Wanda Sykes slays with hilarious set on race, family

Opinions Editor
Moontower Comedy Festival, Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival, Austin, comedy, Wanda Sykes
Wanda Sykes performs at The Paramount Theater Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival in Austin Thursday.

I have been waiting to see Wanda Sykes perform live my whole life, and last night proved good things come to those who wait. 


National headliners and local comedians performed at the Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival in Austin Thursday. Seasoned comedian Keith Robinson, who has appeared in shows including a self-titled Comedy Central special and Sykes’ own program, introduced her to the stage. Robinson was a perfect starter for the crowd, warming attendees up with his unique brand of abrasive comedy. 


Robinson gave no indication he was nervous about opening for such a headliner as Sykes. The Paramount Theater is a medium-sized venue, but Robinson managed to make the room feel intimate, often playing off of impromptu reactions from the crowd and incorporating them into his jokes.


Race was a theme present in both Sykes’ and Robinson’s sets. As an African-American comedy fan, I struggle with some of the performers I see in the field. Neither Sykes nor Robinson disappointed, however. In the last few minutes before bringing Sykes to the stage, Robinson jokingly called himself the n-word. Audible gasps and a few “oh my”s from the audience immediately filled the room. Robinson quickly exclaimed, “Hey I’m black, I can say that!” and laughter again took over the crowd. 


Sykes wasted no time getting into the meat of her routine. She started off by discussing her bout with cancer and the resulting breast reduction surgeries. Under Sykes’ seasoned skill, the somewhat somber topic soon took a hilarious turn as she explained how the “new titties” didn’t match up with the rest of her aging body. 


“I’ll be at the club and the new (boobs) are like, ‘Let’s take shots!’ and I’m like, ‘Slow down now, I still have my 51-year-old liver,’” Sykes said.


Age and family were interwoven in the biracial comedian’s set. Wanda is married to Alex Sykes, a French white woman. She spoke about her internal struggle of being a “strong, independent black woman” and having an all-white family. 


One of the biggest laughs of the night came after she explained that watching racially charged news or films in her household is a tense affair. 


Sykes loves cooking and told the audience if she ever stops doing comedy, she’ll likely go to culinary school. After watching The Help, she returned home and began preparing dinner for her family. 


“I’m cooking dinner, and then I turn to get the plates and serve my family, and then I look at them, and I’m like, ‘Oh shit, I’m the help,’” Sykes said. 


Seeing Sykes perform has been a dream of mine since I first watched her stand-up with my family as a child. Her skill at blending touchy topics like race and sexual orientation rarely miss the mark, and she’s one of the sharpest comedians in the game. She is currently on tour performing shows across the United States. I recommend anyone who has been waiting to see her take the opportunity to do so now. Sykes is definitely worth the wait.