Wanda Sykes, this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner after-dinner entertainer, used to work at America’s top intelligence agency, with access to some of the United States’ most dear secrets. While the WHC Insider cannot confirm she was an actual spy, she has confirmed that she was a National Security Agency employee.
The stand-up comedian known for her in-your-face and sometimes raunchy sense of humor once worked at the super-secret NSA, the signals intelligence operation located in Maryland, just north of Washington. (You know, the one that can listen in on your phone calls without a warrant?) We wonder if Wanda ever took a ride on any of these aircraft in the NSA official photo gallery.
She was a procurement officer — probably a good fit for a then fresh-out-of-college marketing major, but not exactly a launching pad for a stand-up career. What does she say about her stint in government service? “There was not a lot of funny stuff going on over there,” Sykes told the Las Vegas Sun. “A lot of funny business, but not a lot of funny stuff.”
Sykes was born in Portsmouth, VA, in 1964 and raised in the D.C.-Maryland area. Her father, an Army officer, worked at the Pentagon; mom was a banker. She attended Hampton University, and, as she recently told The Advocate, “When you’re in the Maryland-D.C. area, you end up working for the government.”
She started in July 1987. By October, she was ready to start telling jokes to audiences. She entered a local contest, did pretty well, and started moonlighting.
The day job slowly, then quickly got to her.
“I was bored silly, and I really felt like I was stealing from the government, from the taxpayers,” Sykes told the Los Angeles Times. “I had friends who worked there, but I didn’t have the same goals. They all wanted the house, the kids, the marriage – I’m sure in a different order – but I didn’t want any of that stuff. It seemed so safe and so boring.”
While she readily acknowledges that many “dedicated people” worked at the NSA, she was more than ready to leave when she decided to take the chance on comedy, finally quitting the agency in 1992 and moving to New York City — a move good for both her and the country, she felt. “I had top-secret clearance and everything,” she told the satirical pub The Onion. “I was working on a couple of projects that would keep me involved in Operation Desert Storm. I was in the mix, which is scary.”
Government service has been used to great comedic success. We’ll see if she has to reach back to the NSA to get laughs from the president and 2,500 gathered on Saturday, May 9.