In Self-Inflicted Wounds, comedian, actress and podcast host Aisha Tyler takes a hard look at her own mistakes—with hilarious results
It all started with a podcast. Aisha Tyler, best known as a co-host of CBS’s “The Talk” and the voice of Lana Kane on FX’s “Archer,” was interviewing “Archer” co-star H. Jon Benjamin for the first episode of her Girl on Guy podcast when he told her a 20-minute story about the time he tried to drive from LAX to Pasadena with food poisoning. It ended, ahem, explosively.
“That was the seminal story that people always talk about and tell their friends about,” Tyler says of how she eventually decided to write about her own embarrassing history. “It’s drawn a lot of people to the show.”
Tyler began asking all her guests to reveal instances when they failed spectacularly, and what they learned from the experience. Nearly 100 podcasts and mortifying tales later, it occurred to Tyler that she ought to turn the microphone on herself. “I decided it was really unfair to make other people embarrass themselves without me doing it as well,” she says.
The result is Self-Inflicted Wounds, a book of anecdotes concerning Tyler’s impressive aptitude for pratfalls: the time she performed a standup set with her fly down, the time she lit the family kitchen on fire while frying potatoes (and wearing her mom’s favorite chiffon shirt) at the age of 8.
“Mistakes are required,” Tyler says. “You have to fail, and sometimes failure reveals things to you. If you talk to anyone who’s successful—a Bill Gates or a Mark Zuckerberg—what they’re going to say is ‘I had so many things fail I can’t even enumerate them for you.’ The people who have longevity just keep getting up.”
Tyler does admit that not every embarrassment made it into the book. “There were definitely a couple of things where I thought, ‘Reliving this is going to require some kind of PTSD-related therapy afterward. Maybe I’ll save it for the second book.’” JULY 9
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Cut to the Quick
Improv is perhaps the fastest way to insert your foot in your mouth, and Tyler will have ample opportunity to do so when she begins hosting “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” this month. We ask how she expects it to go.
The improv comics on “Whose Line” are fearless. You’ll be hosting—but have you done actual improv yourself?
Oh yeah, that was my first foray into performing in high school, an improv class, so that was my very first introduction to comedy. I love it.
It’s got to be spectacularly difficult.
You know, the great thing about improv is that once you’re out there, you’ve already stipulated that you’re probably going to embarrass yourself. You just have to be brave. And people are so dazzled by the idea that comedians are coming up with stuff on the fly that they’re much more participatory and supportive than they might be of a regular standup.
That Wayne Brady’s pretty amazing, isn’t he?
He did one song where they gave him a topic and told him to do it in the style of Nicki Minaj. He was making up a song, lyrics he’d never spoken before to music he’d never heard before while doing a Nicki Minaj impression. I don’t know how he does it. He’s a genius; he’s like an alien.
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MOVIES Pacific Rim, director Guillermo del Toro’s post-apocalyptic yarn that pits evil aliens against giant robots // The Smurfs 2, in which Neil Patrick Harris once again cavorts with little blue relics of the ’80s
BOOKS The latest from science fiction favorite Ben Bova, New Earth, the tale of a bunch of unfortunate scientists sent to an Earth-like planet //
A Treacherous Paradise, a rare non-Wallander novel by Swedish noir phenom Henning Mankell
MUSIC Don’t Look Down, which sees R&B artist and serial collaborator Skylar Grey striking out on her own and making her major-label debut