January 24, 2023

Wanda Sykes, guest-hosting on "The Daily Show."

She goes after Biden and she goes after Trump.

Most interesting to me was something that wasn't a joke — before becoming a stand-up comedian, she worked for the NSA for 7 years. I had to look it up to make sure it was not a joke. Wikipedia: 

Her mother, Marion Louise (née Peoples), worked as a banker, and her father, Harry Ellsworth Sykes, was a U.S. Army colonel employed at the Pentagon.... Her ancestry was traced back to a 1683 court case involving her ancestor, Elizabeth Banks, a free white woman and indentured servant, who gave birth to a biracial child, Mary Banks, fathered by a slave, who inherited her mother's free status.

According to historian Ira Berlin, a specialist in the history of American slavery, the Sykes family history is "the only such case that I know of in which it is possible to trace a black family rooted in freedom from the late 17th century to the present."...

After college, her first job was as a contracting specialist at the National Security Agency, where she worked for five years....

Five? She said seven. Wikipedia links to this article at Washingtonian:

Before trading in her government badge for a comedy career, Sykes worked as a procurement officer at the National Security Agency in the 1980s and early ’90s. Or at least that’s what she says she did for the supersecret NSA, where, she admits, she had a high-level clearance....

"My dad was in the Army. My mom worked at the credit union over at NSA. After I graduated from Hampton University, I moved back home to Maryland and tried a few things, like retail management, and realized that really wasn’t going anywhere.  So I took the test to get a job over at NSA and ended up being a contracting specialist, which meant I shopped, but instead of buying shoes, I bought spy equipment. That was the closest thing in government that I could do to use my marketing degree...  Honestly, I bought things. From furniture all the way up to, you know, intel equipment. Some of the things we did were pretty cool.... just making something that’s not a piece of spy equipment look like something else. You know, if you put it on top of a building, it would just look like some part.... It was just everyday government employees doing a job.... I guess maybe the CIA seems more glamorous because it’s actually people collecting information. At NSA, it’s more equipment collecting information. The job was pretty boring. Every now and then you get a cool project to work on, but mainly it was “Oh, okay, this guy has a bad back; he needs a special orthopedic chair. Well, I need a note from your doctor saying you need a special chair. Okay, now I can order you your special chair.” It was a lot of that. So after five years I was bored silly.... So there aren’t really a lot of jokes. It was 9 to 5. It wasn’t that exciting, but what we did was very important work. I wish I had some cool spy stories to tell you—that I had to crawl through some laser beams and some Tom Cruise, Mission: Impossible stuff and I was hanging from the ceiling. But nope—I was just sitting behind my desk.

Asked if there's "a sense of humor in the spy business," she said:

"It was regular men and women who’ve got their kids’ pictures up in the cubicle, and we go to lunch, we had baby showers in the office. The thing that cracked me up, though, you could tell the short-timers who were retiring soon, because they were always reading the paper at their desks and leaving exactly at quitting time. And it seemed like everyone had a side job—a lot of Avon and Mary Kay ladies.

So, I'm guessing, no human-size snow globes and rodeo sheep. I presume these government offices are free of bosses/owners who believe in some shared camaraderie built on fun. Government should be fun. No one has every tried that... or am I forgetting something? Some dangerous dictator somewhere who decided government needed to be fun?

50 comments:

RideSpaceMountain said...

"Government should be fun."

That's an order!

Saint Croix said...

ha ha ha

I got no comment, just laughing

great post

wild chicken said...

she's funny af, really like her

Enigma said...

@Althouse: "I presume these government offices are free of bosses/owners who believe in some shared camaraderie built on fun. Government should be fun. No one has every tried that... or am I forgetting something? Some dangerous dictator somewhere who decided government needed to be fun?"

What happened? Federal agencies used to have conventions in Las Vegas...it didn't end well back in 2010.

https://www.cnn.com/2012/04/16/politics/gsa-hearing/index.html

hombre said...

"I had to look it up to make sure it was not a joke."

Which was not a joke, that she worked for NSA or NSA itself?

MadisonMan said...

She strikes me as a normal person with a good sense of humor.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

Our government has a hard time with fun. The last serious mention of it I can recall is Nancy Pelosi bragging about how losing your income and becoming a ward of the State should be called "funemployment." I believe it was in the Obama era, during one of the eight "Recovery Summers" his admin enjoyed, and the spinning was thick to gaslight the public about how things were just not gonna be the same in the "new normal."

So yeah, government is not and should not be fun. Forcibly extracting hard-earned income from some people to lavish it on others and utterly waste the rest on bullshit shouldn't be fun in any way, but that's a decidedly conservative to libertarianish way of thinking I admit.

tim maguire said...

Comedy Central videos don't play outside the US, so I'll have to take your word for it, but she sounds like a really interesting person. I suppose I can forgive the Trump jokes as the price of being on TV, but it's pretty courageous that she told some Biden jokes. Or would have been 2 weeks ago. Maybe less courageous today.

Saint Croix said...

ha ha

so I read Althouse's excellent commentary

and now, with that knowledge, I start to watch the Wanda Sykes clip.

She starts off attacking Joe Biden!

Usually I feel like the comic attacks the Republican, and then does some half-hearted "I am so fair" joke about Obama's basketball game, or some damn thing.

No.

She nails Biden. That is a dagger in the ribs!

Saint Croix said...

So now I'm asking myself the question...

Why is Wanda Sykes going after Joe Biden so hard?

And then I put 2 + 2 together.

She's still working for NSA!

And the NSA wants Kamala Harris in the White House!

Saint Croix said...

Wanda Sykes, you are a sneaky fucking spy.

We are not impeaching Joe Biden! I don't care how many invisible handshakes that doddering old man does. He hasn't destroyed the world yet and he can fart fart fart for two more years, hopefully.

Personally I think we should impeach some of the fuckers around him. Impeach the attorney general, that's obvious. Impeach the head of the FBI, because he's a Republican, and that would be funny as shit. And impeach Kamala Harris, just for shits and giggles.

Yeah, that's right, you fucked up the border, Kamala! What a useless vice president.

rcocean said...

I used to like Sykes when she first came on the scene. Then, like a lot of comics, she began to repeat herself, & her shtick got tired. This was followed by her becoming more and more raunchy and political.

The people who run Comedy central aren't stupid. They're willing to take a few feeble jabs at the Democrats while pulvarizing the Republicans. That way, morons will say "They attack BOTH sides".

rcocean said...

My experience in large organization:

Engineering/Finance/Contracts/Accounting = No Fun Zone

Lem Former Twitter Aficionado said...

She could be funnier, if she would take more chances and not play it safe most of the time.

RBE said...

I doubt she is telling the truth or at least down-playing her role. She is very funny but her high velocity hatred of Trump in her routines made me avoid watching her on TV and I haven't missed her at all.

rrsafety said...

A contracting specialist is a brutally boring job that is indistinguishable from one agency to another. Doing it for the NSA is not more interesting than doing it for the Farm Bureau.

Joe Smith said...

So not funny as a person.

Perfect example of someone who would be a zero in entertainment if not a black lesbian.

Lem Former Twitter Aficionado said...

Then again, she would not guest host a show if she was more edgy.

Sebastian said...

"they were always reading the paper at their desks and leaving exactly at quitting time. And it seemed like everyone had a side job—a lot of Avon and Mary Kay ladies."

Government work. Keeping the nation safe.

"Government should be fun."

It is. Every day you go to non-work at taxpayers' expense, read your paper, focus on your side hustle, work on a scheme for a Russian oligarch, maybe watch some porn, knowing you can't be fired, and then return home laughing that you got away with it again. What could be more fun?

Saint Croix said...

Boy, that Trump bit isn't funny at all.

It really is strange that her humor with Biden is razor sharp, and all she can muster about Trump is "awkward."

(I'll hazard a guess that she wrote all the Biden stuff, and then SNL wanted to add a Trump bit for "equality," so she came up with that half-ass shit).

Saint Croix said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MadisonMan said...

I didn't even listen to the Trump bit. But the line about the FBI Decluttering Biden's home now was funny.

Saint Croix said...

I'm actually impressed that Trump accepted the invitation and went to the funeral service.

Lurker21 said...

It was clear that she dislikes Trump more than Biden. Message: Biden is an dotty, amiable old man who could be clever enough to get investigators to do his housework, and Trump isn't comfortable with Black people and if you like him, you ain't Black and ain't doin' African-Americans any good.

I cut out in the oil and gas segment. A damned lot of things we use everyday actually are made from coal, oil and gas, and lame jokes aside, it would be hard to do without them. We could make some of those things out of soybeans, but that would just be setting out treats for mice and rats.

Quaestor said...

"Some dangerous dictator somewhere who decided government needed to be fun?"

Yeah, some dude called Caligula jinxed it for all the subsequent fun-loving dictators.

Butkus51 said...

I used to fix equipment in all the hospitals. Without a doubt VA employess had the most fun. By fun I mean not work.


Saint Croix said...

I used to like Sykes when she first came on the scene. Then, like a lot of comics, she began to repeat herself, & her shtick got tired.

Professional comedy is a strange business!

I watched the documentary Comedian, which featured Jerry Seinfeld and an unknown comic trying to make it.

All of the scenes with Seinfeld were boring and stupid. Seinfeld gave the filmmaker permission to follow him around. But he also made zero attempt to be funny for the camera. So literally all the Seinfeld scenes suck applesauce.

That was probably an inside joke Seinfeld made in his own mind. "This documentary fucker wants to make a movie about me and get all this money off my name without paying me anything. No freebies, jackass!"

I can't emphasize enough how-not funny the Seinfeld scenes are. He's intentionally deadpan and boring in all of them.

So for me, in the audience, trying to watch this damn documentary (which had Seinfeld on the cover, of course!), I was thanking the Lord that the movie also had the no-name struggling comic in it.

He was funny! Explaining why he sucked so bad on the Tonight show.

Anyway, comedians make it look easy. But they spend hours and hours, days and days, weeks and weeks, trying get a good six minutes of material. And they can spend years (a decade!) trying to get a great 60 minutes.

TaeJohnDo said...

rrsafety: "A contracting specialist is a brutally boring job that is indistinguishable from one agency to another. "

Yup. I got into Govt work as a Contract Specialist in US Transportation Command. I was a logistician specialist and was supposed to work on the negotiation team for a HUGE intermodal contract. They lied. I tried for two years to tolerate it. The I spent two years finding a new position, which I did - Operational Test Manager for the C-17. LOVED it. A few years later they made cuts and placed me back into contracting. I bit the bullet, got more certifications, became a Contract Officer and found a supervisory position in a place I wanted to live. I hated the work, enjoyed most of my employees, (We had Fun!) and grew even more jaded about the 'leaders' and bureaucrats in the Govt. I can't tell you how many times I was asked/told to violate Federal Contract Laws. Yes, some are stupid, but I was the one signing the contracts, not them, so I made few friends, even though I could almost always find a legal way to get what they needed. I ended up retiring early and now, as a former Govt civil service, having FUN. (Some people I know enjoy contracting...I could never appreciate that.)

Narayanan said...

thanks professora

finally it is clarity my mind picture -
I had Wanda Sykes and Maya Rudolph merged as one!

Saint Croix said...

Also, when we impeach Kamala

mispronounce her name

like multiple times

like every time

like there's only one way to say it, and it's got to be the wrong way

mispronounce it until the Millennials are screaming and pulling their hair out

James K said...

I'm actually impressed that Trump accepted the invitation and went to the funeral service.

I read somewhere that Trump actually footed the bill for the funeral as well.

Like others, I didn't bother watching more than a few seconds of the Trump bit. Very forced and unfunny (what I saw). Click.

madAsHell said...

Not a fan of Wanda Sykes.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

As Wanda Sykes-Hall she was a great standup in the late 90's and wrote a ton of the Chris Rock show; after she divorced her husband and married her wife she's done more clapter-type humor but still has good timing.
Coincidentally I just read on the wiki for Gary Shandling that his best-known role is a voice on the animated movie Over The Hedge, a movie for which Sykes won an award for her voice work! She was funny on Crank Yankers (portrayed by a puppet) back when it was possible to make an entire comedy show about prank calls.

John henry said...

So does that make her a spook?

Nobody ever really leaves the nsa. And working in procurement would be a good cover for an intelligence operator

John Henry

walter said...

“Rush Limbaugh [says] ‘I hope the country fails.” I hope his kidneys fail. How about that? He needs some waterboarding, that’s what he needs.”

Michael P said...

"I presume these government offices are free of bosses/owners who believe in some shared camaraderie built on fun."

I don't know about those kinds of government offices, but in the 2000's I worked with some federal offices that were as humorless as you suggest. A lot of the atmosphere was driven by spending rules: They could not spend a cent on anything that was not approved by Congress, so they had to fund their own coffee creamer, to say nothing of quotidian fun.

It all reminds me of a line from what may be one of the greatest comedies ever filmed, where a totally deadpan Tommy Lee Jones says "We at the FBI do not have a sense of humor we're aware of."

Rollo said...

Seinfeld's first set on Carson was brilliant, but everybody started doing "observational comedy," and doing it with fresher material, so Seinfeld might as well stay home and count the money as it comes in. The well isn't bottomless. It's like reading a favorite author's notebooks and realizing with disappointment that you already had everything the writer had to give.

Butkus51 said...

The sassy black woman. Thats 80% of the joke.

Sasssssy

Will Cate said...

Not a big fan, but that's some interesting history.

JAORE said...

"Perfect example of someone who would be a zero in entertainment if not a black lesbian."

Nope. Just the opposite. She was a pretty good comedian.... until her material became all about being gay and hating conservatives. See Ellen DeGeneres as another example.

Not that those fields could not yield laughs, but the attempts are so repetitive and lame...

effinayright said...

walter said...
“Rush Limbaugh [says] ‘I hope the country fails.” I hope his kidneys fail. How about that? He needs some waterboarding, that’s what he needs.”
****************

Those are some real red hot thigh-slappers, aren't they...

Of course Limbaugh didn't say that.

He said he hoped Obama failed, failed in his attempts to fundamentally transform America.

Jim at said...

She strikes me as a normal person with a good sense of humor.

A normal person - with a good sense of humor - doesn't wish a painful death on people who don't share her political opinions.

Rocco said...

...Elizabeth Banks, a free white woman and indentured servant...

Was she free or was she indentured? One could not be both. Indentured is a separate class from both Free and Slave. The kindest interpretation of this sentence is that she was a free woman who had formerly been indentured.

Michael K said...

Blogger walter said...

“Rush Limbaugh [says] ‘I hope the country fails.” I hope his kidneys fail. How about that? He needs some waterboarding, that’s what he needs.”


I see that lefty scolds are still misquoting Rush Limbaugh.

Rocco said...

Her ancestry was traced back to a 1683 court case...

Which means her family has been here longer than most. While blacks have been in British North America since 1619, most African Americans are descended from enslaved blacks brought over from 1715-1760/70 or so.

Iman said...

FUNNY NOT FUNNY ✔️

Iman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven Wilson said...

Re: Limbaugh. And it's not like you have the excuse that you misheard Rush's hope that the country failed. He didn't say it just once, he said over and over and over that he hoped Obama failed in his attempt to fundamentally transform America. Unfortunately, I think Obama succeeded beyond even his dreams, but it's a real possibility that the country was transformed before Obama ever took office or he wouldn't have taken office.

mongo said...

Professor Althouse: I presume these government offices are free of bosses/owners who believe in some shared camaraderie built on fun. Government should be fun. No one has every tried that... or am I forgetting something? Some dangerous dictator somewhere who decided government needed to be fun?

I am a retired Federal Civil Servant. My experience with security, law enforcement, and intelligence people was that the first day they showed up for work, they had their sense of humor surgically removed.

Josephbleau said...

There is a book about the black upper class, “Our Kind of People”. She is certainly our kind of people. And passes the notorious brown paper bag test. Spies are traditionally recruited from elite society.