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Wanda Sykes on Humor and Giving Back: 'If It’s Funny, It’s Funny,' She Tells Strange Fruit


You know you've skirted a line when the White House officially distances itself from a joke you made at the Correspondents' Dinner. Wanda Sykes had that experience after suggesting that Rush Limbaugh was the the 20th hijacker on 9/11 but was too high on Oxycontin to make his flight. She followed it up by saying she hoped his kidneys fail—a play on Limbaugh's statement that he hoped the Obama Administration would fail.

"I kind of regret that I said that," she confessed on this week's show. "It got in the way of the main joke. I hope his kidneys fail—that was like a throwaway line, and I wish I had thrown it away. It overshadowed what my main point was."

Sykes will perform Saturday night at the Louisville Palace. She joined us this week to talk about the fine line between edginess and offensiveness. We also talked about her charity work with the Ruth Ellis Center, a shelter for homeless LGBTQ youth in Detroit.

We also talked about her famous sketch, imagining what it would be like if she's had to "come out" as black, like she did as a lesbian. Some of the parental reactions she enacts in the routine reflect her own family's response when she came out of the closet.

"It was really hard," Sykes tells us. "It was hard for them. But I couldn't blame them or shut them off or anything, because it took me 40-something years to figure it our myself, so obviously I had a hard time dealing with it too

"At the bottom line is, they love me and I love them, and over time we worked through it, and now we have a great relationship."

We were also joined this week by hip-hop scholar and writing professor Mickey Hess, who just completed a biography of Wu-Tang Clan co-founder Ol' Dirty Bastard—co-authored with Dirty's best friend, Buddha Monk. He described the challenges of co-writing the story with someone who was so personally involved in it.

And in Juicy Fruit, we talk about the viral Church of God in Christ video of a man claiming the Holy Spirit has made him not gay, and the similarities between some religious tactics and conversion therapy (which is banned in some places).

We also shout out LaVerne Cox, who was just named Glamour Magazine's Woman of the Year!

Strange Fruit can now be heard on 89.3 WFPL in Louisville (and live streaming at  wfpl.org) on Saturday nights at 10 p.m.

Laura is LPM's Director of Podcasts & Special Projects. Email Laura at lellis@lpm.org.