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By Suzanne

Wanda Sykes Show logo

Interview with Wanda Sykes of "The Wanda Sykes Show" from FOX Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2009

Wanda Sykes is a very funny woman.  It's great that FOX is giving her a late night talk show. I hope she succeeds. I participated in this conference call, although I did not get to ask my question, since many of the participants took so long and asked so many questions, and the time was limited. I did enjoy hearing Ms. Sykes, anyway, and honestly the others already asked the questions I had in mind, anyway.

She is just everywhere recently. She is already a recurring guest on The New Adventures of Old Christine and Curb Your Enthusiasm. She's a mom, too. I don't know where she gets the energy to do all this plus host her own talk show.

Here's the interesting conference call transcript for your enjoyment.

Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by and welcome to the Wanda Sykes conference call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. You will have an opportunity to ask questions after the presentation, instructions will be given at that time.
I would now like to turn the conference over to our host, Wanda Sykes, please go ahead.

Wanda: Hello.

Moderator: Our first questions from the line of April MacIntyre with Monsters & Critics, please go ahead.

April: Hey, Wanda.

Wanda: Hello.

April: Thanks so much for your time and I so enjoyed your HBO special the other night, The Last Weekend.

Wanda: Thank you.

April: Which kind of leads me to my question. I really liked kind of your alter ego there, Esther Rolle. I'm wondering if we're going to see more Esther in as far as like the questions that you're going to ask your guests, is it going to be real?

Wanda: Will Esther interview guests?

April: No, but you know what I'm saying, kind of like from the gut to sort of—

Wanda: Esther makes cameos of, yes, I have nothing to do with that, she's never booked on the show, she just—

April: She just barges in?

Wanda: Yes, she kind of barges in. We're not doing the typical interview with the celebrity, "Hey, tell us about your new movie." We're throwing them in on the panel. When we have the panel discussion and we'll talk about current topics or it could be pop culture or maybe something's bugging somebody that night and we'll have more like a group discussion on the subject.

April: Kind of like a Tough Crowd with Collin Quinn, you're going to do a dissection of the top stories of the day and see what's bugging at everyone?

Wanda: Collin Quinn, who is a friend, his show made me nervous in a way, because I felt like that nobody liked each other when on that, and I know that crowd, because I hung out with them when I'm in New York doing the comedy show. There's a comics table and we all sit around and basically rip each other apart.

April: Right.

Wanda: My show won't have that energy.

April: Less testosterone.

Wanda: Yes, it'll be more of, I mean, the same intensity as far as opinions, but you'll get why I invited these people to stop by and hang out with me. It's like, I'm not going to have guests on that I'm trying to rush out the door. These are people that I enjoy and want to hang out with and have a drink and get to know a little better.

April: Who are some of the people that you like that we're going to see?

Wanda: We'll get Chris Rock, and if I can track down Dave Chappelle, I'll get him to come by, Jane Fonda. Actually the first guest, one of our first panel guest, Mary Lynn Rajskub, I worked with her on the show called the Downer Channel back in the day on NBC. I'm just happy that we both survived that and we're still employed. I'm sure we'll post to that on Saturday night.

Yes, of course, there's some politicians I would love to sit down and have a conversation with. And also you mentioned Tough Crowd, my best friend Keith Robinson, he was a regular on Tough Crowd. Keith is my co-host.

April: Oh, wonderful.

Wanda: Yes, we've been friends for over 20 years.

April: Oh, it's nice to know, yes, he's resurfaced with you, that's wonderful.

Wanda: Yes, yes. You'll get to see that probably, too. What I'm really like I guess with my friends, someone who really knows me.

April: Excellent. My last question for you is I want your opinion, a lot of elections last night, and Maine had a big, the gay marriage was up for vote again and it went down, and I wanted to know if you had a comment about that.

Wanda: It's very disappointing. I know exactly how the community is feeling right now especially in Maine. It's just sad when someone's civil rights can be put up to a vote. That just should never happen. The constitution declares a separation between church and state. And I think that's what it's going to come down to and what we need to uphold and when that happens I think there will be equality for everybody.

April: Thanks so much for your time, I look forward to your show.

Wanda: Thank you.

Moderator: Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Tom Jicha from Sun Sentinel, please go ahead.

Tom: Hello, Wanda. There hasn't been a show that I can recall, I could be forgetting one, with a minority host since Arsenio. You're coming on Saturday night, and then Monday, George Lopez is launching a weeknight show. What do you think a minority host brings to a late night program or any program that you're not getting from what basically is a white male fraternity?

Wanda: I believe all these shows are driven by the host. So Letterman is the only one who could do the Letterman Show. That goes for all of us. Yes, George is minority and so am I, but it's basically not what you're getting from a minority, it's us. George has been at this for 20 plus years and so have I.

We're seasoned comedians and I think that's what we're going to bring to it. Dave Letterman, he brings his, I'm from Indiana point of view, and Jay brings his, I'm Italian. I think that's where it is, it's host driven, so it's going to be more our personality and not just, "Oh, here's, now you're finally going to get the voice of a black woman." I mean, yes, I'm a black woman, but I don't speak for all black women.

Tom: I see.

Wanda: Yes.

Tom: Could you briefly, I mean as quickly as possible, just describe what the structure of the show will be beyond the panel discussion? I mean, will you go out and do a monologue, will it be entertainment numbers or will it just be people kind of like the Bill Maher thing sitting and discussing what's going on?

Wanda: We're doing a little bit of everything really. I will do a monologue, but it's not going to be just a string of random jokes. I want it to feel like a live standup performance, so it'll be more concentrated on one area, and I will have a sidekick, Keith Robinson, one of my closest friends. I've known him for over 20 years, very funny. He will be like my co-host.

We will have a panel discussion similar to Bill Maher, but it won't be as, I should say, as serious, not as confrontational I guess. You want to feel like these people are on the show for a reason that I enjoy them, we're getting to know each other, it's like mingling I should say. But of course, they will be opinionated, but it's, "Hey, we'll still have our beer summit." We can sit down, have a drink and laugh about it.

Tom: And that'll be it? Will there be any performances?

Wanda: Hey, I just gave you a lot of stuff man, what do you mean?

Tom: Well, no, I'm asking will there be any performances, will there be a musical act?

Wanda: Hey, if … puts out a new album, yes, there will be a musical act, not every week, but if something comes up and it's like, “Heck man I would love to get this person to perform,” then, yes, we will have that.

Tom: Thank you.

Wanda: Yes, you're welcome.

Moderator: Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Rob Owen with The Pittsburgh Post. Please go ahead, Rob.

Rob: Hello, I just had a quick question, could you give us some idea of the topics you're going to cover in your premiere this Saturday and also who exactly the panelists will be for this first episode?

Wanda: The panelist this week, we will have Mary Lynn Rajskub from 24, Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, he's on Brothers but he's a friend of mine, and Phil Keoghan from Amazing Race, one of my favorite shows. I want to get to know Phil a little bit. I'm tired of just seeing him standing on that mat greeting people from all around the world. I wanted to sit down and have a drink with him.

Rob: Great, thank you.

Moderator: Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Cristina Kinon from New York Daily News, please go ahead.

Cristina: Hello, Wanda.

Wanda: Hello.

Cristina: This is kind of a follow up to the minority question, when you were a comic coming up did you aspire to be a late night host or did you see it as just kind of the white old male fraternity and it was kind of a mental road block?

Wanda: Honestly, I cannot recall having that. I sound like Dick Cheney now, don't I? When I started doing standup, I had one goal and that was just to be a really funny comic who would be able to get on the road and work and make a good living. Yes, fortunately for me it's gone far beyond that, but that's still really my goal was just to be a funny hard working comic.

Cristina: Okay, so then, how did you decide that you wanted to do the late night show?

Wanda: Fox had some dirty pictures on me, no, they approached me, maybe like a year ago, and I said, “No,” and then they came back maybe like a couple months ago or three months ago, I can't really remember, and pitched the idea again of doing a late night show. I'm a mom now, so it just made sense where now I won't have to be on the road as much doing standup, because that's what I love to do. I'll be able to get that, whatever that need is to perform live by doing this late night show.

Cristina: Thank you.

Wanda: You're welcome, thank you.

Moderator: Okay, thank you. And next, we will go to the line of Hal Boedeker, please go ahead.

Hal: Hello, Wanda. I wanted to go back to a previous question, what topics will you be discussing this weekend and what's bugging you?

Wanda: What topics? Well, what's bugging me is that, I guess, that will probably be my monologue. Everybody's picking on the president, it's been only a year since he's been elected and it seems like the man can't do anything right. Everything he does, people find some fault with him. I'll talk about that.

The topics on the panel, honestly, we have not narrowed it down. We have probably like six or seven things floating around out there right now, so...

Hal: Well, will you talk to them about it before you go into the discussion, will they know what you're going to be talking about?

Wanda: Yes, we'll give them an area, yes. We'll let them know what will be coming up, yes.

Hal: And will we see Julia Louis-Dreyfus?

Wanda: Yes, you'll see her in a taped piece. She's in a taped piece and of course I will have her back live on the panel.

Hal: And you are staying with that show, Going Nowhere, right?

Wanda: Of course, of course.

Hal: Okay, thank you.

Wanda: Thank you.

Moderator: Okay, thank you. Next, we will go to the line of Jim Halterman with Progressive Television, please go ahead.

Jim: Hello, Wanda, thanks for your time today.

Wanda: No problem, thank you.

Jim: Hey, I know your formats different from Ellen's show, but she does share her personal life, and whenever the gay thing comes up, she'll show pictures from her wedding. Is that something you're interested in doing or do you want to keep your personal life personal?

Wanda: Whenever there's an opportunity and it's funny, then, yes, I'll definitely talk about my personal life. My last standup special for HBO, I think I put it all out there. If I don't talk about it, it's because I don't have a joke for it yet. If it's due to be funny, you'll hear it.

Jim: That's great, and you're such an inspiration for people everywhere, who are your inspirations as far as for your comedy?

Wanda: As far as my comedy, it's Richard Pryor, Moms Mabley. I hate making a list, because I always leave someone out.

Jim: Right, that makes sense.

Wanda: I think growing up, yes, those two.

Jim: Okay, all right, best of luck with your show.

Wanda: Thank you.

Moderator: Okay, thank you. Next, we will go to the line of Karla Peterson with The San Diego Union Tribune, please go ahead.

Karla: Hey, Wanda. I was wondering, one of the criticisms about late night TV has not just been the kind of all white guy feeling of the host, but also very much white male writing staffs. Is your writing staff going to have more people variety?

Wanda: Yes, yes. I have white women, black women, black men, white men. Yes, and hopefully the show does well and we get a bigger budget, I'll even expand it even open it up a little more.

Karla: Was that a priority for you or did that sort of just come naturally?

Wanda: I went with funny. I went with, “Okay, let me look at the material, let me see who's out there and who's available,” and I went with funny is what spoke to me.

Karla: I was wondering if you have a theory about why it's taken so long to integrate late night TV?

Wanda: I would love to blame Bush, yes, let's stick that on him, let's blame Bush.

Karla: It works for me.

Wanda: Okay.

Karla: All right, that's it for me.

Wanda: All right, great, thanks.

Moderator: Okay, thank you. Next, we will go to the line of Cori Murray with Essence Magazine, please go ahead.

Cori: Hello, Wanda, how are you?

Wanda: Fine, and you?

Cori: Good. Two questions, in MORE Magazine you said that being gay is more of a stigma in the black community. How do you feel that black folks will embrace your show?

Wanda: How that they will embrace my show?

Cori: I mean, do you feel that they will embrace your show being that we have our issues in accepting black gay people in our community?

Wanda: I think the community, and just like everybody else, that they respect honesty. People can't fault you for being open and honest. I think you get in trouble when you try to portray something that you're not and people find out and then you're hiding something. I think as long as you're open and honest that either if you like it, fine, and if you don't, at least you'll respect it.

Well, yes, I get African Americans coming up to me all the time, they show up to my shows. The community is very supportive, so I'm not worried about the gay thing-turning viewers away and besides what else are you going watch.

Cori: You're fabulous anyway, I know, we love you. Last question, when you were on Oprah, Oprah mentioned that The Washington Post said that this was your year, this is your moment. How does it feel to be closing out the year with your own show?

Wanda: It feels pretty good, it feels pretty good. It's a great way to close it out and hopefully it'll continue and I can establish some roots here, because I would love to see this thing go for awhile.

Cori: Oh, one last thing, are you going to be twittering while you have your show?

Wanda: No, if it happens, it's not me twittering.

Cori: Okay.

Wanda: It's somebody else doing it. I don't Twitter, I don't Facebook. I do face-to-face book, that's what I'm good at. I talk to people.

Cori: Okay, all right, thank you.

Wanda: Thank you.

Moderator: Okay, thank you. Next, we will go to the line of Rob Salem with Toronto Star, please go ahead.

Rob: Hey, Wanda.

Wanda: Hello.

Rob: I'm still chuckling about the Moms Mabley reference, I haven't thought about her in years. Gosh, she was great.

Wanda: Isn't she great?

Rob: She was amazing. Of course, everybody's already asked my questions, so I got one out of left field. In a perfect world, if you could book whatever combination of guests you could for the panel—

Wanda: Oh, Lord.

Rob: Okay, or give me a couple of examples, you don't have to actually nail them down, but any thoughts as to who you would just absolutely kill to get together?

Wanda: Wow, that's a good one, maybe—

Rob: Let's dream big here, they don't even have to be alive.

Wanda: I would pick George Clooney.

Rob: Yes.

Wanda: Well, if they don't have to be alive, then I would go with Moms Mabley, George Carlin, and Richard Pryor.

Rob: Oh, wow.

Wanda: How's that?

Rob: Okay, so let's say if we're talking living, George Clooney, and give me another couple.

Wanda: Condoleezza Rice. I bet you Clooney will loosen her up, huh? Get us some drinks and Conde, oh, boy.

Rob: Conde and Clooney, that's—

Wanda: Conde, Clooney, and who else should I throw in there, and Michael Strahan.

Rob: Okay, that works.

Wanda: She likes the football player.

Rob: And sort of one agile question, is there anybody that you'd really hope to get on to just total eviscerate?

Wanda: I would say Glenn Beck, but to me, interviewing Glenn Beck would be like interviewing Forrest Gump, they're not even real people.

Rob: Thank you so much, that's great. Good luck on Saturday.

Wanda: Okay, thanks.

Rob: Great.

Moderator: Thank you. Next, we will go to the line of Joanne Ostrow with The Denver Post, please go ahead.

Joanne: Hey, Wanda, thanks for your time.

Wanda: Thank you.

Joanne: You mentioned you'd love to sit down and have a drink with Phil Keoghan. What's the idea about drinking on the set? I loved that, on the clip I saw online, you've got a bar setup.

Wanda: Yes, come on, I'm not going to work this hard and not be able to drink on one of my shows. This is my second job, so this show I want it to just be just a good time. Hopefully, you guys will feel like you're hanging out at my spot and sitting there with me and my friends. I feel like the viewers, you guys are going to be sitting at home drinking, so we all should be on the same plane, right?

Joanne: You bet, so what's your drink?

Wanda: I will probably start out with a little of vodka and club soda, yes. If you spill it, you won't have a problem with the wardrobe, yes. And then there will be the after show drink, if we have a great show, then I'll probably do a couple of shots of Patrón. Actually, you know what, and even if the show doesn't go well, then I'll have more shots of Patrón.

Joanne: Is there any product placement involved here?

Wanda: Oh, no, no, no, but just look for the little green bottle.

Joanne: All right. And one other question, back to the Maine vote, could you answer a little less seriously this time, what went on in New England? I thought we were supposed to win that one.

Wanda: Oh, well, what went on is the same thing that happened here in California. All the propaganda of the gays are coming, gay marriage, and they're going to indoctrinate your kids and all that crap. So fear, basically fear, and like I said, I believe that eventually this is going to get to the highest court and they're going to have to determine that the majority cannot vote to take away a minorities civil right, it's the separation of church and state.

Joanne: And then we got a serious answer again.

Wanda: What was that?

Joanne: We got a serious answer again.

Wanda: You know why, because it really isn't anything to joke about.

Joanne: Okay.

Wanda: Yes. I've been in that place where those people are right now, up in Maine, and yes, so I don't find anything funny about it.

Joanne: Okay, I hear you. Will you talk about that on this Saturday's show?

Wanda: Probably not, because it's not funny.

Joanne: Okay.

Wanda: Yes, if I can find a joke then of course I'll do it. You got to say there is something that they did pass that to legalize weed, so I don't know.

Joanne: A lot of that in Colorado. Hey, thank you very much.

Wanda: Thank you.

Moderator: Thank you. Next, we will go to the line of Dana Flax with Wonder Wall MSN, please go ahead.

Dana: Hello, Wanda, how are you?

Wanda: Hello.

Dana: Hello. I'm a big fan of your work on Curb Your Enthusiasm specifically. Do you think we can expect Larry David to make an appearance on your show?

Wanda: Sure. We haven't locked in a date, but yes, I would love to have Larry on.

Dana: I know that a lot of that show is adlibbed, were there any great bits that you had that ended up getting edited out?

Wanda: Everything gets a little truncated on that show, because he has a limited amount of time to get everything in and a scene can go on for 15/20 minutes, so he has to cut it down. But I think he does a great job doing it.

Dana: I'm actually from D.C. area myself and your HBO special that was taped at the Warner, is it more fun to perform to a hometown audience?

Wanda: Oh, definitely.

Dana: What's your favorite city to perform in?

Wanda: I love going back to D.C. It's where it all started and I love that crowd. They're smart, their sole just is like ahead of you, they were sitting on it just waiting for the next line, so I love going back to D.C.

Now, if I was from an awful city, then, yes, maybe not, maybe going home would not be fun, but, yes, I just love D.C.

Dana: Do you think you'll ever move back there?

Wanda: Move back to D.C., probably not. There are too many politicians there for me. Those people are scary.

Dana: Also, you mentioned that you think that Obama's receiving too much criticism so far in his administration, but I think a lot of that criticism is directed specifically towards the gay rights issue. Can you speak specifically on how you feel he's been handling that issue?

Wanda: I look at it as give the man some time, he hasn't even been in office, he was elected this time last year. I remember banks closing, these long lines, people trying to get their money out of the bank, the economy just in the toilet, the Dow went over what 10,000 last week, so he's doing something right.

Bush left a huge mess and people expected him, it's like giving him a spoon and asking him to go fill up the Grand Canyon. I believe that he'll get to the gay rights issue and so I'm just trying to be patient and just give him time.

Dana: Great, thank you so much and best of luck with everything.

Wanda: Thank you.

Moderator: Thank you. Next, we will go to the line of Eric Deggans with St. Petersburg Times, please go ahead.

Eric: Hey, Wanda, how are you doing?

Wanda: All right, and you?

Eric: I'm doing alright now that I'm talking to you especially. There have actually been a lot of hosts of color who have tried to host late night shows, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Magic Johnson, and all of that. I've always had this theory that when a host comes and has a real point of view, it almost speaks for a generation and that's when they really pop; that's what seemed to happen with Arsenio, and you were on Chris Rock's show and saw what happened there on HBO and Dave Chappelle as well.

I'm wondering, number one, are you taking any lessons you've learned from working with Chris on the HBO show and bringing it to this show? And do you have a sense that you have to kind of speak for a generation in a way, sort of offer something different than what we're going to see on Leno and Letterman and all of these guys to survive?

Wanda: Everything that I've learned from the Chris Rock Show, I'm bringing to my show. My mandate is, “Hey, let's be funny, and most importantly, let's be relevant.” So, yes, that's what I'm bringing to it and you'll definitely get to hear my voice and you'll get my sensibility.

As far as speaking for a generation, I'm going to talk about the things that I know, the things that are important to me and I might question the younger generation, because a lot of times, I just don't understand what the heck's going on. I'm sure people in my generation probably feel the same way, maybe I'll learn something, who knows. So yes, it will have that, I guess going down that same path.

Eric: I don't know if you saw, but Newsweek had a story recently sort of talking about your show and George's show, pointing out that George had Barack Obama sort of tape some promos for his show, and you have been supportive of Obama in the past and even in this interview, talked about folks giving him a chance. And that piece kind of suggested that that might be a problem that you guys might not be willing to offer the kind of cutting humor that makes fun of Obama. Do you think that's going to be problem and what do you say to folks who wonder if you can bring the funny in politics if you're supportive of the president?

Wanda: So I guess you didn't see my HBO special, yes, that's what I would say.

Eric: A woman of few words, thanks.

Wanda: All right.

Moderator: Okay, thank you so much. No further questions at this time, please go ahead.

Todd Thank you everyone, just a reminder that The Wanda Sykes Show premieres this Saturday, November 7th from 11:00 to midnight eastern pacific time. Thanks again, Wanda, for participating on the call. That does conclude our conference for today.





Emmy Award-winning actress and comedian Wanda Sykes returns to FOX with a new spin on the late-night talk show that will showcase her innovative, irreverent and topical brand of comedy. Sykes’ personal take on the events of the week will be punctuated by field pieces and produced comedy segments. Everything from news, politics, sports and pop culture will be examined from her fresh point of view as she leads discussions with regular panelists and famous friends. Don’t miss the series premiere episode of THE WANDA SYKES SHOW airing Saturday, Nov. 7 (11:00 PM-Midnight ET/PT) on FOX. (WAN-101) (TV-TBA)



(Host/Executive Producer, THE WANDA SYKES SHOW)

Wanda Sykes ranks among Entertainment Weekly’s 25 Funniest People in America. She currently appears on “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” and her stand-up comedy routine will be showcased in a new cable comedy special premiering this October.

Her most recent comedy special, “Wanda Sykes: Sick & Tired,” debuted in October 2006 and was nominated for a 2007 Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special. Sykes’ razor-sharp wit was also featured on the cable special “Wanda Sykes: Tongue Untied.”

Sykes starred in, wrote and produced the FOX series “Wanda at Large.” She also starred in the cable series “Wanda Does It,” where Sykes tried various non-showbiz jobs. Sykes has also had recurring roles on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Crank Yankers.”

Sykes spent five years as part of the critically acclaimed “Chris Rock Show.” As a performer and writer on the show, she was nominated for three Emmy Awards and in 1999 won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Special. In 2001, she won the American Comedy Award for Outstanding Female Stand-Up Comic. Sykes won three Sports Emmy Awards for Outstanding Studio Show – Weekly (2002, 2004 and 2005) for her work on “Inside the NFL.”

Her feature film credits include “Evan Almighty” opposite Steve Carell, “Monster-In-Law” opposite Jane Fonda and the romantic comedy “My Super Ex-Girlfriend.” She lent her voice talents to the animated features “Over the Hedge” and “The Barnyard.”

Her first book titled “Yeah, I Said It,” a hilarious collection of essays touching on life, family and current events, was published by Simon and Schuster in September 2004.

Born in Portsmouth, VA and raised in Maryland, Sykes graduated from Hampton University. Her stand-up career began at a talent showcase in Washington, DC, where she performed for the first time in front of a live audience. She divides her time between Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

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