5-days after the election, comedian Wanda Sykes was performing in front of thousands during the 22nd Annual Comics Come Home Fundraiser. Sykes, on the topic of consoling people after America elected The Annoying Orange stated; “This is not the first time we’ve elected a racist, sexist, homophobic President. He ain’t the first one, he’s just the first confirmed one.” Following a chorus of boos, Sykes flipped off the audience and proceeded to say “fuck you motherfuckers, all of y’all.”
A former NSA contractor turned comedian, Sykes’ ability to balance topicality, philosophy and social insight in her comedy is one that is deeply necessary in an era where North Korea may be preparing an ICBM missile test after the Inauguration as a means to challenge Donald Trump to a dick waving contest. With her cynically rational persona, Sykes satirizes the absurdities of political egotism, racial biases, and the placement of queer identity in American culture in a manner that, like all great comedy, subverts our expectations of polite norms and narratives. Here are two of my favorite Wanda Sykes bits that I hope will get more people to buy her albums, as anyone facing down the barrage of thousands of boos to stand their right to publicly call out the President for his idiocy and bigotry ought to be on everyone’s current cultural heroes list.
This piece was performed in 2009 following the cultural zeitgeist of Barack Obama’s election and the passage of Proposition 8 in California in which the State would only recognize marriage between a man and a woman. As a queer woman of color, Sykes stated that while Obama’s election greatly uplifted her sense of worth, Proposition 8 brought it down, subsequently pointing that, at that time, it was “harder being gay” than black because “I didn’t have to come out as black to my parents.” The piece is significant because Sykes had to re-affirm her identity that, even with the election of the first black President, was struggling to gain cultural normalcy, and that the fight for such recognition was still ongoing despite the newfound sense of optimism that 2009 brought about.
It takes a great deal of skill to find humor within sexism and rape culture. Yet Sykes’ bit on how “you could do anything” if you could “leave your pussy at home”, speaks to just how women’s worth are often perpetually tied to their sexuality in the society at large to the point where that very sexuality has to be physically removed just to have an equitable conversation; “Sex? Oh, uh-uh look my pussy’s not even in the building. I’m just here to talk about your jump-shot, now look…” It’s a surreal yet nonetheless palpable satire on just how ridiculous the complexity for a woman to hold on to her autonomy can be, and in a country where a man who openly admits enjoying sexual assault can hold the nuclear codes, this piece of humor is more vital than ever.
(featured image source-Wikimedia Commons)