Wanda Sykes on ‘The Upshaws’ and Stand-Up Comedy

The challenges of stand-up comedy

Stand-up is definitely the most challenging thing that I do. It is exhausting. The day of a show I’m not doing a bunch of activities. I’m pretty much laying low, preparing for the show. Those few minutes before you’re announced to go on stage, there’s just so much anxiety, just like, ‘Oh my god how is this going to go? What is the audience like?’ But as soon as you get that first laugh it’s just like someone opened a portal and you can just escape for a little while. I’m wiped out after the show. I’m still excited and riding that energy. Somewhere along the way in the night, you just crash.

Stand-up comedy in challenging times

It does make it hard; it makes it very hard. You want to laugh and you want to make people feel better. You want to try to make it make sense for them because you’re trying to do it for yourself. There’s just so much pain there. I think the audience appreciates what you’re doing. They get it.

Wanda’s List #1: Essential TV sitcoms

All the Norman Lear shows [All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Maude, etc.]; The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda; I Love Lucy and Here’s Lucy; The Beverly Hillbillies.

Wanda’s List #2: Essential big-screen comedies

Pretty much Richard Pryor anything, although maybe not The ToyRichard Pryor: Live in Concert always gets me; I love Mel Brooks stuff; Uptown Saturday NightBridesmaidsDr. Strangelove.

Wanda’s List #3: Best cities for stand-up comics

D.C., Denver, Seattle, Chicago, Baltimore. Anywhere in Maryland.

The call of the road

Hopefully in the fall I can be out touring. I miss it but I’m also terrified to go back because it’s been so long.

The Upshaws premieres on Netflix on May 12. Keep up with Sykes’s return to stand-up touring at wandasykes.com.

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