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For Wanda Sykes, working at NSA wasn't that funny

Wanda Sykes does it all.

She writes, produces, acts and makes people laugh. She even worked at the National Security Agency before her life as a comedian.

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If you're not careful, she'll take your job and make you laugh while she does it. That's exactly what she does on Comedy Central's Wanda Does It. Every Tuesday she works a different job, from photography and coaching women's basketball to working at a brothel and a Chinese restaurant to show us there's nothing she can't do.

The Emmy Award-winning funny lady known for her work on The Chris Rock Show, Inside the NFL and Curb Your Enthusiasm is super busy. From writing a book (Yeah, I Said It) to filming the big-screen Monster-in-Law, it's amazing that Sykes, 40, has time to be on her national "Cotton T-Shirt Tour."

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The tour stops at the Meyerhoff tomorrow night.

How do you go from working for the government to being one of the funniest people in America?

I just really felt like I was wasting my time, government money and taxpayers' money working that job. I was doing well and getting promoted. But it was not fulfilling, I knew I should be doing something else. I was just listening to radio, and they promoted a comedy talent show. And I said, "I am going to do that."

Were you always funny?

I have always been outspoken, even as a child. I don't know how funny I was. I got all the beatings and stuff. But as I got older in elementary and junior high, I had everybody laughing.

What was your first time on stage like?

It was great. I didn't know what to expect, and I didn't have that much anxiety. I was oblivious to what I was getting into. It was total freedom and fun. It wasn't until I really got into comedy clubs and started seeing what could happen that it got scary and got in my head.

Have you been booed?

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Of course I've been booed. That is just part of it. That's how you know when you really want to do it. There was this one time I was on stage and no one was listening. A card game broke out - you have those nights.

Who were your inspirations?

Probably Moms Mabley; as a kid I watched her on The Ed Sullivan Show. I always watched comedy, except when Roots was on. But when I got older my friend's dad had Richard Pryor records, and we listened to those. I also watched The Carol Burnett Show, I Love Lucy, Joan Rivers on The Tonight Show and Whoopi Goldberg's HBO special.

On your show, Wanda Does It, you try all kinds of jobs; are there any jobs you won't do?

I don't think I would be a critic. I just don't like their job. It's really not a job.

Is there a job you really want to do?

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Minor surgery. I am trying to find a doctor that would let me stitch someone up or cut 'em, stitch 'em up, look around inside. Let me take off a mole. I can take off a mole.

You're always cussing someone out on the show, even a pilot. How much of that is real?

If I can do it and not get arrested, it's real. In the case of the pilot, that wasn't real. But I really like working with real people and not just actors.

Is it true that fans ask you to curse their friends and family members out?

Yes. People will say, "This is my brother on the phone, curse him out." I need something to focus on. People think I am just crazy and curse people out. I am so not that. I am very laid back. They need to give me a reason to curse.

But if given a motive, you'll do it?

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If I have a reason, I can do it, because it's honest. I don't do it if it isn't deserved. They know they screwed up and have it coming when I do it. I get a kick out of speaking up for someone else.

Wanda Sykes' "Cotton T-Shirt Tour" stops at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St., tomorrow night at 8. Tickets are $32.50 and are available through Ticketmaster by calling 410-547-SEAT or visiting www.ticketmaster .com.

For more club events, see Page 26.


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