Aisha Tyler Takes the Controls, Talks Epic Fails

Aisha Tyler has had just about every gig a comedian can have, but the highlights of her resume include a long career as a stand-up comic, playing Charlie Wheeler on the sitcom “Friends,” and performing the voice of Lana Kane on the animated series “Archer.”

She also hosts the popular podcast “Girl on Guy“– in which she talks with dudes about video games and whiskey and stuff — and she’s the new host of the improv comedy show “Whose Line is it Anyway?” which relaunches on the CW July 16. Plus, her kind-of-semi-memoir comes out this week, titled “Self-Inflicted Wounds.”  So when she stopped by to answer listener etiquette questions this week, Rico started by asking the obvious question:


Rico Gagliano: Aisha, firstly, do you sleep at all?

Aisha Tyler: No. As you can see, I’m pounding coffee out of a beer bottle.

Rico Gagliano: That is true.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Are you coming for our jobs? Is that why you’re here? Are we fired?

Aisha Tyler: Yes, I am. No — first of all, I’m addicted to public radio, but I can’t take your jobs cause my podcast is just like completely unsuitable for broadcast.

Rico Gagliano: Okay.  ‘Cause otherwise you’re the James Franco of comedy.

Aisha Tyler: The James Franco of comedy!  All I need is a really creepy arc on a soap opera, and then I could be James Franco.

Brendan Francis Newnam: And an Adderall habit.

Aisha Tyler: That would help. That would make me so much more effective!

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, why are you drinking coffee out of a beer bottle?

Aisha Tyler: I’m so straight-edge. I have this kind of reputation for being a bourbon-drinker and a rager, but like at 8:30 p.m. I’m like, “Why am I not in bed yet?”

tylerbookRico Gagliano: This all kind of plays into the book. It seems like you sowed a lot of your wild oats early, to judge from your book.

Aisha Tyler: I started young.

Rico Gagliano: It’s basically a collection of stories of you making horrible mistakes.

Aisha Tyler: Terrible.

Rico Gagliano: Some of the chapters titles include ‘The Time I Got Drunk the Night Before the SATs” and “The Time I Almost Set Myself On Fire.”

But, we’re kind of a big food show, we like food here.  You wanna tell us the story about he first time you ate sushi?

Aisha Tyler: Oh God, yeah that’s memorable.

So I had this era where I was trying to be very cosmopolitan, and this was kind of before the sushi rage here. I mean, I think until maybe like 1994, if you mentioned sushi, people just thought of like a flap of raw fish, bones and all, eyeballs.  Or just like a Japanese fisherman like kneeling on a dock, ripping a fish open with his bare hands.

So I was going to sushi restaurants a lot, and I took this boy to impress him. I took this huge gob of wasabi — I was trying to show him I liked spicy food — and I had one of those facial eruptions that are uncontrollable.  Like you’re trying to hold it in, and I actually covered my face with both hands… snot and other bodily fluids exploded through my tightened fingers. That’s how violent this eruption was. Like burst through, spread my fingers against my will, all over this guy. And this was a very early date, this was like a first or second date.

Rico Gagliano: Wow. And you’re now married, right?

Aisha Tyler: No, no, I did not marry that guy, and he really — he made the right choice. But the current husband, the only husband, has suffered injuries far worse.  Slings and arrows.  Every morning he wakes up, just puts on like a hockey mask and a cup, and just waits for something terrible to go down. “Protect your eyes!”

Rico Gagliano: Well, look, clearly you’re just the person to give our listeners etiquette advice, and I think Brendan is gonna take the first question.

Play until you lose, or pass the controller?

Brendan Francis Newnam: all right, so the first one comes from Danny in Chicago.

Danny writes, “I’m a video gamer.  Sometimes I meet with friends to play at one of their houses. Here’s the issue: One guy is way better than the rest of us, so he gets the lion’s share of the playing time. Should he keep playing until he loses a life — which seems fair but frustrating — or should he cough up his controller after a set time?”

Aisha Tyler: Well first of all, your friend sounds like a little bit of a douche.  ‘Cause the fact of the matter is, this guy could go online and play strangers for hours on end to demonstrate his excellence, and feel no remorse or compunction about just slapping them all in the digital face for hours on end.

But when you’re with your friends, it is unfair to hog the game. And he also sounds like he’s  probably a smack-talker. I’m just inferring from his general posture that he’s a jerk.

Rico Gagliano: But what can he do? He’s good at the game!

Aisha Tyler: Just hand over the controller, because it is a game.  It’s just a game. And winning the game is not gonna to make you money, or get you on any kind of list to meet the president.

Brendan Francis Newnam: What kind of communist… that’s crazy! He’s good at the game! It’s called a game because you’re competing.

Aisha Tyler: That’s not communism, it’s kindness! Our society is held together by the glue of kindness and YouTube kitten videos.

Brendan Francis Newnam: They should just eat Triscuits together then, instead of playing a game!

Aisha Tyler: No, here’s my point: If it’s extreme, if no one can get this guy off the game, and when you look around the battlefield is littered with the bodies of your friends, pretty soon you’re gonna look around and the battlefield is gonna be empty — your friends will have left you and gone to their other friend’s house to play some soft game, like “Kinect Sports.”

Rico Gagliano: You’ve convinced me, and I think we should call it “kind-unism.”

Aisha Tyler: Kindunism!

How to call out a joke-stealer

Rico Gagliano: All right, here’s something from Matthias in Turkey. We feel like with you being a comedian, this is perfect for you.

Matthias writes, “So a friend of mine sends out a weekly email full of jokes. I’ve noticed many of them seem to be swiped from a certain public radio culture show I enjoy. It could be a coincidence, but how do I mention this without it being an accusation?”

Aisha Tyler: First of all, that was the softest and most elegant humblebrag I have ever heard, plugging your own show surreptitiously.

Um… yeah, God this is really hard.  Because… if you say “Hey, I feel like I heard that joke on the radio,” you’re calling your friend a liar, and also a plagiarist — which I think it even worse than being called a liar.

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, this is a huge issue in the comedy world.

Aisha Tyler: Yeah, stealing is the worst. And just so people out there understand, stealing is so frowned-upon,  I think if you went to someone and you said “I have a body in my trunk,” they might react with less anguish and concern than if you said “I stole a joke.”

Like, you have a body in your trunk?  They might be like, “Well maybe the person did something wrong!  Maybe it’s their fault.” But someone will beat you up on behalf of somebody else for stealing a joke.

Rico Gagliano: But before we tell Mathias to go that far, maybe…?

Aisha Tyler: Let’s not resort to violence. I think there are two ways to go here. One is to say “God, I love that joke, it’s funny. I heard something just like it on this show,” and then send the link.

Brendan Francis Newnam: And then stare at them. How about a little glare? How about lingering look?

Aisha Tyler: Or, emoticon with the giant blinking eyes that are just staring at you out of your computer. The other way to go is to just put that email in your SPAM folder, and ignore that friend and let him just be a liar.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Why are you reading a weekly email of jokes anyway, Matthias?

Aisha Tyler: Yeah. Matthias, the internet’s full of jokes that you can curate on your own, and let that guy just swirl in the same eddy with the email from you mom that has  been completely debunked by Snopes, and the ones from your uncle claiming that the president is part of some kind of Muslim sleeper cell that’s gonna awaken at any time.

Whenever you open an email and you see like different font sizes and colors?  Just throw it in the trash immediately. If there’s any variation in font — period — it’s just for the garbage.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Well let’s be careful in the condemnation of Matthias, because he does listen to our show.

Rico Gagliano: That’s true.

Aisha Tyler: Thanks for listening Matthias. You’re a genius.

Let there be light

Brendan Francis Newnam: Alright, so here we have another question. It comes from Jim in Ohio.

Jim writes, “I work in the land of cubicles–”

Aisha Tyler: I did that once.

Rico Gagliano: We’re kind of cubicley here.

Aisha Tyler: Yeah, it’s very cubicley here. Aww, I love not-for-profit organizations. That was my first job, was at a not-for-profit.

Rico Gagliano: And you got out of there.

Aisha Tyler: I ran for the hills. Too much hugging!

Rico Gagliano: That’s true; we hug a lot here.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So Jim also works in cubicles, and he continues: “One of my associates, who is higher up than I am, has the window cube and always closes the blinds near him. During the morning, everyone is okay with this, but in the afternoon, the sun is on the other side of the building, so we want to open the blinds. But, if you touch the blinds near him, he instantly closes them –”

Rico Gagliano: This guy!

Aisha Tyler: He’s a jerk.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I know, I just picture that scene. “As an alternative, we’ve offered him to switch cubicles. He refuses. What should we do?”

Aisha Tyler: This guy’s a sunlight Nazi. So here’s the problem with this guy. He is creating a Seasonal Affective Disorder problem in your office. You don’t want to run it up the food chain though, because it feels a little petty, right?

Rico Gagliano: Of course — a little petty? It’s the pettiest of things.

Aisha Tyler: But I mean, your work environment affects your productivity, doesn’t it? So, there’s a couple things you can do. If collectively there’s anybody else on your team who is of his level, you might be able to elect that person to speak to him.

And you’ve already asked this guy to move and he’s refused to move, so this is like a Buddhist middle way. You can do two things: First, you could dismantle the window mechanism so it no longer works.

The other option is that you could actually go to the company and say, “You know what, Company? You would save a lot of money if you paid to have all of the windows on this side of the building coated with some kind of UV film. It would reduce your air conditioning costs, keep the place cool in the summer, warm in the winter, save the company thousands of dollars.”

And now all of a sudden I’m not a peon anymore, I’ve been vaulted over this jerk who never opens the blinds in the afternoon, and I’m his boss, and I’m putting him in a coat closet.