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 Nov. 9-10.
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?
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.
So you actually get along with your co-stars off camera?
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.
Do you have any favorite guests so far?
It’s hard to for me to say because we’ve had so many unbelievable guests. Neil Patrick Harris is fantastic. I’ve had some fan girl moments with people. I’m a huge “Game of Thrones” fan, so when Sean Beam came on I freaked out, and I’m a huge “Walking Dead” fan, so same with Sarah Wayne Callies. Our Halloween show this year was amazing. Wayne Brady is always amazing. And just this yesterday’s episode was really, really funny and one of those shows where people are clicking on all cylinders.
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?
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.
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.
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 was not an 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.
And certainly all these experiences provide material for your stand-up sets. Can you envision a time when you’ll be too busy with other projects to get on stage and tell jokes?
No way. I love stand-up and it’s where I came from creatively. It’s the way I got started as a performer and it’s something I never want to walk away from. It’s harder for me to tour as intensively as in the past, for sure, just because I’ve got so many other jobs. Obviously “The Talk” is every day and the podcast is every week and I’m also doing “Archer.” But I love doing it and will never stop doing it, I’ve interacted with other stand-ups that did stop doing it. A few years ago I did a movie with Eddie Murphy, who did stop stand-up, and he said “It’s a muscle you can’t stop using — or it atrophies.”
As a video games critic, I’ve also gotta ask if you’ve played anything great lately — since I know you’re a lifelong fan.
I’m going through a very depressing gaming desert right now because last year I launched the podcast, and I had a book manuscript due, and that’s on top of everything else. So this has a been a long and desolate gaming stretch for me. I’m really looking forward to Gears of War Judgment and Halo 4, and I’m super exited for Far Cry 3. I’m not as big of an Assassin’s Creed 3 player, but it looked amazing at E3 this summer, and I may get into that. I never got into Skyrim, but from what I understand it completely eats up your life. I’m a big shooters person, so I generally wait for the shooters. And I avoid those massive multiplayers.
Do you have a tendency to get hopelessly sucked into video games?
Oh yeah…. Fallout 3… that was such a dark time in my life. I could have cured cancer if not for that game. I’m excited for the holidays, though, because I’ll get some downtime to play.
You should check out Borderlands 2 if you like shooters. That game has been ruling my consciousness lately.
The one thing about the first Borderlands I liked was that it was a relatively open world, but what I didn’t like was that it was super arcade-y to me. What I loved about Fallout was that it felt like real world, but with Borderlands it’s like, you shoot people and coins would be floating above their body. I just hated that. It was such a beautifully-drawn world but it undermined the authenticity for me. But coming out of Fallout 3, which I think is one of the best immersive role-playing shooters out there, it was just shadow compared to that. I haven’t played anything as good as that in awhile.