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Wanda Sykes

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Wanda Sykes
Sykes at the 2010 GLAAD Media Awards
Birth nameWanda Yvette Sykes
Born (1964-03-07) March 7, 1964 (age 60)
Portsmouth, Virginia, U.S.
  • Stand-up
  • television
  • film
EducationHampton University (BS)
Years active1987–present
(m. 1991; div. 1998)
Alex Niedbalski
(m. 2008)
Websitewww.wandasykes.com Edit this at Wikidata

Wanda Yvette Sykes[1] (born March 7, 1964)[2] is an American stand-up comedian, actress, 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.[3] She is also known for her recurring roles on CBS' The New Adventures of Old Christine (2006–10), and HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm (2001–2011). She received Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series nominations for her roles in ABC's Black-ish (2015–2022), and Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2020). She currently stars in the Netflix original series The Upshaws (2021–), the HBO Max comedy series The Other Two (2019–2023), and The Good Fight (2021).

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, Barnyard, Brother Bear 2 (all in 2006), Rio (2011), two sequels of the Ice Age franchise (2012–2016), and UglyDolls (2019).

Early life and family[edit]

Wanda Sykes was born in Portsmouth, Virginia.[4] Her family moved to Maryland when she was in the third grade.[5] 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.[6]

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 ancestor, 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."[7]

Sykes attended Arundel High School[8] in Gambrills, Maryland, and went on to graduate from Hampton University,[8] where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing[4] and became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha. After college, her first job was as a contracting specialist at the National Security Agency,[8][9] where she worked for five years.[10]



Following a role with the National Security Agency (NSA), Sykes began her stand-up career at a Coors Light Super Talent Showcase in Washington, D.C., where she performed for the first time in front of a live audience in 1987.[10]

]She continued to perform 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.[10] 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.[10]

In 1997, she joined the writing team on The Chris Rock Show[12] and also made many appearances on the show. 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 the films 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]


Sykes 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's 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.[24]

In October 2008, 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".[25][26] In March 2009, Sykes became the host of a late-night talk show on Saturdays on Fox, The Wanda Sykes Show which was scheduled to premiere November 7, 2009.[27][28] 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."[29][30] Her second comedy special, Wanda Sykes: I'ma Be Me premiered on HBO in October 2009.[28] 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 southwest of Philadelphia. Her first appearance in a musical, she played the role from November 23 to December 12, 2010, and again from January 12 to 23, 2011.[28] She voices the Witch in the Bubble Guppies episode "Bubble Puppy's Fin-tastic Fairlytale Adventure". In 2012, Sykes played the role of Granny in Blue Sky Studios' Ice Age: Continental Drift. In 2016, she returned to the role in Ice Age: Collision Course. In May 2013, Sykes was a featured entertainer at Olivia Travel's 40th anniversary Music & Comedy Festival in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.[31]

In 2013, Sykes appeared in eight episodes of Amazon's Alpha House, a political comedy series written by Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau.[32] 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, Sykes became the head writer for the revived tenth season of Roseanne.[33] This attracted attention due to star Roseanne Barr's history of controversial political remarks.[34] 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.[35][36]


In 2021, Sykes began starring on the Netflix sitcom The Upshaws.[37] Sykes co-hosted the 94th Academy Awards with Regina Hall and Amy Schumer on March 27, 2022.[38] The telecast is most known for its infamous moment where Will Smith slapped Chris Rock. Sykes condemned the actions of Smith stating on Ellen "For [The Academy] to let him stay in that room and enjoy the rest of the show and accept his award, I was like, 'How gross is this? This is just the wrong message.' You assault somebody, you get escorted out of the building and that's it. For them to let him continue, I thought it was gross".[39]

In January 2023, Sykes guest hosted The Daily Show after Trevor Noah's departure.[40]

Personal life[edit]

Sykes in September 2004

Sykes was married to record producer Dave Hall from 1991 to 1998.[10] In November 2008, she publicly came out as a lesbian while at a same-sex marriage rally in Las Vegas regarding Proposition 8.[10][41] A month earlier, Sykes married her wife Alex Niedbalski, a French woman,[42] whom she met in 2006. The couple also became parents in April 2009, when Niedbalski gave birth to a pair of fraternal twins.[43]

Sykes only came out to her conservative mother Marion and father Harry in 2004 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.[44]

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 to lower her chances of getting breast cancer.[45] Sykes splits time between Media, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia,[46] and Cherry Grove, New York.[47][48]


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."[49][50] 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.[51]

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.[52][53][54]

Sykes often uses Twitter to express her political views, including on May 25, 2021, retweeting a photograph by Evan Vucci of Gianna Floyd, daughter of George Floyd, entering the White House.[55] On July 17, 2021, she also tweeted, "Congress MUST pass the #ForThePeopleAct," and called on her followers to join the "Good Trouble Vigil", commemorating the passing of activist and Congressman John Lewis.[55]



List of film credits
Year Title 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
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
2020 Friendsgiving Fairy Gay Mother
2021 Breaking News in Yuba County Rita
The One and Only Dick Gregory Herself Documentary
2024 Saving Bikini Bottom: The Sandy Cheeks Movie Sue Nahmee


List of television credits
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
The Drew Carey Show Christine Watson 3 episodes
2001–2011 Curb Your Enthusiasm Herself 9 episodes
Crank Yankers Wanda / Gladys Murphy Voice, 19 episodes
2003 MTV: Reloaded The Oracle TV film
Wanda at Large Wanda Mildred Hawkins 19 episodes
Chappelle's Show Herself Episode: "The Best of Chappelle's Show: Volume 2 Mixtape"
Mad TV Season 9 episode 903
2004 Wanda Does It Herself 6 episodes
2006 Will & Grace Cricket Walker Episode: "Buy, Buy Baby"
2006 Sick and Tired Herself HBO comedy special
2006–2010 The New Adventures of Old Christine Barbara "Barb" Baran 54 episodes
(Recurring Seasons 1–2, Starring Seasons 3–5)
2007–2011 Back at the Barnyard Bessy Voice, 50 episodes
2009 Wanda Sykes: I'ma Be Me[28] Herself HBO comedy special
White House Correspondents' Dinner Herself (host) TV special
2009–2010 The Wanda Sykes Show Herself 21 episodes; also creator, writer, executive producer
2011 Drop Dead Diva Judge Episode: "Prom"
2012 Bubble Guppies The Witch Voice, episode: "Bubble Puppy's Fin-tastic Fairytale Adventure"
Futurama Bev the vending machine Voice, episode: "The Bots and the Bees"[56]
2013 The Simpsons School Therapist / Counselor Voice, episode: "What Animated Women Want"[57]
Real Husbands of Hollywood Wanda Sykes 2 episodes
2013–2014 Alpha House Senator Rosalyn DuPeche Recurring role
2014, 2019 Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Herself 2 episodes
2015 Repeat After Me Herself 1 episode
2015, 2017 Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero Shirley B. Awesome Voice, 2 episodes
2015–2020 Black-ish Daphne Lido 16 episodes[58]
2016 Bob's Burgers Sofa Queen Voice, episode: "Sacred Couch"
Animals. Chance Voice, 2 episodes
What Happened... Ms. Sykes? Herself Epix comedy special
2017 Lip Sync Battle Episode: "Don Cheadle vs. Wanda Sykes"
Doc McStuffins Thea Voice, episode: "The Emergency Plan"
2017–2021 Vampirina Gregoria the Gargoyle Voice, main role
2017–2019 Broad City Dara Recurring role
2018 Ask the StoryBots Doctor Episode: "How Do People Catch a Cold?"
BoJack Horseman Mary-Beth Voice, episode: "INT. SUB"
2019 The Bravest Knight Mona the Mayor Voice, episode: "Cedric & the Pixies"[59]
Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? Herself Voice, episode: "Peebles' Pet Shop of Terrible Terrors!"
Live in Front of a Studio Audience Louise Jefferson Episode: "Norman Lear's All in the Family and The Jeffersons"
Wanda Sykes: Not Normal Herself Netflix comedy special
Summer Camp Island Ethel Episode: "The Great Elf Invention Convention"
Big Mouth Ghost of Harriet Tubman Voice, episode: "Duke"
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Moms Mabley Episode: "A Jewish Girl Walks Into the Apollo..."
RuPaul's Drag Race Herself Episode: "Bring Back My Queens!"
2019–2023 The Other Two Shuli Kucerac Recurring role
2019–2020 Harley Quinn Tsaritsa / Queen of Fables Voice, 3 episodes
2020 Mapleworth Murders[60] Leigh Drain Episode: "Killer Voices – Part 2"
2020–2021 Tig n' Seek Nuritza Voice, 15 episodes
2021 The Good Fight Allegra Durado 3 episodes
Q-Force Deb Voice, main role
2021–present The Upshaws Lucretia 32 episodes; also co-creator, writer, executive producer
2022 94th Academy Awards Herself (co-host) TV special
Chivalry Jean Shrill Main role
Gutsy[citation needed] Herself Episode: "Gutsy Women Have the Last Laugh"
2023 Star Wars: The Bad Batch Phee Genoa Voice, 5 episodes
Velma Linda Blake Voice, 2 episodes
History of the World, Part II Various 8 episodes; also writer and executive producer
The Daily Show Herself (guest host) 4 Episodes (Week of Jan. 23)[61]
Jimmy Kimmel Live! Herself (guest) Episode: October 4[62]

Video game[edit]

List of video game credits
Year Title Role Notes
2022 Tiny Tina's Wonderlands Frette Voice


List of writing credits
Year Title Role Notes
1997–1998 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
2002–2003 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[28] Writer Stand-up
2009–2010 The Wanda Sykes Show Creator, writer and executive producer 21 episodes
2016 What Happened... Ms. Sykes? Writer Stand-up
2018 Roseanne Writer Sitcom
2019 Wanda Sykes: Not Normal Writer Stand-up
2023 Wanda Sykes: I'm an Entertainer Writer Stand-up

Awards and nominations[edit]

Sykes has been nominated for seventeen Primetime Emmys, with one win (in 1999) for "Outstanding Writing for a Variety or Music or Program." In 2001, she won the American Comedy Award for "Funniest Female Stand-Up Comic". She won a Comedy Central Commie Award for "Funniest TV Actress" in 2003.[63] In 2010 she won the GLAAD Stephen F. Kolzak Award.[64][65] In 2015 she won the Activism in the Arts honor at the Triumph Awards.[66]

List of awards and nominations received by Wanda Sykes
Year Award Category Work Result Ref.
1998 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series The Chris Rock Show Nominated
1999 Won
2000 Nominated
2001 Nominated
2007 Outstanding Variety Special Wanda Sykes: Sick and Tired Nominated
2010 Outstanding Variety Special Wanda Sykes: I'ma Be Me Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special Nominated
2017 Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series Black-ish Nominated
2018 Nominated
2019 Outstanding Variety Special Wanda Sykes: Not Normal Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special Nominated
2020 Outstanding Variety Special Tiffany Haddish: Black Mitzvah Nominated
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: A Jewish Girl Walks Into the Apollo... Nominated
Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance Crank Yankers: Bobby Brown, Wanda Sykes & Kathy Griffin Nominated
2023 Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Taped) Wanda Sykes: I'm an Entertainer Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special Nominated
Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance Crank Yankers: Wanda Sykes, JB Smoove & Adam Carolla Nominated
2021 Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Guest Performer in a Daytime Fiction Program Noah's Arc: The 'Rona Chronicles Nominated
2024 Golden Globe Awards Best Performance in Stand-Up Comedy on Television Wanda Sykes: I'm an Entertainer Nominated [67]


List of recording credits
Year Title Label Formats
2003 Tongue Untied[68] Comedy Central Records DVD/Download/Streaming
2007 Sick and Tired[69] Image Entertainment DVD/Download/Streaming
2010 I'ma Be Me[70] HBO Home Video DVD/Download/Streaming
2018 What Happened... Ms. Sykes?[71] Sykes Entertainment Download/Streaming
2019 Not Normal Netflix Streaming


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External links[edit]