I'd be a funny doctor."
Sykes, 49, has been dispensing sharp, witty humor for the past 20 years or so, since getting her first taste of the art of stand-up during a Coors Light Super Talent Showcase in Washington, D.C., in 1987.
"Comedy has always been huge in my family ... but I was the only one who needed to go out and do it in front of strangers," she said, laughing.
The idea that she might tank in her first performance never crossed her mind.
"I had no information on how awful it could go," she said. "I thought, 'I'll say my jokes and these people will laugh; that's what happens on TV.' I had no fear."
As she had suspected, people laughed.
She didn't win the contest, but by the mid-1990s she was working for Chris Rock, writing and performing on his HBO show, "The Chris Rock Show." It was a launching pad that would lead to roles in movies, television and comedy specials.
She had regular roles in multiple television series, including "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "The New Adventures of Old Christine," "Wanda at Large" and "The Drew Carey Show." Her movie credits include "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps" and "Monster-in-Law." She even took on other jobs -- photographer, basketball coach, pilot -- in her short-lived Comedy Central show, "Wanda Does It."
Sykes is set to perform at the Palace Theatre in Stamford on Friday, Sept. 20. She said the luxury of having your own show, rather than a short set, allows you to delve a little deeper into the comedy.
"There's room to play," she said. "It's an evening with Wanda.
"I still write my own material; that is where it all starts. The material was always strong, but it took me a while to have fun on stage."
Sykes has been honing her talent in other ways, too, picking up myriad projects and collaborations. This summer, her comedy special "Herlarious" ran on Oprah Winfrey's OWN network. She also has a recurring guest role in Amazon's "Alpha House."
She is known to the younger set because of her voice, lending her talents to such animated films as "Ice Age: Continental Drift" and "Over the Hedge."
Even with all of her other projects, she said she makes sure to save time to hit the road each year and connect with live audiences.
"I love doing stand-up," she said. "I don't want to stay away from it too long."
Sykes said her material comes from her life. And these days, her life is busy.
"There is no such thing as an uninterrupted break," she said.
Sykes and her wife, Alex, are parents to 4-year old twins. She said there is a bit of traveling with the family, splitting its time between the East and West coasts. "But we manage to work it out," she said.
Having grown up in a household that valued humor, Sykes is continuing that tradition.
"My kids are pretty funny," she said. "You have to encourage the laughter."
Christina.firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @xtinahennessy
Palace Theatre, 61 Atlantic St., Stamford. Friday, Sept. 20, 8 p.m. $88-$28. 203-325-4466, www.scalive.org.
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