Amanda Sykes is an American comedian, writer, actress and voice artist. 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. She is also known for her role as Barb Baran on CBS’ The New Adventures of Old Christineand for appearances on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm.
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1. Wanda Sykes was born March 7, 1964 in Portsmouth, Virginia.
2. She was raised in the Washington, D.C. area.
3. Her mother, Marion Louise, worked as a banker, and her father, Harry Ellsworth Sykes, was a US Army colonel employed at the Pentagon.
4. Sykes attended Arundel High School in Gambrills, Maryland, and went on to graduate from Hampton University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha.
5. After college, her first job was as a contracting specialist at the National Security Agency (NSA), where she worked for five years.
6. Sykes’ family history was researched for an episode of the 2012 PBS genealogy program Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr.
7. Her ancestry was traced back to a 1683 court case involving her paternal ninth great-grandmother 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.
8. 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.”
9. 1Not completely satisfied with her role with the NSA, Sykes began her stand-up career at a Coors Light Super Talent Showcase in Washington, DC, where she performed for the first time in front of a live audience in 1987.
10. She continued to hone her talents at local venues while at the NSA until 1992, when she moved to New York City.
11. Working for the Hal Leonard publishing house, she edited a book entitled Polyrhythms – The Musician’s Guide, by Peter Magadini.
12. Her first big break came when opening for Chris Rock at Caroline’s Comedy Club.
13. In 1997, she joined the writing team on The Chris Rock Show and also made many appearances on the show.
14. The writing team was nominated for four Emmys, and in 1999, won for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Special.
15. Since that time, she has appeared in such films as Pootie Tang and on TV shows such as Curb Your Enthusiasm.
16. In 2003, she starred in her own short-lived Fox network sitcom, Wanda at Large.
17. The same year, Sykes appeared in an hour-long Comedy Central special, Tongue Untied.
18. That network also ranked her No. 70 on its list of the 100 greatest all-time stand ups.
19. She served as a correspondent for HBO’s Inside the NFL, hosted Comedy Central’s popular show Premium Blend, and voiced a recurring character named Gladys on Comedy Central’s puppet show Crank Yankers.
20. She also had a short-lived show on Comedy Central called Wanda Does It.
21. She is also an author. She wrote Yeah, I Said It, a book of humorous observations on various topics, published in September 2004.
22. In 2006, she landed a recurring role on the sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine, she became a series regular in the second season.
23. She also guest starred in the Will & Grace episode “Buy, Buy Baby” in 2006. She provided voices for the 2006 films Over the Hedge, Barnyard, and Brother Bear 2.
24. She had a part in My Super Ex-Girlfriend and after playing in Evan Almighty, had a bit part in License to Wed.
25. Sykes’ first HBO Comedy Special, entitled Wanda Sykes: Sick & Tired, premiered on October 14, 2006, it was nominated for a 2007 Emmy Award.
26. In 2008, she performed as part of Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors Tour for LGBT rights.
27. In October 2008, Wanda 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.
28. In March 2009, it was announced that Sykes would be the host of a new late-night talk show on Saturdays on Fox, The Wanda Sykes Show which was scheduled to premiere November 7, 2009.
29. In April 2009, she was named in Out magazine’s “Annual Power 50 List”, landing at number 35.
30. 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.
31. Cedric the Entertainer had been the first African American to become the featured entertainer in 2005.
32. Her second comedy special, Wanda Sykes: I’ma Be Me premiered on HBO in October 2009.
33. 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.
34. She appeared as Miss Hannigan in a professional theatre production of Annie at The Media Theatre in Media, PA, a suburb 25 minutes southwest of Philadelphia.
35. Her first appearance in a musical, she played the role from November 23 – December 12, 2010, and again from January 12–23, 2011.
36. She voices the Witch in the Bubble Guppies episode “Bubble Puppy’s Fin-tastic Fairlytale Adventure”.
37. In 2012, Sykes role the voice of Granny in Ice Age: Continental Drift, and In 2016, she was returned voice of Granny in Ice Age: Collision Course from the Blue Sky Studios’ “Ice Age movies”.
38. In May 2013, Sykes was a featured entertainer at Olivia Travel’s 40th anniversary Music & Comedy Festival in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
39. In 2013, Sykes appeared in eight episodes of Amazon’s Alpha House, a political comedy series written by Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau.
40. 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.
41. Sykes was married to record producer Dave Hall from 1991 to 1998.
42. In November 2008, she publicly came out as a lesbian while at a same-sex marriage rally in Las Vegas regarding Proposition 8.
43. A month earlier, Sykes had married her partner Alex Niedbalski, a French woman, whom she had met in 2006.
44. The couple also became parents on April 27, 2009, when Alex gave birth to a pair of fraternal twins, daughter Olivia Lou and son Lucas Claude.
45. Sykes only came out to her conservative mother Marion and father Harry 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, but have since reconciled and are now proud grandparents to the couple’s children.
46. 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 in order to lower her chances of getting breast cancer.
47. Sykes splits time living in both Los Angeles and Media, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia.
48. Sykes was booed off stage during a charity benefit after she talked ill of Donald Trump, the new president-elect. Her exact words were: “I am certain this is not the first time we’ve elected a racist, sexist, homophobic president,” Sykes told the crowd according to the Boston Herald. “He’s just the first confirmed one, that’s it.”
49. Sykes’ comments were met with loud boos, prompting the comedian to yell out, “F–k you, motherf—er, f–k all of y’all.” She then began pointing at various audience members and said, “F–k you, you, you.”