Elevate Difference

I'ma Be Me

In her first HBO comedy special since 2006's Sick & Tired, Wanda Sykes’ I'ma Be Me promises from the outset that she is "not holding anything back." This is a promise she works assiduously to keep throughout the show. Sykes uses her acerbic wit to deliver gleanings on topics as disparate as the pervasive tendency toward conformity to the majority ethnicity ("white people are looking at you!") to the constant and imprudent demands of appetite ("Esther Roll and the love of bread and alcohol") to the odd prevalence of erectile dysfunction medications and the gender disparity indicated within the pharmaceutical industry, which Sykes presents as "proof men rule the world [because] when the dick breaks...it gets fixed fast."

Sykes is without a doubt a funny and unfailingly perceptive comedian, as my sore gut can attest., and I laughed quite frequently during the sixty-minute show. Even more so, Sykes is a keen observer of national affairs in the midst of change—a change so frenetic that, even when the mode of such change is within our grasp, we sometimes reel in equal parts wonder and shock at what we, a supposedly humble people, have achieved. Sykes speaks of the intense pressure on President Barack Obama not simply because he is "the man that has to rescue a country that was abused by its previous owner," but also in being a purported representative of all African Americans. She speaks to the difficulty of his being a mantle to carry the combined weight of an entire ethnic group's dignity. Sykes also points to the critical portrayal of the new Associate Justice's pride in being Puerto Rican during Sotomayor's confirmation hearings, finding that "the only time your race is not questioned is when you are a white man."

Besides such cutting and prescient political observations, what also makes I'ma Be Me so poignant for me—as someone who shares two qualities with Sykes: ethnicity and sexual orientation—were the windows she opened into her own recent life experiences. I sighed with her when she mentioned the bittersweet feeling of elation at Obama's election being tempered by disappointment at California's passage of Proposition 8. Her marriage to her wife Alex and the birth of twins were also mentioned, allowing another view into the truly beautiful and normal life of a same-sex household since many of the issues Wanda and Alex deal with are the same that John and Alice down the street will face.

Sykes is as incisive as she is clever. She allows us to laugh as we also explore not merely the current events of the nation, but the current events of this comedian. I, for one, eagerly anticipate the next chapter of both.

I'ma Be Me premieres Saturday, October 10th at 10PM ET/PT on HBO.

Written by: Brandon Copeland, October 9th 2009