There is no mistaking the unique sounding voice of out superstar comedy legend Wanda Sykes.
When I told Wanda Sykes during an interview some years ago that listening to her voice one-on-one is surreal, she replied, “I didn’t know I had a unique voice for many years, but I did know it sounded different when I was a kid. My mother wanted me to change my voice. She’d say, ‘You have to do something about your voice! It doesn’t sound pretty! Listen to all the other kids, they sound nice, and then there’s you!’ I had no idea how I could change my voice. So I was always worried I had an ugly voice. I was an adult before I found out people liked my voice when I did stand-up or animated roles. I’m glad I never had any work done on my vocal chords. It’s kind of paying off for me. People love my voice and that’s cool.”
The veteran star of film and television recently premiered her new comedy special Wanda Sykes: Not Normal on Netflix, and won raves for her portrayal of Louise Jefferson in a live ABC special recreating the pilot for the classic Norman Lear sitcom The Jeffersons.
The proudly out Sykes also doesn’t shy away from speaking her truth. When I asked about her biracial family – she married her wife Alex in 2008, and their twins Lucas and Olivia were born in 2009 – she said, “I talk about it a lot in my act, it’s just odd because I’m this strong black woman with historically black roots and all, I went to a historically black college and now I have a white wife and two white kids. I realize when I look around, I wonder, ‘How did all these white people end up in my house? What the hell did I do!’ Then again, my kids are so colour blind, you realize that’s how we’re supposed to be. When they are born, kids look at people as people. They don’t categorize like we do.”
Listening to Wanda Sykes is always insightful and entertaining, and the comedy legend returns to Montreal to host her July 26 Wanda Sykes Gala at the 37th edition of the Just For Laughs Festival, which runs July 10 to 28.
Here are some other queer comics appearing at this year’s edition of the Just For Laughs Festival:
Netflix Queer Eye breakout star Jonathan Van Ness returns to Montreal to host his very own star-studded Just For Laughs Gala on July 28. The charismatic, Emmy-nominated television personality, grooming expert and podcaster really took it to the next level in 2018 when his podcast Getting Curious was ranked one of the Top Podcasts of 2018 by Time Magazine, and recently won the iHeart Radio Award for Best LGBTQ Podcast. Turns out Van Ness is a comedy natural.
Stand-up comic Cameron Esposito’s comedy album Same Sex Symbol debuted at #1 on the iTunes comedy charts, she hosts her own stand-up show, Put Your Hands Together, every Tuesday night at the famed Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles, and now she brings her new comedy show Separately – about gay divorce – to the intimate Theatre Ste. Catherine from July 18 to 24.
Since her TV debut on NBC’s Last Comic Standing in 2010, Fortune Feimster has become one of America’s top LGBTQ comedians. Feimster packed them in for her solo show at Just For Laughs last summer, and returns to host her Sincerely Fortune podcast on July 26, part of the popular JFL Podcast Series.
Fearless and uber-queer NYC comic Matteo Lane (“I used to come onstage and sing in a falsetto!”) returns to Just For Laughs after making a big splash in The Ethnic Show last summer when he was the July’s Fugues magazine cover boy. As Lane explained to me, “I just wanted to be onstage and tell jokes. It doesn’t matter if you’re green and from Mars, just work hard and tell funny jokes.”
This time around Lane joins his longtime stand-up partner Emma Willmann for their hugely popular podcast Inside The Closet (July 27, also part of the JFL Podcast Series) where they share their experiences of being queer comics in mainstream culture, plus they co-headline their OFF-JFL stand-up comedy show Double Threat at Theatre Ste. Catherine from July 18 to 24.
The R-rated 100-minute revue She The People is performed by the fearlessly funny women of Toronto’s famed Second City Toronto comedy troupe, lampooning patriarchy in our #MeToo era. Hailed by the critics and LGBTQ audiences, She The People has become the toast of Toronto, and makes it Montreal debut at the Centaur Theatre from July 22 to 27. Brooklyn-born and Montreal-raised stand-up comic and writer Robby Hoffman now divides her time between New York and Los Angeles. In 2018, Robby was named one of Comedy Central’s UP NEXT comedians and on Conan O’Brien’s Comics to Watch list, and she has won a Daytime Emmy Award for her writing work on Odd Squad (PBS). Before leaving Montreal a few years ago, Hoffman told me the reason the city was a great breeding ground for lesbian comics was because “we don’t have as much prejudice as in other cities. Montrealers just love good art.” It’s terrific to see Hoffman return home to co-star in JFL’s hugely popular The Ethnic Show series, which runs at Club Soda from July 10 to 25.
Winnipeg comedian Chanty Marostica – the first Trans person to win Sirius XM’s “Top Comic” Competition, in 2018 – headlines the Montreal Improv for three much-anticipated shows, July 23 to 25 at 7:30 pm nightly.
Montreal’s very own Tranna Wintour will reprise her acclaimed solo comedy show Dear Alanis: A So-Called Musical Comedy at Café Cleopatra on July 20.
Kickass Montreal drag troupe House of Laureen presents their Comedy Queens revue on Just For Laughs’ free outdoor Loto-Québec stage on July 18 at 10 pm, while Montreal drag queen Crystal Slippers and comedian Thomas Leblanc co-star in the free outdoor Just For Laughs edition of the monthly cabaret Crystal Palace which will feature guests Phoenix Inana, Maxine Segalowitz and Charli Deville, showcasing comedy, drag and burlesque, also on the Loto-Québec stage, July 19 at 10 pm.
Last but not least, straight from New York, acclaimed queer comics Matt Rogers and Dave Mizzoni host their hugely popular Gayme Show which is a game show and crash course about all things LGBTQ and fabulous. Mizzoni and Rogers put two straight male comedians to the test in head-to-head challenges to uncover which will be named “Honourarily Gay As Fuck” and “Queen of the Straights.” The Gayme Show runs two nights on the free outdoor Loto-Québec stage, on July 26 and 27 at 10 pm nightly.