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Wanda Sykes: A Funny Thing Happened ...

Wanda Sykes, A Funny Thing Happened

Roger Erickson

"Sometimes I realize I'm not so famous — the kind of not so famous where people recognize me, but don't know who the heck I am,"observes comedian Wanda Sykes.

En español | So a lot of fans know me from Curb Your Enthusiasm, The New Adventures of Old Christine or my stand-up specials. But sometimes I realize I'm not so famous — the kind of not so famous where people recognize me, but don't know who the heck I am.

One time I'm out on the road touring somewhere, and I get on an elevator with a woman who is so excited to see me. She's like, "Oh my God, you're the best. I love you, my family loves you. Can I get a picture with you?"

I say, "Oh, that's so sweet."

"You just made that show," she says. "Everyone liked George, but I thought you were the funniest one."

I think, "What is she talking about?"

"People liked George and Weezy," she goes on, "but you were my favorite, Florence!" She thinks I'm Florence, the maid from The Jeffersons. That actress is about 30 years older than me! But I can't even correct this woman, she's just so sure and so excited, saying, "You really knew how to give it to George!"

I've got Florence twice, and I've got Willona (from Good Times). I'm at the airport and some older man comes over and says, "I want to shake your hand! I love you! When are you going to be back on TV?"

I'm like, "Well, I'm working on a few things …"

His wife comes up to us and he says to her, "Baby, look who I ran into — Willona from Good Times!"

I'm thinking, "This is not happening." I never thought I looked that old. What the hell? She's got to be almost 70 by now. My friend Keith was with me, and I think he called me Willona for the next week.

Then in May I'm at the Gracie Awards Gala in Los Angeles where Deniece Williams performed. After the event, everyone's filing out and I'm taking pictures with people, and this lady comes over and tells me, "I'm such a big fan, you were so good tonight!"

I say, "Thank you, but all I did was get up to accept an award."

Still, she keeps going: "I loved 'Let's Hear it for the Boy,' but I wish you'd sung 'Silly,' because that's one of my favorites."

"What?" I say. "I'm not Deniece Williams!"

The weirdest one? I'm in New Orleans a few years ago shooting the movie The Hot Flashes. A tour bus lets out a whole bunch of people who come over to me wanting to take pictures. One woman stands there watching, and when everyone walks away she goes, "Are you Lenny Kravitz?"

I'm like, "No!" I get the hair but … boobs? Woman? Good grief. This is in broad daylight, by the way. So I just walk away.

But after the shock of it wears off, I'm thinking, "You know, I'll take that. He's sexy."

—As told to Christina Ianzito