"I told the personal trainer, 'I've got this medical condition. See, when you "cut out my carbs…"…I don't know…my foot…it goes right up your ass.'"
Sure, Wanda Sykes is one funny lady. Incredibly funny. Hurt you funny. Squirting tears funny. But did you know she is also an Emmy winning writer (for her work on the equally laughter inducing Chris Rock Show) and even contributed material to the 2002 Oscars (when pal Whoopi Goldberg hosted). This diminutive dynamo is considered by many to be one of the freshest, most inventive comic voices on the female side of the coin. She has an uncanny ability to walk the fine line between a standard ghetto fabulous mentality and amazingly sharp social and political acumen. She can be vulgar and she can be sublime, moving from PG to NC-17 in the simple turn of a phrase or drop of a curse word. She can take on the President and bureaucracy while weaving in drinking and dirty sex jokes. Currently, she has her own network show on Fox (Wanda at Large), does sports analysis "with an edge" for HBO's Inside the NFL, and is poised for big screen stardom, having had impressive cameos in such otherwise forgettable films as Pootie Tang and Down to Earth. So it's no surprise that we now get more Wanda Sykes product to promote and present this talented lady to the few who still don't know her.
This recent DVD release, under Comedy Central's own label, actually represents three different appearances by Wanda Sykes on the cable network. Of course, the main offering is Tongue Untied, her one-hour (actually 47 minute) stand up special from this past year. In it, Sykes addresses issues like marriage, airport security, and working in television. Her discussion on the joys of children is priceless, as is her take on the entire 9/11 national terrorist warning system. But probably the most insightful and insane is her routine on a trip to some Florida strip clubs. Sykes loves to employ that timeless comic device, the repeated phrase ("sum goin' happen," "I don't recall"), to emphasize her point, and she does so effectively. And as she proved on the Chris Rock Show, she is the master of dialects and personas. Overall, the special is intensely funny and Sykes comes across as a personable and genuinely smart woman. You do get the sense that she is holding back, that there is a brash blue streak inside her that broadcast television just can't handle. But at least she proves here that she can work clean and still be uproarious. The second helping of wild Wanda is an appearance on the channel's Comedy Central Presents series. Again, this is a 22-minute one-woman performance that seems like highlights from a longer standup routine. And again, it is very funny. Finally, Sykes appears on the usually dependable Daily Show with John Stewart and talks about appearing in the Chris Rock flop Head of State. Frankly, this was five minutes of an uncomfortable comedienne trying to work against type and shill for a film you can tell she had little faith in. It's hard to imagine someone thought this tired, dull banter between Sykes and Stewart was worthy of putting on DVD. Compared to the other material here, it's very substandard.
As for the aural and visual presentation, Comedy Central does a very good job of providing excellent full screen video image transfers of their shows to DVD. Tongue Untied is no exception. There is a completely natural look to the picture and there are no flares or halos present. On the very irritating side, CC decides to leave the shows in their cut-up commercial format, meaning that every time Sykes gets going and starts to roll, we fade to a stupid intro/outro bumper that lasts for ten or more seconds and totally screws up the flow and timing of the humor. And since there are no ads on the disc, the pauses seem pointless. It may make sense from an overall cost factor to simply provide the shows as aired, without reconfiguring it or obtaining the original source material but it really does Sykes and viewers a disservice. What's even less understandable is the choice of Comedy Central quickies included on the disc. These moments from other shows on the network are clearly marketing ploys, but the targeting here seems a little off. True, Sykes does add her distinct voice to the prank phone call crap known as Crank Yankers, but as with most of the material on that show, the premise never really pays off (she does say a couple of clever things though). But The Chappelle Show sketch (Trading…Spouses?) and the Tough Crowd "ugly people" debate are just boring. There are also a few outtakes from the Tongue Untied special, but they are nothing more than a few minutes of additional jokes. Nothing scandalous or sacrilegious, just material that was cut for time's sake.
While it is usually tough for a female comic to have the impact, both professionally and famously as her male counterparts, Wanda Sykes appears poised for superstardom and career longevity. And Tongue Untied is a great way to discover this gifted performer's unique brand of humor.
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• Wanda Sykes Appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
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