I've already discussed my deep affection for Wanda Sykes. You can check it out here if you want. It's short. And okay, here too.
I don't watch a lot of TV if you disregard my newfound passion for Wife Swap which I watch while I am giving Owen his early afternoon bottle. Yeah, Wife Swap. You wanna say something about that? Go ahead. I'll meet you in the parking lot. Bring your hair brush. (I totally stole that from Lis Williamson- thanks, honey!)
Anyway, last night I was eating a late-night bowl of soup and flipping through the channels and there was my girlfriend (of the mind), Wanda Sykes on her HBO special, I'ma Be Me. I sat there and watched the whole thing and laughed so hard that I was snorting and Mr. Moon complained that he couldn't nap in his chair because I was keeping him awake.
I couldn't help it. I just could not help it.
A good comedian is far more of a thinker and a message-bringer than anyone of us probably realizes. Think back to Richard Pryor. Think back to Roseanne. Think of Robbin Williams and please think of Wanda Sykes. Comedians, good comedians, make us laugh while they're making us think. They make us spit and snort with laughter while they're talking about the toughest things people can talk about.
I realized while I was watching last night that if it's hard to be a man comedian, it has got to be a thousand times harder to be a good woman comedian. Women in our culture are supposed to be, well, lady-like. Let's face it- it's true. And any woman who has the gall (balls?) to act more like a man is allowed to act is frequently reviled. Go ask Hillary Clinton if you don't believe me. Ask Roseanne if you don't believe me. Go back and think if Phyllis Diller and Fanny Brice.
Robbin Williams and Richard Pryor could be vulgar until the cows came home and people would just shake their heads and smile. Roseanne comes out with a "motherfucker" and they want to call HRS on her ass- she's a mother! Mother's aren't supposed to talk like that.
Well guess what? Mothers do.
And here's Wanda Sykes. She's a woman. She's black and gay and married. She's the mother of twins. And in her show last night she said that of all the things she is, being gay is the most difficult. By law, at least, a black woman is allowed to do anything anyone else can do....unless she's gay and wants to marry the woman she loves.
She said you never have to sit your parents down and say, "Mom, Dad, I need to tell you something. I'm...black."
No. That rarely happens. But a child (or a grown man or woman) who is gay invariably has to go through that very ritual. And trembles as he or she does. No matter how liberal or open-minded parents are, it can come as a shock to hear that a son or daughter is gay. Hey- Cher had a hard time with the fact that Chastity is now Chaz! Cher! The biggest gay icon in the known universe! So okay, transgendered is not the same as gay but you get my drift. A gay person has to ask for acceptance from everyone from her parents to her bosses to her peers to her co-workers to her church. And why? Because gay folks not only don't have the respect they should in our society, they don't even have the civil rights. That's just the plain truth. They do not have the rights us "straight" people have.
As Wanda said in her special, when we elected a (half) black president she felt like she'd slid up on the scale of society. Then Prop 8 got voted in and she was down below where she started. But it felt good to get it all out on the table, her gayness, her wife, her life.
She talked about everything from getting a bikini wax to rearranging the furniture to try and make her two-month old daughter quit crying. She talked about organ donation and she talked about our president and his wife. She talked about her stomach which she has named Esther and who does not like to be covered up in Spanx. She talked about Viagra. Oh, did she ever talk about Viagra. And I'm sorry- that was the part I laughed at the most and which Mr. Moon probably appreciated the least.
She demonstrated how an old lady, married for fifty or sixty years does the Dick-Done-Broke happy dance when finally the dick breaks. She's so happy. She can clean out the bedside table drawer of the lubes and put in her crossword puzzles. And then, the old man comes home with a little blue pill and she just caves in on herself and faces the fact that the dick ain't never gonna break. How when men have a problem with their dicks, that problem gets FIXED, while meanwhile, women are still dying of breast cancer.
She talked about how when she was going to do the Presidential Dinner for Obama, her agent told her she could not say either "fuck" or "nigger." And she said, quite indignantly, "You think I'd say those two words to our president?" And then she had to spend an hour rewriting her speech.
Ah, she talked about it all. And because the fool is cherished throughout history, the fool can say anything to the king because after all...he's just the fool. And so it goes and so it is that we love the fools who can and will say anything, risking their dignity and their fears to speak the truth and make us laugh when they say it. And make us think while we're laughing.
And if you're a woman- you risk being called vulgar and bitchy and butchy and mean while you do all of that but I think society needs the fools as much as they need the kings. Maybe more. If Richard Pryor wasn't a saint, I don't know who could be.
And I think Wanda Sykes is as saintly as St. Richard. If you get a chance, watch the HBO special. Settle back and be prepared to spit your beverage out of your nose. But don't just laugh- listen. Because she's speaking some powerful truths about what it's like to be an American, to be black, to be a woman, to be a mother, to be gay, to be married.
She can be your girlfriend, too. I'm generous that way. I say- share the love.
Share the truth. Share the laughter. Share the message.
And in my next lifetime (are you listening oh you gods of reincarnation?) I want to have the balls and the brains to be a comedian too. Go ahead. Make me whatever kind of human being you want- just give me what it takes to stand up there and be honest and make people laugh so hard while I'm doing it that their stomachs hurt the next day. To speak the truth and fear no man. Or church or government or prissy people who can't take the truth and want everything they hear to come out sounding like vanilla ice cream when sometimes what we all need is a good spicy dose of jalapeno. Or even habanero.
I'd rather be a fool than a lady.
And I guess that's the message from the Church of the Batshit Crazy on a Sunday morning in January. But if you want to hear a really good sermon, watch that special.
Amen and praise the Wanda.