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June is Pride Month, and basking in the feline love-is-all-we-need wisdom of comedian-actress Sydnee Washington is a fine way to start celebrating. Did we mention she’s also starring in Grindr’s first comedy special? (It’s called Gag Reflex, aaaaaand that’s all we’ll say.) The self-anointed Naomi Campbell of Comedy is a Hot Cat Dad™ who made her name doing stand-up in New York City. With clubs closed, she’s stayed busy hosting two shows that have gotten us through the pandemic: Hobby Hunter, a hilarious podcast that rethinks extracurriculars, and “Syd Can Cook” on Instagram Live, a feel-good chronicle of the not-so-great-cook hitting the kitchen. We spoke to Washington for details about her twinning cats and their role in her comedy, but also her take on many a cat’s arch nemesis: dogs.
Tell me about your cats.
Lucky me, I have two cats: Jelly and Jam, who are brother and sister. They low-key look the same, so that’s why we — my ex-GF and I — named them that. Jam is an extrovert with a big personality, although he usually sleeps all day on the couch near me. Jelly is a shy, svelte cutie pie. She hides a lot in the bedroom but comes out at night to meow in the living room. I believe she’s singing to my plants.
Owners frequently look like, or have personalities like, their pets. Which traits do you share with your cats?
I love a nap. Nap queen. Especially during the day. Cats sleep 22 hours a day — if I could, I would.
How did your cats come into your life?
Six years ago, my ex and I rescued them in a Bushwick basement. Originally, we only wanted one but it was important to keep the siblings together.
Did you ever bring your cat to work with you?
Two year ago, I was working at Comedy Central for their digital program. Jam was involved with several videos: Real Makeup Tutorials.
Cats are clever, bizarre, hilarious, curious. To what extent do they inspire your work?
To be honest, I wasn’t really featuring them before the pandemic. With stand-up comedy, I was always out of the house. Then Covid hit and they were all I had. Jelly and Jam became my saviors and comedy. Lots of dance videos on my Insta. Declared myself as a “hot cat dad.”
How did your cats help you get through this pandemic?
Whenever it was really bleak in casa de Washington, Jam would walk on my face to help me get out of the bed. Having to feed them and clean the litter box really gave me purpose.
Speaking of the pandemic, you hosted Syd Can Cook, which was just excellent. Do you ever cook food for your cats?
Unfortunately, my babies do not eat table food, just organic dry food from an online company that I refuse to promote — but I’m looking into getting a different brand into their lives. Facebook keeps showing me ads for all things cat friendly; they are weighing me down.
You have a whole podcast, Hobby Hunter, devoted to hobbies. What’s your favorite activity to do with your cats?
We love watching trashy reality shows on the projector. Or gossiping on the phone — they love chiming in on my phone conversations.
Lastly, it looks like your partner also got a dog? Does this mean you’re not a cat person? What is happening here, Sydnee?!?
I AM FOREVER A CAT LADY! But I’ll accept dogs for the sake of love.
"I have put a gold chain bracelet around her neck as a collar for some photos, but she looks so perfect in just her spotty coat that I keep her au naturel."
How she taught Turtle to ring a bell, open a door, count to four, and walk with a limp!
Nisha Gopalan has been a writer/editor for The New York Times, New York magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and NYLON magazines. She currently resides in Los Angeles.