While her new weekly Fox variety show officially debuts at 11 p.m. Saturday, comedian Wanda Sykes hasn’t necessarily joined the late-night wars, which are generally fought on weeknights by programs running four or five nights a week.
But in a year in which a number of minority comedians, George Lopez and Monique included, are breaking down the traditional white-male hegemony of the late-night format, Sykes’ modest new one-day-a-week endeavor has captured plenty of attention.
What’s the format? Who’s going to be on it? Will it be serious or light? Sykes did a conference call with TV journalist last week. Here are some of the points that were covered.
What is the show going to be like?
We’re not doing the typical interview with the celebrity, “Hey, tell us about your new movie.” We’re throwing them in on the panel. We’ll talk about current topics or it could be pop culture or maybe something’s bugging somebody that night and we’ll have more like a group discussion on the subject.
Sounds like HBO’s ‘Real Time with Bill Maher.’
We will have a panel discussion similar to Bill Maher, but it won’t be as, I should say, as serious, not as confrontational.
But that’s not to say Sykes won’t express opinions on serious issues. The comedian, whose been out for some time, has this to say when asked about a recent vote in Maine that outlawed gay marriage:
Oh, well, what went on is the same thing that happened here in California. All the propaganda of “the gays are coming, gay marriage, and they’re going to indoctrinate your kids” and all that crap. I believe that eventually this is going to get to the highest court and they’re going to have to determine that the majority cannot vote to take away a minority’s civil right. It’s the separation of church and state.
She will have a monologue.
I will do a monologue, but it’s not going to be just a string of random jokes. I want it to feel like a live standup performance, so it’ll be more concentrated on one area.
She’ll have her own version of Andy Richter.
I will have a sidekick, Keith Robinson, one of my closest friends. I’ve known him for over 20 years; he’s very funny. He will be like my co-host.
While Leno’s monologues will take aim at President Obama, Sykes will probably give the Commander and Chief a pass.
Everybody’s picking on the president, but it’s been only a year since he’s been elected, and it seems like the man can’t do anything right. Everything he does, people find some fault with him. I’ll talk about that.
Meanwhile, Sykes will probably continue to hammer away at a certain ex-president.
I love to blame Bush, yes, let’s stick that on him, let’s blame Bush.
Speaking weighty issues, Sykes also addressed the entry of three minority-hosted talk shows into the late night arena. She doesn’t think it’s a big deal.
I believe all these shows are driven by the host. So Letterman is the only one who could do the Letterman Show. That goes for all of us. Yes, George (Lopez) is minority and so am I, but it’s basically not what you’re getting from a minority, it’s us. George has been at this for 20-plus years, and so have I. We’re seasoned comedians, and I think that’s what we’re going to bring to it. Dave Letterman, he brings his, “I’m from Indiana” point of view, and Jay brings his, “I’m Italian.” I think that’s where it is, it’s host driven, so it’s going to be more our personality and not just, “Oh, here’s, now you’re finally going to get the voice of a black woman.” I mean, yes, I’ a black woman, but I don’t speak for all black women.
Of course, Sykes was asked about her initial guest roster.
We’ll get Chris Rock, and if I can track down Dave Chappelle, I’ll get him to come by… Jane Fonda. Actually, the first guest, one of our first panel guest, Mary Lynn Rajskub, I worked with her on the show called the ‘Downer Channel’ back in the day on NBC. I’m just happy that we both survived and that we’re still employed. I’m sure we’ll toast to that on Saturday night.
Yes, there will be drinking on the show.
I will probably start out with a little bit of vodka and club soda, yes. If you spill it, you won’t have a problem with the wardrobe. And then there will be the aftershow drink. If we have a great show, then I’ll probably do a couple of shots of Patrón. Actually, you know what, and even if the show doesn’t go well, then I’ll have more shots of Patrón.