By Andrea Poteet
Whether she’s dishing with the ladies on the daytime chat show “The Talk,” lending her voice to sarcastic superspy Lana Kane on the FX animated series “Archer” or musing about video games, friends with kids and the plight of the diminutively derriered in her stand-up shows, Aisha Tyler is whip-smart and effortlessly funny.
But the one thing she wouldn’t change in more than 20 years behind the mic is the times she wasn’t.
“The things that make you the funniest are the ones where you really, really bomb because you have to go away and completely re-examine everything about your life and how you approach comedy,” she says, driving home after a taping of “The Talk.” “When you kill you just think you’re awesome and you go do shots, but it’s when you really bomb that you go away and try to get better.”
Tyler’s bombing days are far behind her. Fans who’ve seen her stand-up specials on Comedy Central or her self-effacing viral rap video “No Ass at All” have helped make Stephanie Miller ‘s “Sexy Liberal Comedy Tour,” which paired Tyler with John Fugelsang and fellow “Talk Soup” alum Hal Sparks, the highest-grossing political comedy tour of all time. Tyler said she hopes her solo stand-up tour, bringing her to the Detroit area for the first time for an Oct. 19 date at The Magic Bag, will live up to that streak.
“I love stand-up and I’ve been doing it long enough now that people come – and my fans know me, they know the kind of humor,” she says. “People really know who I am as a comedian, and they know what they are gonna get.”
Raised in San Francisco by her dad after her parent’s divorce when she was 10, she grew up a nerdy tomboy who loved science-fiction, video games and sifting through medical books at the library.
“I grew up on the back of a motorcycle,” she says. “My dad and I used to play video games. My dad was a really loving, caring dad, but he also wanted me to be tough.”
After attending McAteer High School’s performing arts program and Dartmouth College, where she took acting and improv classes, she said she got into comedy to see if she could do it.
“I never thought I was funny, even as an adult,” she says. “I don’t think I got into comedy because I thought I was funny; I got into comedy because I loved it and I wanted to be good at it.”
After hosting “Talk Soup,” and landing acting roles on popular series like “Friends,” Tyler relied on her growing celebrity and universal appeal when she started her popular podcast, “Girl on Guy,” in 2011. The podcast features Tyler’s chats with bro-friendly stars from The Roots’ Questlove to The Travel Channel’s Anthony Bourdain.
“Most of my closest friends are men, and because I’m a comedian I spend a lot of time being the only woman in a room full of men,” she says. “I just wanted to talk with guys about stuff we all thought was interesting and compelling and really do a show that was a little edgier and racier than television and could connect with artists and actors and musicians that I really admire.”
A self-professed videogame fangirl and Comic-Con frequenter, Tyler was thrilled to lend her voice to a minor female trooper character in 2010’s “Halo: Reach.”
“It’s very fun to hear your voice coming out of the television,” she says. “It’s very fun to shoot at yourself, but more than that, I think amongst other gamers there’s a nice amount of street cred when you’ve been a part of a game.”
She’s also lent her name to causes from the Obama campaign to the Human Rights Campaign, for which she did a video spot supporting gay marriage.
“I grew up in San Francisco and a lot of people move there because it’s a safe place to be yourself and a place where everyone can embrace who they are without feeling like they are going to be judged or discriminated against,” Tyler says. “I always felt like that was a life that everyone should experience. This is a country of opportunity and freedom – and that means freedom for everyone.”
Married for more than 20 years to attorney Jeff Tietjens, she said marriage equality hits home for her.
“I’m in an interracial marriage,” she says, “and 40 or 50 years ago, interracial marriages were illegal in this country. I’ve been married for 20 years now and I’m very grateful for my marriage, so the fact that there are people who love each other and can’t get married because of some arbitrary law, it’s wrong and it’s something I feel very deeply about on a personal level.”
Six-foot-tall Tyler, who is as well-known for her modelesque looks as her jokes, said another recent attempt at activism was a bit more nerve wracking. For recent season premiere of “The Talk,” she and co-hosts Sara Gilbert, Sharon Osbourne, Sheryl Underwood and Julie Chen went without makeup to send a message of self-acceptance and the beauty of imperfections.
“We all thought it was a great idea when we agreed to do it,” she says, “and when it was time to do it we all thought, ‘What crazy person said this was a good idea?'”
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