Wanda Sykes has a lot going on these days. In fact, there's enough on her plate to make Paul Prudhomme jealous.
Sykes' collection of comic rants, "Yeah, I Said It," has just been published by Simon & Schuster.
Her half-hour TV show, "Wanda Does It," airs at 10:30 p.m. Tuesdays on Comedy Central. She does regular turns on HBO's "Inside the NFL," and Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
She recently completed filming "Monster-in-Law," starring Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda, which is due in theaters next summer.
Sykes is also in the midst of a national standup road show, "The Cotton T-Shirt Tour," which visits the University at Buffalo's Center for the Arts on Thursday at 8 p.m.
In a phone conversation from Los Angeles, Sykes admitted to being a bit fatigued by her current workload, which involves promoting her projects as well as performing them.
"Once you do the show or get the book written, you think "Great!' But I kind of forget about the selling part of it. But I'm handling it -- I'm ready to go out on tour."
This being campaign season, Sykes will no doubt aim her friendly fire at the presidential candidates. While she is not identified with political satire the way Margaret Cho or Dennis Miller is, lately her work has taken a detour down that path.
"I bash both candidates equally (on stage)," she said. "I'm more of an independent, I vote against the guy who I really don't like, basically."
Her book was mostly written before John Kerry became the Democratic nominee; the only Democrat whom Sykes skewers in print is Bill Clinton. The rest of her barbs are aimed at the incumbent president.
Sykes on one of George W. Bush's cabinet members: "Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser -- I know that was a problem (when she was appointed). Come on now, you know a black woman can't keep no secrets. She was probably at the beauty parlor, just tellin' all of our business. "I can't be here all day. We're bombing Iraq at 2.' "
Sykes spent five years as a writer and performer on HBO's "Chris Rock Show." In 1999 she won an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Special." There's a definite resemblance to Rock's comic attitude; the guess here is that Sykes influenced Rock more than the other way around.
TV critics have praised her Comedy Central program, which is sort of a hybrid between scripted comedy and reality TV. Sykes plays herself trying to work at non-comedy jobs, such as repossessing cars, flying a plane, and being a professional gambler in Las Vegas. The people who teach her the businesses are real, not actors. As with "Curb Your Enthusiasm," the action is mostly improvised.
"There's definitely a resemblance to "Curb,' she said. "It's also like "Spinal Tap' and the stuff that Chris Guest does, too. You don't hear the usual rhythm of a sitcom -- line, line, joke; line, line, joke. People are just talking about the situation, instead of getting a joke out."
Sykes also owns an Emmy for her work on "Inside the NFL." Lately she has been musing about Ricky Williams, the running back who retired suddenly from the Miami Dolphins last summer after failing a drug test. Williams did some traveling, and has recently been making overtures about returning to the NFL. Sykes sees a connection to Williams' alleged fondness for a certain hemp product.
"I think Ricky has smoked around the world. He went to Amsterdam, got the best weed and now he's bored. Or, he spent all his money on weed and now he needs to earn a few dollars."
There's one more medium in which Sykes is performing. She writes a blog on her Web site (www.wandasykes.com/bb/), which also contains message boards for her fans to communicate.
"I read the entries on the Web site. I get a sense of what the fans are thinking. It's a good way to keep in touch -- it's a lot better than showing up at my doorstep."
A few words from Wanda
A sampling of Wanda Sykes' comedy, from her book, "Yeah, I Said It" (Simon & Schuster, $23):
* "I was shocked when we found Saddam Hussein hiding in his filthy hole. . . . When you know people are coming after you, you don't wait around for them. . . . I missed three car payments one time. I knew the repo man was coming. Do you think I parked in my driveway?"
* "There is nothing random about those luggage searches at the airport. You get to the gate, and they're standing there with a Sherman Williams paint chart. If your (butt) is darker than khaki, you're getting searched."
* "I've been to the last three Super Bowls. . . . My one problem there is with all the players who aren't in the game, but are hanging around town. Your season ended a few weeks ago, shouldn't you be hibernating right about now?"
* "I hate answering machines and voice mail. . . . Unfortunately, people tend to feel that an outgoing message gives them license to be creative. Stop irritating people and go buy a clay wheel. . . . If I call to ask you what time the movie starts, I don't want to be serenaded. Just because you broke up with your boyfriend, why do I have to listen to Beyonce?"