“It’s not like people are gonna cast me to play George Clooney’s lover anyway,” jokes Wanda Sykes.
Famously coming out in 2008 amid the Proposition 8 campaign, the comedian’s decision raised awareness about the issue more than it threatened her career. “I wasn’t really worried about that,” she adds in a phone interview. “Like, ‘Ahh, there goes that Brad Pitt sex scene I was about to do.'”
Yet for almost 20 years, Sykes has been just about everwhere else. The East Coast comedian started her standup career at a Washington, D.C.-area showcase and continued to perform at local venues until her first big break in 1992, when she opened for Chris Rock. She later joined the writing team for The Chris Rock Show, winning an Emmy for outstanding writing.
Since then, she’s starred in her own sitcom, been the host of her own talk show, had a recurring role on the popular sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine and been named one of Entertainment Weekly‘s 25 funniest people in America. Currently on tour, Sykes is making her way to the wine country for the first time, something she hopes to take advantage of while she’s here.
“I’m trying to figure out how I can squeeze in a couple extra days to do some winetasting,” she says. “It’s such a nice word to say: ‘winetasting.’ Instead of, you know, to get plastered or get drunk. I love that. It sounds so cultured. Not, ‘I’m gonna drink till I pass out.'”
When told that Sonoma County was recently named the second most gay-friendly place to live after San Francisco, Sykes responds in trademark style: “Oh, that’s good to know! So when I’m drunk and passed out in the middle of the vineyard, then somebody will get me home.”
Patience, she says, is the most important factor in earning marriage equality. “I think it’s just time,” she says, “and continued dialogue with those who are opposed to it. Courts have righted wrongs, and I think that’ll happen with marriage equality.”
During the short time that same-sex marriage was legal in California, Sykes married wife Alex, who gave birth to twin babies, Lucas and Olivia, just two years ago. “They’ve taken over the house,” Sykes sighs. “I used to have a really cool, sexy house. Now my house is baby-proofed. I don’t even recognize my house anymore!”
Even as a seasoned comedian, she admits to still getting a bit nervous before stepping out onstage instead of a camera. “I love the whole live aspect of standup,” says Sykes. “There’s no, ‘Ooh, let’s go back and do that again.’ There’s something dangerous about that, and that’s what I enjoy.”
In her act, Sykes touches on the subjects of gay marriage, her children, Obama, the metric system and doctors. And once this tour comes to an end, other projects are in the works, including voice recording for Ice Age 4 and another as-yet-unspecified television undertaking.
“I’ll be back out there,” she teases.
Wanda Sykes will be out here on Friday, May 20, at the Wells Fargo Center For the Arts. 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. 8pm. $50-$65. 707.546.3600.