Comedy isn’t just the best medicine—sometimes it’s our greatest weapon: In 2008, comedian Wanda Sykes—known equally for her acerbic standup and for tearing into neurotic Larry David on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm—came out publicly during an anti-Proposition 8 rally. She also revealed that she had legally married her wife, Alexandra, in California prior to Prop 8’s passage. “We’re in love and we want to spend the rest of our lives together,” she told The Advocate in 2009. “That’s why you get married.”
Raised in Washington, D.C., Sykes first hit the standup circuit in the late ’80s. As part of The Chris Rock Show’s writing team, she won a 1999 Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Special. Sykes landed recurring roles on TV shows The New Adventures of Old Christine, Curb, and her own 2003 sitcom, Wanda At Large, and in 2009, a namesake late-night talk show.
After coming out, Sykes, 47, incorporated her sexuality—and headlines affecting the queer community—into her comedy. Already popular with black audiences from her standup and film and television roles, she’s able to reach people who may not connect with Ellen or Rosie, and use humor to illustrate the links between minority groups.
Sykes has also dedicate time to numerous LGBT causes: In 2010, she was honored with GLAAD’s Stephen F. Kolzak Award for making a difference through her visibility. “I’m very humbled,” she shared with the audience. “Just being able to be out and open and free and be able to say thank you to my wife… I love you baby, you mean the world to me. I’m telling you, it is love and being honest that’s gonna win hearts and minds. That’s where it is.”
Ain’t nothing funny about that.
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Photos: Jemal Countess, HBO