This weekend saw the long-anticipated premiere of The Wanda Sykes Show, which airs Saturday nights on Fox. (That’s right, this is my second post in a row regarding an out [and outstanding] lesbian performer on the Fox network.) Wanda Sykes made a strong debut with her usual style of laid-back indignation and smart-assed digs. It’s no surprise that she’s great in a talk-show format. What is surprising is how much she gets away with. Sykes did a sketch about eco-friendly sex toys. She spoke up for gay marriage. She ripped on Fox News. Wait, what network are we watching again?
Sure, Fox was built on controversial comedy (Married with Children, Ally McBeal, The Family Guy, etc.) but shows like those offended both moralizing conservatives and moralizing liberals, so everyone was happy. Sykes took an unmistakably leftist stance within the first minute of her monologue, as if to send a message that her opinions would not be compromised for her paycheck. The feeling that she was getting away with something made it all the more fun to watch, but I wonder how far she can go before Fox tries to rein her in.
Following the monologue and sketches, guests including Mary-Lynn Rajskub, Darryl Chill Mitchell and Phil Keoghan joined Sykes around a bar and were immediately asked to discuss spanking kids vs. screaming at them. This was followed by a random look at recreational space travel, and a segment called “Inappropriate Games” in which the goal was to guess which nation a famous Asian person originated from. Despite the booze, the guests were visibly uncomfortable with the topics and succumbed to some awkward pauses. Sykes, however, was perfectly at ease, and almost thrived on the tension that resulted from people being pushed beyond their comfort zones. Stirring the pot is what she does best, and conversations with her guests are no exception.