by John Wentzel, The Denver Post
Countless comedians have found success lately with podcasts, while others have concentrated on traditional late-night TV spots, sitcom roles, books, Comedy Central specials and even talk-show hosting gigs.
Aisha Tyler will take them all, thank you.
“I make a living being fast on my feet, and I think I also work very hard to guard that skill set,” said the 42-year-old San Francisco native, who’s lately been co-host of the CBS daytime show “The Talk,” with Sharon Osborne, Sara Gilbert and others.
“But I love stand-up, and it’s where I came from creatively, so it’s something I never want to walk away from.”
We caught up with Tyler — whose award-winning “Girl on Guy” podcast recently passed 4 million downloads — in advance of her Comedy Works headlining dates Friday and Saturday.
Q: You used to host “Talk Soup” and are no stranger to talk shows, but when you replaced Holly Robinson Peete on “The Talk” last year, you were walking into a fairly established show and cast. Was that intimidating?
A: I imagine a smarter, more circumspect person would have been intimidated, but not me! I think partly because my first TV break, even before “Talk Soup,” was “Politically Incorrect.” So much of a stand-up’s life is doing live radio and having to be funny and quick on the spot with these strangers, and sort of surgical in terms of how funny I can be in three minutes. And when I went on (“The Talk”) as guest host everyone was such a team and so kind and supportive. You can’t really manufacture chemistry, and I think the show went through some machinations trying to find the right group of people, and when I joined, it just felt right.
Q: So you actually get along with your co-stars off camera?
A: It really is a group of people that gets along. I’m just happy when somebody else drops a great punchline, because so much of my job from stand-up to podcasting is about being quick on your feet, and with that group dynamic, it’s much easier to do it with five people. I don’t want to be dismissive, because it’s a really well-run show and it’s work, but when we walk up to the table, that part of the job is not work. It’s all fun at that point.
Q: You’ve certainly brought a different feel to the show, which is now the fastest-growing show in daytime TV. What would you attribute that to?
A: We don’t always agree, but we don’t ever beat each other up when we disagree. I think our show is probably closer to real relationships. So much of TV right now is showing people in really combative postures, especially when they’re just treating each other crappily. So it’s nice to have that portrayal of women. And we have so many men who watch the show too, because it’s honestly funny. I’m always conscious of that. My fan base is probably predominantly male — straight guys, gay guys, guys who TiVo it and watch it at night.
Q: That’s an interesting point, because a few of your other projects are definitely aimed or friendly towards men, like your role on (FX’s animated series) “Archer.” And you’ve talked a lot about being an avid gamer, and your podcast (“Girl on Guy”) has a lot of nerd icons on it. You’re even a bit of a nerd icon these days.
A: I’m just myself, so I don’t know that I think of myself as a nerd icon. It’s just people who are like me responding to that. It’s wonderful that there’s been this sort of odd cultural resurgence or uprising of people celebrating the nerd way of looking at the world. Because being a nerd wasnotan enjoyable experience, being a social pariah when you’re young. So it feels like a badge of courage. I always tell kids, “It’s not funny when you’re a kid being bullied or beaten up or ignored.” But I think it also funnels into a lot of other cultural movements. Wounds turn into scars and scars make you tough.
John Wenzel: 303-954-1642, email@example.com or twitter.com/johntwenzel