Wanda Sykes explains why she snubbed Michelle Obama: 'I still kick myself about it'

Leora Arnowitz
Wanda Sykes is ready to make audiences laugh with her new Netflix stand-up special, "Not Normal," now streaming.

Wanda Sykes is ready to make audiences laugh again with her new Netflix stand-up special, "Not Normal," now streaming. She's reflecting on some of her memorable and humorous life moments, including when she tried to ignore former first lady Michelle Obama at the White House Correspondents' Dinner way back in 2009. 

"I still kick myself about it," she told the New York Times as part of a lengthy Q-and-A to promote the Netflix special. "When I did the dinner, I was sitting pretty much right next to Michelle Obama. She kept trying to make conversation, but I was so focused on having to go up and perform that I was blowing her off. I think I even looked at her one time like: 'Will you shut up? Don’t you see I’m sitting here going over my notes?' "

Luckily for Sykes, Obama had a sense of humor about the awkwardness. 

"I saw her on her book tour, and we laughed about it. She was like, 'I was just trying to make conversation, and you wanted nothing to do with me.' " 

During the chat with the Times, Sykes, 55, also explained how she first got into comedy, when she was in her 30s, working in Washington, D.C., as a procurement specialist for the National Security Agency.

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"I just remembered everyone telling me I should do stand-up. I’m looking through my high school yearbook, looking through my college yearbook, and it’s all blackface," she quipped, "no, it was all people saying, 'You should be onstage.' Even at work, at the N.S.A., my co-workers were like: 'You need to be onstage. You are so funny.' " 

The star also touched on her departure from the "Roseanne" reboot after star Roseanne Barr issued a racist tweet. (Sykes was a consulting producer for the ill-fated sitcom that eventually became "The Conners" after Barr was let go.)

Wanda Sykes

She explained that she noticed early-on that Barr's tweets were a concern and told her producing partner, "We’ve got to get Roseanne off of Twitter. She’s going to kill us.”

When Barr tweeted a racist message about former President Barack Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, Sykes said she was quick to contact the producers of "Roseanne" and explain she needed to disconnect from the show and its star. Sykes posted about her departure on Twitter shortly after news of Barr's tweet made waves. 

She recalled thinking, " 'I’ve got to get ahead of this. I can’t just be silent.' That’s why I said I wouldn’t be going back."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Wanda Sykes explains why she snubbed Michelle Obama: 'I still kick myself about it'