Wanda Sykes to offer parental guidance at Ruth Eckerd Hall Friday night

Out, married with kids, the comedy star is in top form at 50.

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Wanda Sykes
Fri., Feb. 27, 8 p.m. at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater
 $43-$100, rutheckerdhall.com.


Straight-shooting comedian, human rights-advocate Wanda Sykes has probably the most distinctive female voice in comedy. She's been a puppet with hair rollers on Crank Yankers, made famously sassy cameos on Curb Your Enthusiasm, spoken at the White House Correspondents Dinner and played the smart-ass BFF of Julia Louis-Dreyfus in CBS's The New Adventures of Old Christine. Most recently she's been enjoying most her choice guest spots on Alpha House, the new Garry Trudeau-conceived TV political comedy series on Amazon.

Sykes's delivery is distinctive in that she injects equal parts exuberance and snark as she offers offbeat but common-sense solutions to everyday problems: "To me, political office should be like jury duty," she jokes. You should just get a notice in mail one day and be like, "I’m Secretary of State next month!"

The saucy stand-up celeb will be headlining Ruth Eckerd Hall Friday night. Expect to hear plenty of jokes about child-rearing, family foibles and more middle-aged matters from the comedian who turns 51 on March 7.


"My stand-up is always about what's going on in my life and lately my kids are what's been taking up most of my time," she said of 5-year-old twins Olivia and Lucas. "It's whatever is authentic and going on with me right now."

CL caught up with Sykes for a brief chat the Monday morning after the Grammy Awards. She shared that she was impressed with Usher, and though a huge Sia fan, was "over the facing-the-wall stuff" during the Australian star's conceptual performance of "Chandelier."

"It's like we were all on Grammy timeout," she said with a laugh. 

Good-natured ribbing aside, Sykes doesn't have a reputation as a prickly diva. Likewise, she has no favorites or complaints about her co-stars. "Everyone's been great. I don't have anyone I'd say I don't want to work with that person again." She added that she had a special place in her heart for Louis-Dreyfus, the co-star she worked with the longest. "I just loved that whole cast," she said of the canceled CBS series.

Sykes' primary focus has been on her family, sharing that her kids are both in kindergarten now. Of dealing with her kids' school, she has not had any special treatment, weird brushes or disagreements during parent-teacher conferences. "I'm not one of those parents who's like, 'Not my child!'"

Sykes married Parisian spouse, Alex Niedbalski, in 2008 just before coming out publicly at a Prop 8 rally in California. Though unflinching about her own foibles and struggles, Sykes is very protective about the privacy of her wife and kids. In 2011, the comedian revealed on The Ellen De Generes Show that she was in the early stages of breast cancer and had undergone a bilateral mastectomy to prevent the disease from spreading. "I don't overdo anything," said the laid-back Sykes. "I'm not on any strict diet. Everything in moderation." 

An executive producer also, Sykes runs a company behind the NBC reality competition series Last Comic Standing. She effused that she's more excited than ever about the upcoming season, which airs this summer. "You still have those comics are too cool for the room, but this time around we have some really funny people." 

With more comedians and comedic actors seeking out more outside-the-mainstream material —  like Kristen Wiig's conceptual, inner-child dance in Sia's aforementioned Grammy performance — Sykes says she just couldn't picture herself doing anything so artsy. "I just couldn't take it that seriously — I'd have been swinging from the chandelier!"


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