Wanda Sykes may be known to most of America as Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ pal on The New Adventures of Old Christine, but at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, she re-established herself as a mow-‘em-down stand-up comic. This was the annual evening of joking in front of an audience of media types that range from print reporters to celebs (ooh, there’s Kate Walsh! Mariska Hargitay! OMG: Sting!). In the recent past, Stephen Colbert performed an artful evisceration of President Bush using his Colbert Report persona.
Sykes dropped her sitcom impishness and was all-Wanda, all the time. In the line that drew gasps from the posh crowd, she attacked Rush Limbaugh for saying he hoped the President’s policies would fail. “That’s treason,” she said. “That’s not saying anything different from what Osama bin Laden is saying… I think maybe Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker but he was so strung out on Oxycontin he missed his flight.” Yow. “Too much?” she asked rhetorically.
Sykes lauded Obama as “the first black President–unless you screw up. Then it’s ‘What’s up with the half-white guy?’ ‘Who voted for the mulatto?'” Saying he was “so accessible, rappers give you their demos,” Sykes established a thoroughly irreverent tone. Warming up, Sykes ragged on Vice President Joe Biden’s chattiness by suggesting he’d give away state secrets if captured by terrorists.
But Sykes reserved her most jagged-edged material for nattering nabobs of negativity such as Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Referring to Hannity’s offer to be waterboarded, she scoffed, “I can break Sean Hannity just by giving him a middle seat in coach.”
Wanda Sykes had a strong opening act: President Obama killed, as comedians like to say, in his own lead-in routine. He said Dick Cheney was busy working on his memoirs, “tentatively titled How To Shoot Friends And Interrogate People.” He made a series of “In the next hundred days… ” jokes the way David Letterman rattles off “It was so hot out today… ” yuks. “In the next hundred days,” Obama said, “I will strongly consider losing my cool.” Indeed, the President exuded a Johnny Carson-like aplomb in delivering his lines, chuckling at some of the punchlines as though he appreciated how well his joke-writers’ material was going over.
Afterward, over on MSNBC (which aired the event along with C-SPAN), there was some post-dinner analysis among fuddy-duddies including Pat Buchanan. The panelists said the President and Sykes’ jokes were “very, very crude on the Republicans.” Tidy up that grammar and the point was accurate. Is this the way the dinner’s humor is going to play out in the media in the days ahead? If so, good. Sykes was both brutal, and brutally funny.
Did you watch? What did you think?