Last Laugh: Aisha Tyler On Being A Woman In Comedy
Aisha Tyler is really good at being everywhere. From head point-giver on CW’s improv series Whose Line Is It Anyway? to co-host on CBS’ The Talk to the voice of Agent Lana Kane on FX’s Archer and expert podcaster on Girl On Guy, the popular comedienne has probably guest-spotted on your favorite shows, including Friends, 24, Glee and Modern Family, to name a few.
Her talents don’t just lie on the big-screen. She has penned two books, swerve: reckless observations of a post-modern girl and self-inflicted wounds. Tyler is even well-versed in philanthropy, directing a film called Committed to benefit returning war veterans and serves on the board for Planned Parenthood. The Darthmouth grad (who bagged degrees in government and environmental policy) also enjoys video games, bourbon and snaps the best selfies on Instagram. FYI: she’s also launching a spirits line.
Here, the woman who’s never not working blesses VIBE with a nugget (or three) on being a woman in the funny business, her remedy for not-so-awesome days and the two LPs that saved her life.
Describe what you do in one sentence.
I tell jokes, chat with people, and make stuff.
My antidote for crappy days and negative thoughts:
My father has the best motivational sayings in the world. His favorite is “get in, get it done, have fun, get the money and run.” He’s very old school, but the operative words for him (and me) in that sentence are “have fun.” I always remind myself that I’m incredibly lucky to be doing what I’m doing, and that keeps me going.
On juggling a lot and preventing burnout:
I am constantly re-evaluating my goals and trying to strike items from my to do list that aren’t critical. We often think we have to do everything, and everything well — but that is an impossibility. Pursuit of perfection is futile. Instead I prioritize, and often realize goals or tasks I’ve been aiming for just aren’t that important. Rather than move them down my list, I eliminate them altogether. Your family doesn’t need a gourmet meal, you don’t need to shop for the latest outfit, or answer every single email that comes your way. Delete the unimportant stuff, and spend that found time reading to your kids, watching a favorite show, or most importantly, sleeping. Things aren’t important. Love of family and self are.
Tips for aspiring comediennes:
1. Be honest with yourself. Can you do something else? If so, do that. Standup comedy is inordinately difficult. If doing something else for a living will make you equally happy, chose that instead. I’m serious. Comedy is punishing.
2. Don’t be a tourist. Comedy requires total commitment. You will not be good after ten sets or even a hundred. Any working comic will tell you they really didn’t reach their stride until they had been doing it for a decade. There is no substitute for putting in the hours on stage, and there are absolutely no shortcuts.
3. Be relentless. People will tell you you’re not funny and that you should quit — repeatedly. You have to know that this is what you want to do, and then you have to persist through constant rejection and adversity. Know who you are, know what you want, and then pursue it without rest or apology.
Best advice I received from a female mentor:
My mother. She tells me constantly to “be perseverant.” And I have been. When it comes to my career, I’m like [Team USA Soccer goalie] Tim Howard: no matter how tough things get, I do not quit.
Boulevardier (bourbon, campari, vermouth) [Ed. Note: She sometimes sips on it at the airport. See below.]
Album that saved my life:
Tie between The Roots’ Things Fall Apart and Saul Williams’ Saul Williams
Biggest (professional) regret:
I don’t believe in regrets.
Last (personal) win (that has nothing to do with work):
Rekindling old college friendships that have blossomed into really wonderful adult friendships.
The definition of a boss:
Enabling my employees to follow their dreams. Pushing them to be excellent, every day. Telling the truth, even when it’s difficult to say or hear.
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