It’s women’s exclusion from the status quo that makes them able to be twice as funny as those people who strut around merrily within it
With a collection of material spanning politics, racism, parenting and gay rights, Wanda Sykes demonstrates exactly why she’s one of the most successful comics working in America today. Blessed with the enviable talent of balancing incisive political commentary with self-parody and deprecation, Sykes brings her audience to gasping laughter time and time again.
Performing at the Melbourne Town Hall for the duration of the Comedy Festival, Sykes moves seamlessly between the personal and the political. From ridiculing the Republican GOP presidential candidates to musing on President Obama’s anger management skills and finally to the unique challenge of being a black mother to white babies and being unable to tell if they’re cute or not, Sykes delivers straight standup that’s both clever and hysterically funny.
It’s this knack for hitting the nail on the head that elevates Sykes into the category of ‘gifted’ comic. In the inevitable scrutiny of comedy and its conventions that occurs every year (WOMEN COMEDIANS! WHAT EVEN ARE THEY?), it’s rarely mentioned that perceived deficits often pave the way for the most brutal and incisive comic commentary. Unlike those whose conviction that women can’t be funny relies solely on a thought bubble they once drew for their Single Dads Support Group, I’d contend that it’s precisely women’s exclusion from the status quo that makes them able to be twice as funny as those people who strut around merrily within it.
Given that the black, gay, female Sykes is as different from the persona of the brutish, overtly masculine comic that seems to draw guffawing crowds in large numbers as you can get that she is virtually perpendicular, part of her great appeal lies in subverting audience perceptions. Her comedy isn’t written at the expense of the stereotypes people are inclined to assign, but it’s performed in a way that both rejects them while calling on their usefulness – mimicking Michelle Obama, caught in a moment of Black Female Rage, for example, or making fun of the children she has with her French wife.
Sykes seemed to be playing it on the safe side at the Town Hall – there was no hint of anything nearing the thigh slapping truth of her ‘detachable pussy’ shtick – but her performance isn’t encumbered for it. Although it would be an experience to see her really let rip live, her ‘safe’ material is by no means sanitised. She delivers a solid, hilarious comic offering that satisfies on numerous levels. Have a few Mitt Romneys beforehand and you’ll be flying.