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Wanda Sykes on 'Today': Hoping Limbaugh's Kidneys Fail Just A 'Joke'

Comedian Wanda Sykes, invited on Thursday's Today show to plug her HBO comedy special and new late night talk show, was pressed by co-host Meredith Vieira to comment about her crass remark at the White House Correspondent's Dinner that she hoped Rush Limbaugh's kidneys would fail. The stand-up comic initially defended her Limbaugh death wish as she claimed, "I was having fun...and I meant what I said," but did admit that perhaps it was "a little too much," however she concluded, "it was just a joke."

MEREDITH VIEIRA: Last year, a good year in many ways for you but also controversial. Beginning with the White House Correspondents Dinner where you talked about Rush Limbaugh.

WANDA SYKES: Right.

VIEIRA: You compared him to Osama Bin Laden. You got a lot of grief for that. In retrospect you wish you hadn't done that or are you saying, "No, I mean what I said I was having fun."

SYKES: Oh no! I meant what I said. I thought I was having, you know, I was having fun. And, and I meant what I said. I think people were more upset with the tagline when I said, "You know he hopes America fail," and I said "well I hope his kidneys fail."

VIEIRA: His kidneys.

SYKES: Yeah.

VIEIRA: Now do you, are you upset about that?

SYKES: Oh not at all.

VIEIRA: But-

SYKES: It maybe, went a little too much to say I hope his kidneys fail but you know, it was a joke. Yeah.

Immediately after that exchange Vieira pushed Sykes to advocate for same sex marriage:

VIEIRA: You also, you got, you got married last year.

SYKES: Yes. Yes.

VIEIRA: Longtime girlfriend Alex.

SYKES: Yes, yes.

VIEIRA: And then shortly thereafter, you came out publicly. You're somebody who, you haven't talked about your sexual orientation. You don't hide it but you don't wear it-

SYKES: Right.

VIEIRA: -with a sign.

SYKES: Right.

VIEIRA: But right after California passed the proposition banning same-sex marriage, you, you stood up and said, "I am gay."

SYKES: Right.

VIEIRA: Why did you feel it was important to do that?

SYKES: To, uh, at least to put a face on it, and also I was angry. I was mad. And I was, you know, wanting to say, "Look, you're not gonna treat me like a second-class citizen. I'm, I have to speak up. I know what my rights are, and I'm going to demand my rights, yeah."

VIEIRA: And you say it's harder to be gay than it is to be black.

SYKES: Today, yeah! Today it is. I mean, there's things, things as a gay person I can't do. It's who you marry. We can't, you know, file our joint taxes. Immigration issues. There's death benefits. There's couples who, you know, have been, been together for years and one of them passes away, especially like an officer or something, and their partner doesn't get any of the, the, the pension. So yeah.

The following is the full transcript of the segment as it was aired on the October 29, Today show:

MEREDITH VIEIRA: Wanda Sykes is an award-winning comedian, actress and writer, plus a newlywed with six-month-old twins at home. So, what is she doing with her limited free time? Well, she's added talk show host to her resume. Wanda, good morning to you.

WANDA SYKES: Good morning.

VIEIRA: We were just reminiscing about when we were on "The View," and you were a celebrity guest host for us at one point, too.

SYKES: Yeah, yeah. And I said I still hear the voices in my head.

VIEIRA: Of us all chattering.

SYKES: Can't get rid of them. Yeah.

VIEIRA: So why did you decide to take on yet another project, and talk show host?

SYKES: Talk show? I know, you know what it, actually it's gonna allow me to stay home a little more instead of being out on the road doing stand-up, now I can, you know, still exercise that stand-up muscle but it would, you know, on a talk show.

VIEIRA: You know when you're on a talk show you, you talk about what's bugging you in the moment. Is there anything bugging you right now?

SYKES: Ooh. All this reality stuff, the Balloon Boy and all that. Jon and Kate I'm sick of them.

VIEIRA: Oh yeah Balloon Boy, did you think he was for real? Did you?

SYKES No!

VIEIRA: You didn't?! Oh come on now. In retrospect but-

SYKES: Really?

VIEIRA: From the minute it happened-

SYKES: Not at all. It looked like a big bag of Jiffy Pop just floating through the air. I mean and, and as soon as I saw the father I'm like, we really think this man has the wherewithal to build a space ship? Please!

VIEIRA: Well he can, yeah he can-

SYKES: No.

VIEIRA: No? Didn't buy it?

SYKES: No, no. Not at all.

VIEIRA: Alright and none, none of these reality shows do much for you then?

SYKES: Nah. I like, I like the cooking ones, like "Top Chef," stuff like that.

VIEIRA: Okay. You also have the HBO special "Ima Be Me." Where did you come up with that title?

SYKES: "Ima Be Me," it just says it all and I love how you said it. Say it again.

VIEIRA: Ima be me.

SYKES: Go ahead! Good for you.

VIEIRA: Yeah how do you say it?

SYKES: Oh yeah Ima be me.

VIEIRA: Ima be me?

SYKES: Yeah. That's, I t just says it all, it's like you know what? I, I feel comfortable in my skin and comfortable with who I am so this is it and I'm just gonna be me.

VIEIRA: And you take on serious issues in the special but you also take on some stuff that, like, particularly women can relate to. Like what happens to your bodies-

SYKES: Oh yeah.

VIEIRA: -as you get older. What's happening to yours?

SYKES: It's not nice. It's not nice.

VIEIRA: No?

SYKES: It's just not nice. You know just like, like now when you say, you know, you got to pee I really mean I have to pee. Like it's no-

VIEIRA: Like now! Yeah.

SYKES: Yeah now! There's no waiting or holding. There's, there's, you just gotta go. That's it, you know? Like I said now I carry, I used to carry around, you know panties in my purse, in case, you know I got lucky, now I carry them around in case I sneeze.

VIEIRA: You know last year was, well I don't know if-

SYKES: Enjoy your grapefruit! There ya go! Alright.

VIEIRA: Yeah that's right and your cereal. Last year, a good year in many ways for you but also controversial. Beginning with the White House Correspondents Dinner where you talked about Rush Limbaugh.

SYKES: Right.

VIEIRA: You compared him to Osama Bin Laden. You got a lot of grief for that. In retrospect you wish you hadn't done that or are you saying, "No, I mean what I said I was having fun."

SYKES: Oh no! I meant what I said. I thought I was having, you know, I was having fun. And, and I meant what I said. I think people were more upset with the tagline when I said, "You know he hopes America fail," and I said "well I hope his kidneys fail."

VIEIRA: His kidneys.

SYKES: Yeah.

VIEIRA: Now do you, are you upset about that?

SYKES: Oh not at all.

VIEIRA: But-

SYKES: It maybe, went a little too much to say I hope his kidneys fail but you know, it was a joke. Yeah.

VIEIRA: You also, you got, you got married last year.

SYKES: Yes. Yes.

VIEIRA: Longtime girlfriend Alex.

SYKES: Yes, yes.

VIEIRA: And then shortly thereafter, you came out publicly. You're somebody who, you haven't talked about your sexual orientation. You don't hide it but you don't wear it-

SYKES: Right.

VIEIRA: -with a sign.

SYKES: Right.

VIEIRA: But right after California passed the proposition banning same-sex marriage, you, you stood up and said, "I am gay."

SYKES: Right.

VIEIRA: Why did you feel it was important to do that?

SYKES: To, uh, at least to put a face on it, and also I was angry. I was mad. And I was, you know, wanting to say, "Look, you're not gonna treat me like a second-class citizen. I'm, I have to speak up. I know what my rights are, and I'm going to demand my rights, yeah."

VIEIRA: And you say it's harder to be gay than it is to be black.

SYKES: Today, yeah! Today it is. I mean, there's things, things as a gay person I can't do. It's who you marry. We can't, you know, file our joint taxes. Immigration issues. There's death benefits. There's couples who, you know, have been, been together for years and one of them passes away, especially like an officer or something, and their partner doesn't get any of the, the, the pension. So yeah.

VIEIRA: That's stuff you'll be talking about on your, your new talk show, I'm sure.

SYKES: Oh. There will be a lot of funny stuff on, on my talk show. A lot of funny.

VIEIRA: Oh I know there will be. A lot of funny.

SYKES: And a lot of alcohol.

VIEIRA: Much like the "Today" show.

SYKES: Lots of alcohol. There ya go. Yeah.

VIEIRA: And congratulations I know you're a new mom of twins. So best to you and Alex and the babies.

SYKES: Thank you!

-Geoffrey Dickens is the senior news analyst at the Media Research Center.