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Wanda Sykes: I'ma Be Me (2009)

HBO Home Video
DVD Released: 2/2/2010

All Ratings out of
Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/26/2010

The funny thing about celebrity is that we often think that we know people. Granted, we do have some insight into the lives of those who are constantly in the gossip column, but it's also far too easy to confuse acting, and worse typecasting with a clear picture of a person's personality. This could easily be the case with Wanda Sykes.

For years, Sykes has made a career of being the "sassy black woman" character in multiple movies and TV shows. While this may sound harsh, it's true. While she's always a cut above the typical "You go girl!" sidekick, Sykes is often relegated to the same role: she is the only rational person in a situation containing a group of ignorant people (who are usual all white). To be honest, I've always found Sykes amusing in these roles, and I never wondered if there was more to her. (Although, given her work on The Chris Rock Show, I should have known that there was more than meets the eye.

For a look at the real Wanda Sykes (or at least, a more realistice Wanda Sykes), one must check out her stand-up act. Her latest performance comes to us from HBO Home Video. Entitled, "I'ma Be Me", this is 90-minutes of Sykes speaking her mind. As opposed to existential or overly dry humor, Sykes comedy is vey observational and personal. She talks about her views on President Obama and how having a black president has changed her behavior. She openly discusses coming out as a lesbian, her relationship with her wife, and her infant children. She touches on gender differences and race as well.

I'd seen Sykes' stand up in snippets before, but this was the first time that I'd seen an entire concert. Now that I've had time to think about this special, it's not surprising that Sykes worked with Chris Rock on his ground-breaking HBO series, as their comedy styles are very similar. Both comedians manage to simultaneously aim their comedy at the lowest common denominator, while also including very clever and creative jokes for those who enjoy something more intellectual. Sykes is very frank in her performance -- I wouldn't go as far as to call it crude, but the show is laced with profanity and sexual references -- and for those who like more "base" humor, they will find plenty to love here. But, nearly every joke has a second joke which is the true capper, and this second joke is usually something very insightful. To quote Eddie Murphy, "Nobody wants to see a curse show." Wanda shows that being shocking is easy, it's the intelligent joke which is the killer. Also like Rock, Sykes isn't afraid to be outspoken with her views on race and her definition of reverse racism was hysterical.

While it's great that HBO Home Video decided to show us the entire special, at 90 minutes, this runs a bit long, and it does drag at times. (I wound up watching this in too sittings.) However, this was also one of the most satisfying stand-up routines that I'd seen in a while. Wanda Sykes is that rare comic which can appeal to many audiences. Her topics are familiar, her delivery is impeccable and again, the second joke seals the deal.

Wanda Sykes: I'ma Be Me has odd ideas about cremation on DVD courtesy of HBO Home Video. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The show was apparently shot with HD cameras, as the image is very sharp and clear, showing no grains or defects from the source material. The crispness of the image provides a lot of detail and the colors look good. Sykes complexion is never waxy and there's no blurring or artifacting here. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which sounds very good. Sykes always comes through clearly and is never drowned-out by the applause of the crowd. The crowd noise is nicely distributed to the rear speakers while Sykes comes from the front channel.

There are no extras on this DVD.

Review Copyright 2010 by Mike Long