I like Aisha Tyler. I liked her on Talk Soup. I liked when they brought her in to Friends so they could have a black friend. I like her on Archer, which I don’t watch enough of. I love love love her podcast, Girl on Guy. I was super excited when she announced that she’d be hosing the return of Whose Line Is It Anyway?. She’s super funny, and even better, she’s really smart and geeky. She’d been talking about her book for a while on Girl on Guy and I was really looking forward to reading it. I wish I had gotten the audio version though.
Tyler ends Girl on Guy by asking her guest to share a self-inflicted wound. These are stories of things that are just bad and you have no one to blame but yourself. Wrecked credit, getting an STD twice from the same girl when you know it’s going to happen the second time, punched in the face by a jealous boyfriend… usually these are super embarrassing stories and the most cringe inducing part is that you can’t blame it on anyone else but yourself. These are the moments where you look back and wonder “What did I think was going to happen???” But hopefully they’ve made you a better person. Or not. Who cares, as long as it’s a good story.
Tyler turns her question on to herself for this book and creates a memoir of sorts where she retells her own self-inflicted wounds. Some are hysterical, some are learning experiences, some show her path to success. It’s a good mix, like anyone’s life should be. There are some that I sort of flipped through and others that I completely related to and took my time with. I think most people will find at least one story that they will cringe along with and think “Oh god… me too. I did this.”
One of my favorite stories is The Time I Almost Seared My Flesh to My Dad’s Motorcycle. When she was ten, she decided that the best way to distinguish herself from her classmates was to dress like a ballerina all the time. Not a frilly pink tu-tu’ed ballerina, but a girl who was serious about art. She decided she needed leotards and tights with ankle length wrap skirts. Everything had to match. She decided that brown tones would convey this serious vibe, so there she was: ten years old, draped in shapeless brown. No matter where she went, this was her outfit. People had to take her seriously because she was committed. This was a girl who thought deep thoughts and she had clothing to match. Of course, she was also a girl who was ten and wanted to be able to walk. Or play, climb trees, run, and participate in other activities that ten year olds do. Apparently when you have a skirt wrapped tightly around your legs, you fall down a lot. But she managed to keep it together until her dad’s motorcycle ended the look.
She loved her dad and loved that he loved motorcycles. The problem was that when she was on the back she wanted to read or sleep. Her dad finally figured out a way to strap her in so she wouldn’t pitch backwards into oncoming traffic. However, there was no way to construct a harness to strap down a ten year old’s mind or skirt. Paying such serious attention to how her skirt moved and how a true artist must hold her body, she forgot about the exhaust pipe. Climbing behind her dad, her skirt melted to the pipe and there was immediate burning and freaking-the-fuck out. Happily, only her skirt was burned, but she realized that maybe ballerina skirts weren’t the best idea.
This story killed me because I remember being in elementary school and wanting to Be Serious. I was convinced that if you carried a notebook around all the time to write in, people would marvel at how advanced you were. Surely cameras would show up at some point and you’d find yourself famous with a TV show or a movie career or something. You don’t see a ten year old with a notebook and think they won’t become famous! I mean, come on! That ten year old has a notebook! There is no commitment like an elementary school kid with something to prove. Well, until something happens where you realize it’s a total pain in the ass to carry around a notebook and pencil all the damn time and it’s taking way too long for your famous career to kick off. Or, you know, you almost set yourself on fire on the back of your dad’s bike.
Tyler continues with stories of growing up, dealing with boobs, then starting her standup career. There was a huge time span in between those two things. Her college years, while cringe worthy, also show that she was headed for greatness. This was a woman who was going to create a space for herself, no matter how much it was going to hurt.
Her adult tales are just as good. She finds herself not feeling funny anymore and questioning her career. She accidentally spits on an audience member. She falls asleep at a party. She’s older, but still self-inflicting.
I will argue that not all of these tales are actual wounds, but the are definitely self-inflicted. Tyler is someone who makes decisions and follows through, no matter what. Sometimes there are tragic endings, but overall, she’s had amazing payoffs. Sure, she’s performed in front of a crowd with her fly down and she once wore a see through dress to an event, but she also was named the 2011 best new comedy podcast on iTunes, she has amazing fans, she’s got a book and a talk show and she gets to perform all over the place. She get to rock her nerd self while playing video games and greeting fans at various cons. She swears more than I do. I totally want to hang out with her.