Thursday, May 14, 2009

Speak, Comedy: The Wanda & Barack Show

Brash and acerbic, Wanda Sykes is a comedian who is — like scotch, jazz, hunting and certain anatomical positions attempted between consenting adults — an acquired taste. Her Emmy-winning brand of comedy, developed for years on the standup circuit and sharpened with her role on CBS’s “New Adventures of Old Christine” or appearances on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” isn’t for everyone. Either you get it or you don’t; either way, you best keep your head down.

This was known when Sykes was invited to speak Saturday at the White House Correspondents Dinner — the annual nerd scribes’ prom that for Washington journalists is attitudinally the closest thing to the Golden Globe Awards, with none of the awards and only some of the Globes attitude.

For relatively strait-laced journalists in a risqué-averse city like Washington, the WHCD is a chance to let off steam. And let others do the same thing. Like Wanda Sykes.

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The fallout is still continuing over Sykes who, her natural self-confidence squared with the self-confidence of brand-new parenthood, took on that progressives’ target of opportunity, the talk-radio dirigible Rush Limbaugh. No amount of Tell will ever trump the Show. You have to see the videos to believe:



At least one writer gives Sykes credit, in her reliably over-the-top way, for making the resuscitation of the GOP at least possible, by asserting the wish her heart makes: the GOP as a Rush-free zone. John Batchelor at The Daily Beast observed as much on Tuesday:
“Wanda Sykes articulated a simple vision. She pictured a day in the distant future when the Republican Party will be free of its childlike dependence upon burlesque acts like Rush Limbaugh and his acolytes; free of their droning, repetitive excuses that the attack on New York and Washington gives them writ to bait and bully everyone who isn’t on the burlesque stage with them.” …

Jon Stewart commented with professional admiration, “That’s a hard joke.” But it was much more. It was a revelation to the GOP of what it means to be lost, without power, without leadership, out of ideas, time, patience, courage, and yet to be needy to the point of strung out on the daily palaver of a disembodied, troubled, ill-educated, powerless performer in his Orson Welles costume babbling alone in a radio studio in Florida.

What Wanda Sykes has done for the GOP is to name the problem, and the problem is the party’s addiction to hambone performers who each day claim to be speaking for the so-called conservative base of the Republican Party.”



The headliner, President Obama, who actually preceded Sykes on the fight card, flat-out killed. Again, peep the videos to see just how accurate and pitch-perfect Barack Obama’s comic timing really is, even when the focus is … Barack Obama. It’s clear that the 44th president has the ability to bring his formidable skills as an orator to the world of comedy.

You want self-confidence?

“Good evening. I am Barack Obama. Most of you covered me. All of you voted for me. Apologies to the Fox table.”

He took on all comers, from the Republican party to RNC chairman Michael Steele to once-but-not-yet future rival Hillary Clinton to … himself.



"I would like to talk about what my administration plans to achieve in the next 100 days,” he said. "During the second 100 days, we will design, build and open a library dedicated to my first 100 days." …

"I believe that my next 100 days will be so successful, I will be able to complete them in 72 days -- and on the 73rd day I will rest."

To the president, former vice president and reigning dark lord Dick Cheney was a chip shot from the duckblind: "He is very busy working on his memoirs, tentatively titled "How to Shoot Friends and Interrogate People." …

“I must confess I really didn't want to be here tonight. But I had to come. That's one more problem I inherited from George Bush.”



A good time was had by all, more or less. Obama can take pride in his own versatility. If for some reason this President of the United States thing doesn’t work out, he’s got a standup career waiting.

And Sykes, a beneficiary of a blessed event, may have met her match for outspokenness. TV Guide announced on Thursday that the comedian and her companion, identified only as Alex, welcomed twins, boy (Lucas Claude) and girl (Olivia Lou), into the world on April 27.


No doubt those two kids, the couple’s first, will share Wanda’s flair for trying out new material, shouting whatever comes to mind whenever the mood strikes.
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Image credit: Wanda Sykes: Still from C-SPAN.

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