Wanda Sykes first came to a lot of folks' attention on Chris Rock's hysterical HBO show playing some really memorable characters. Her sassy body language, squeaky voice and mischievous smile made her a standout performer with the ability to steal the screen from the show's star. She's had solo shows and sitcom success since then, including Wanda Sykes: Tongue Untied, a stand-up comedy show originally aired on Comedy Central. Wanda doesn't necessarily discover any new topics in this routine - she covers airport security, post-9/11 jitters, the differences between men and women - but she's got such a lively, winning persona that she can sell even the oldest jokes, like a stale Indian accent for airport security. Mostly, however, her material is pretty fresh and she takes it in fun directions. Wanda on what Bush knew before 9/11: "He didn't know a damn thing. Remember, he didn't even get smart until after 9/11!" Wanda on avoiding the stock market: "I put all my money in weed. Cuz the price of weed never goes down." Wanda on Los Angeles: "I hate all that damn driving cuz it interferes with my drinking."
She's got just the right amount of attitude to still come off as a sweetie. Her riff on Condoleeza Rice giving away national security secrets at the beauty parlor or on how women's minds are always busy obsessing about the most random thoughts are perfect. She also lets a hint of real emotion creep into her material. When she gives a curse-filled rant that she wishes the Pope would use on pedophile priests she sounds genuinely pissed, as she does when discussing a patronizing sitcom idea a producer once pitched to her. Like the best stand-ups she's honest and her material comes from the heart.
If there is a flaw to this program it's that Comedy Central has left the commercial breaks in. Anyone who's watched the network knows that they run commercials seemingly every thirty seconds and the flow of Wanda's show is pretty seriously interrupted. It would have been nice if her entire show were represented here instead of just the TV version. Still, it's funny and insightful and shows Wanda to be a comic to keep an eye on.
The disc also includes an appearance by Wanda on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart promoting Down to Earth, not necessarily the most memorable stop on her resume. Still, Jon and Wanda are great together.
The big extra feature is an episode of Comedy Central Presents Wanda Sykes Hall, an early stand-up special starring Wanda (who else?) She does some excellent riffing on a feminist benefit show she'd done as well as some great jokes calling Clinton "an idiot" and Monica Lewinsky "Miss nasty-ass."
There are also three Comedy Central Quickies including a Trading Spaces spoof from Dave Chappelle featuring wife-swapping (of course)and a Crank Yankers segment with Wanda calling a hardware store for help getting unglued from a toilet seat. They're hit-and-miss.