Aisha Tyler is, by her own description, an anomaly. A black girl with no ass who “talks white” – Ivy League educated, a nerd since the cradle, and a gamer that can destroy your best score at anything – read this essay if you doubt her gamer credentials. She is, at once, self-effacing and sparklingly confident. She described her adolescent self as “Urkel with breasts” but stands before you now as a regulation hottie. Her career in standup, on TV (Talk Soup, Friends, Archer…) and even the occasional movie as the glamazon bio-queen, all belie the fangirl and polymath that are, I suspect, closer to her true self that she shares, unreservedly, on her podcast GIRL ON GUY. She’s the ultimate best girlfriend of gaykind and outsider types everywhere.
Devotees of Aisha Tyler’s podcast GIRL ON GUY, have been long anticipating the launch of her new book Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation – the title of which is the same as a segment on her podcast wherein guests regale Aisha and her listeners with stories of best-laid plans running off the rails, drunken mis-steps and sometimes just downright shitty things that happened to them at their own hand. The book version, however, is where Aisha lays bare her own stories of poor judgement, not knowing any better, and maladroit choices that ultimately landed her a performance career to envy. Her book walks through her nerdly early years as a sci-fi obsessive and action movie enthusiast, the endless OCD’s that would inform her every step, and an independent streak that her father gave her by the time she’d entered Kindergarten.
Aisha’s podcast is much like our own here at SGS – largely unstructured conversations with someone interesting on pretty much any topic that they care to engage. In short, her podcast is fascinating. She has a deft skill at chat with her subjects in a way that allows them to share their stories without fear. Too often, the podcast medium is forced into the Late Night Chat Show format that has dominated the media landscape since Eisenhower was president – that antiquated format is alive and well in Jay Leno’s yawnfest of a show, and we certainly don’t need more via iTunes. Aisha, however, simply treats the conversation as a patio chat with friends over delicious chilled Manhattans – and does so to great effect. The book is a flawless extension of her podcast, and will appease the most voracious adherent. By sharing her own stories of shortcomings, she manages to pay back all of her guests’ generosity of storytelling – and then some.
“It was no bonfire of the vanities, it was a campfire of the sadnesses.
Make no mistake, SELF-INFLICTED WOUNDS (the book…) is no tell-all. She doesn’t talk at length about whom she banged to get to where she is now (she’s been married for two decades – making her a veritable unicorn in Hollywood), nor does she name names or talk about the assholes and misogyny that she’s encountered in her career, although that could easily fill a tome, I’m sure. What Aisha DOES do, is lay out “heartwarming tales of epic humiliation” – that is, true stories of her own life (starting at age 5) where poor choices provided meaningful lessons that frequently end with bandages and antibiotics – sometimes terrifying, disturbing, frustrating and all too familiar for fellow former weird kids.
Her fans already know that Aisha was a weird kid, who has brought her nerdly tendencies glamorously into adulthood. As a fellow former weird kid myself, the cringe-inducing stories of compulsive behaviors manifesting themselves into the very thing one is obsessed with preventing made my brain nearly explode with sympathy and familiarity. The stories of her adoring father who taught her self-reliance and independence at an early age are particularly charming. By today’s standards, Aisha’s dad would receive a visit from social services because he didn’t send her out hosed down in Purell and wrapped in bubble wrap – when you get to the story of a young Aisha in ballerina drag on the back of dad’s motorcycle, it will both terrify you and cause you to laugh until you fart. But paternal love is never more abundantly clear than in her oddly sweet stories of having a dad who bears a more than passing resemblance to Action Jackson.
Additionally, SELF INFLICTED WOUNDS is available as an audiobook, which obviously garners my enthusiastic recommendation – hearing Aisha share the stories in her own voice brings them to a whole new level. It’s her own uproarious tone and comedic timing that grants you a seemingly private show while listening to the book – but it’s also in her own voice that you realize that via this book, she’s almost accidentally written an inspiring self-help book for the career paralyzed hipster set. Not the crystal-wearing, “let’s all share our feelings, and write our insecurities on a piece of paper and burn them in the sacred bowl” kind of self-help practice so widely enjoyed on the west coast – no, instead it’s an almost loving chuck on the chin that tells you to brush it off, and learn from your fuckups, but most importantly, butch up! – then go boldly into the next thing with your head held high. Much like her own dad did for her – lovingly, assertively, but happily bereft of cloying sentimentality.
Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation is available now on Amazon, and Audible.com, and all over the internets.
Enjoy this music video of Aisha Tyler singing No Ass At All… so, so good…