Why We Need Comedians Like Wanda Sykes…and More Inclusive Specials

While I was thinking of different movies and shows to choose from, I realized that a lot of my favorite humor has come from stand-up specials and old SNL sketches this past year (and they are about the same length as movies at this point so I consider that long-form). As Netflix and Amazon have been making a more conscious effort to include original stand-ups from womxn and people of color, I’ve watched a lot of them. The comedy realm is yet another world, profession, and space in Hollywood that has become dominated by white cis males over the years. While most people can recognize comedic veterans like Robin Williams, Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, and Colin Jost, a lot would struggle to put a face to names like Chelsea Handler, Tiffany Haddish, Aidy Bryant, Wanda Sykes, Ali Wong, Iliza Shlesinger, Lily Singh, Samantha Bee, Ilana Glazer…and while the list could go on forever. In this sense, I think comedy is one of the most powerful mediums in understanding the human condition. While there is still a long way to go in giving representation to everyone, it gives a voice and a stage to people who might not get one otherwise. We get to hear- and most importantly laugh at- experiences specific to genders/races that are different from us. And stand-up specials adhere to the definition of comedy because they are a form of reflection after a life-changing event where the comedian is a better person afterwards.

Given the current political climate, many comedians have used their shows as a chance to speak out against injustices. They use careful humor as a way to shed light on political issues and encourage people to vote (i.e Ilana Glazer in “The Planet is Burning, and Dave Chapelle in Sticks and Stones). But my favorite example from this past year is Wanda Sykes in her special “Not Normal”. Sykes- a regular on Curb Your Enthusiasm- has spent a lot of her career commenting on politics. She was even the first African American womxn to host the Correspondents Association dinner. Her pushback against Trump is smart, funny, and increasingly relevant. She educates her viewers, and shares a point of view we rarely see in comedy, let alone in Hollywood. As a female of color and a part of the LGBTQ+ community, Sykes has shown how important it is to use a platform of fame wisely and what we can learn from it. This is why we need comedy and it’s also why we need representation; we need to learn about experiences that are different from ours and have alternative outlets of educating ourselves. And we need someone with a platform to call out corrupt politicians like Trump, and humor is a great way to do that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s