The Music Center at Strathmore welcomed Wanda Sykes for the first-time to the Marriott Concert Stage to a sold-out crowd of adoring Wanda Sykes fans. Veteran comedian, writer, actress and Emmy Award-winning wit, Wanda Sykes, has been doing standup and much more in comedy entertainment since she first performed at a talent show back in 1987 in Washington, D.C. She is regarded as “one of the funniest standup comics” by her peers and has been ranked as one of Entertainment Weekly’s 25 Funniest People in America. Standup is Wanda’s first love and she was fully in her no-holds-barred element at the Strathmore on Saturday night.
Warming-up the crowd for Wanda Sykes was comic Keith Robinson, whose gruff, thug-life persona was a breezy contrast to Wanda’s intellectual, politically incorrect humor. As it so often happens if you sit in the first rows of a comedy show, be prepared to get hit. Keith Robinson repeatedly chided the lady on the front row to stop clutching her purse because he really was not going to come down from the stage and snatch it. A later-comer got ripped for wearing a mismatched multi-colored outfit so loud as to make Keith Robinson dizzy. We all know better than to sit on the front rows at a comedy show if you don’t want to be publicly messed with!
Robinson complained during his routine that today, “everybody is too sensitive” and then proceeded to hilariously decimate the audience’s last nerve on everything from the NFL and domestic violence, to racism, parental abuse of kids today, his hatred for millennials, Viagra, and gun control. Keith admitted to being a “situational racist”. For example, he jokestered that he does not want see Indians in customer service but he loves them in a spelling bee. He did a seriously funny routine on gun control saying it is easier to buy an assault rifle in the U.S. than it is to buy a Claritin D prescription and then took off about a drive-by at his local pharmacy that was too funny. His funniest moments were when he talked about his love for murder case TV and compared how a scorned black woman who kills her lover behaves in contrast to a white woman committing the same crime when the police show up on the crime scene. Keith was hysterically funny stereotyping black women with white women’s passive- aggressive craziness.
Wanda Sykes hit the stage telling the audience that standup comedy was her real day job and that she loved it declaring, “It’s what I am meant to do.” And do it she did. Wanda’s gone through a lot of changes in the past five years and her routines are a humorous reality show that she uses as a slingshot to slay us with laughter saying in a recent interview, “My standup is basically what’s going on in my life; I’m just explaining what’s on my mind.” Crazy-funny reflections on the perils of airports and flying today, bad hotels when she’s on the road, bad cops/good cops in Ferguson, MO, social media, President Obama and Michele, the NFL and Ray Rice, recently turning 50 and hot flashes, America’s current sad obsession with bad food, the ridiculous politics of the Middle East, and her piece de resistance– marriage and parenthood were what was on Wanda Sykes mind at this hilarious performance.
Her routine on the phoniness of social media brought the house down. Wanda talked about how people today pretend to be so tightly connected through instant communications and friendly banter on Facebook and other social media but at the same time will Tweet about you behind your back, send nasty Instagrams and post selfies meant to insult. Ferguson, MO, was perhaps, her most serious-edged reflection of the evening as Wanda talked about good cops and bad cops. She found the comic edge, however, by telling the audience that the bad cops of Ferguson should be sent to guard the White House because any would-be assailant trying to cross the White House lawn would be quickly shot dead with no questions asked referencing this week’s two White House gate-jumpers.
It was great to see a local girl-done-good come home to entertain her homies. In a recent interview she said, “I have some really good memories of growing up in Maryland. I love coming back, eating crabs, all that stuff.” Wanda Sykes was born in Portsmouth, VA and grew up in Gambrills, Maryland. She is a grad of Arundel High School with a degree in marketing from Hampton University, one of the nation’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCU). She entered the world of comedy after performing in the Coors Light Super Talent Showcase, encouraged by friends. Five years later she left her good government DC job to pursue her calling in comedy and has never looked back much to the delight of audiences around the world.
Wanda has been nominated for and won several Emmys and other awards for her contributions in film and television. One of the most recent was the 2014 Gracie Award for her OWN TV special, “Herlarious”, showcasing all female comedians. In 2012, she co-created “Push It” productions to create quality comedy entertainment programs for network and cable TV. In 2010 she won a GLAAD award for her media advocacy to promote equality for gays and lesbians.
Wrapping up the evening, Wanda took us into her wacky inner world of deep reflection as she did a poignantly funny routine introspecting on marriage to her French-born female partner and the white boy-girl twins born to them five years ago. Her realness, transparency and fearlessly honest thinking out loud about being a black woman who grew up in a predominantly black environment, including graduating from an HBCU, now living in a household that is majority white had us belly laughing or just plain bowled over in giggles.
With incredulousness, she asked the audience, “How did all these white folks wind up in my house?” She had the audience howling as she talked about refusing to eat watermelon with her kids in public. The twins are being raised bilingual French-English. They call their mother, “Mama” and call Wanda “Mommy”. But Wanda expressed discomfort because her son pronounces “Mommy” too much like “Mammy.” Wanda does not shy away from discussing racial themes but mixes it with a humorous twisted-minded twist and personal relevance that give her performance an in-your-face but endearing quality.
The Strathmore Music Center knows that people want to laugh. They planned a trilogy of top-quality comedians lined up this season that includes, along with Wanda Sykes, David Sedares of NPR fame, who will perform at the Music Center on October 17th and what was supposed to be the November 7th return visit by Joan Rivers who recently passed away.
Quality and relevance in comedy entertainment for a sophisticated audience that pushes the envelope –but not too far– is where the Strathmore Music Center is going. Wanda Sykes filled the bill and took us there and beyond.
Running Time: One hour an 40 minutes, with no intermission.
Wanda Sykes performed for one night only, on September 20, 2014 at the Music Center at Strathmore-5301 Tuckerman Lane, in Bethesda, MD. on September 20. For future events, check their events calendar.