Nicole Byer is trying to make herself laugh

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      I open the Google Meet link and it immediately dings at me with a pop-up: Oprah Winfrey is requesting access to the call. Would I like to admit her?

      Chuckling, I click “yes,” knowing full well that it won’t be the voice of America’s favourite daytime TV host and car-gifter on the other end. Instead, it’s the voice of American multi-hyphenate Nicole Byer: podcast host (Why Won’t You Date Me?, Best Friends!, Newcomer, 90 Day Bae); author (#VERYFAT #VERYBRAVE); television host (Nailed It!, Wipeout); guest judge (RuPaul’s Drag Race); actress (Grand Crew, Girl Code, 30 Rock, Brooklyn Nine-Nine); and stand-up comedian (Netflix’s Big Beautiful Weirdo). I begin by asking her, genuinely, if she sleeps.

      She laughs (success!).

      “Two years ago I got an assistant, and that changed my fucking life,” says Byer, who prior to getting said assistant was doing all of her own bookings and schedule management, along with being the aforementioned multi-hyphenate. “It’s funny because I used to do everything by myself, and now I’m truly helpless. I cannot do a single thing by myself. She literally calls me at 5am to be like, ‘Are you on your way to the airport?’”

      Regardless of the medium, Byer’s brand of comedy is so successful because it resonates with her audience. Mining her own life for moments of relatability  (and absurdity), she’s not afraid to make herself the punchline—whether it’s musings on identity politics or stories about her dating life.

      https://www.instagram.com/p/CXXgfIUlUcV/?hl=en

      The latter is frequent fodder for her jokes (along with her Why Won’t You Date Me? podcast), and is, she says, a big part of her Just For Laughs Vancouver set—which takes place at the Vogue this month.

      “I tell a lot of stories about things that have happened in the last year and a half,” she offers of the show. “And I talk about dating—being single—because it is this thing that follows me.”

      I ask how dating’s going.

      “You know—not great,” she says. “The apps suck.”

      It’s equal parts comforting and disheartening to know that dating apps don’t even seem to work for famous people (I’ll briefly caveat that I met my partner on one, though I am the exception, not the rule). I ask her about Raya, the “exclusive” app for celebrities and other wealthy folks that only accepts about eight per cent of its applicants.

      “It’s just weird Australian DJs who are like, ‘I’m gonna be in your city soon!’” Byer jokes. “It’s like, ‘Ugh! Get out of my city!’” (Which, for the record, is LA.)

      Being single has become pretty central to her identity as a comedian, so I ask her if that’ll change when she’s in a relationship.

      “No!” she asserts. “I’m not losing material just because a man’s in my life.”

      It’s the feminist comedian equivalent to Nora Ephron’s famous line that “everything is copy.” And, when you think about it, everything is. When you’re a writer (of any kind), you see the world differently—you interpret things through a hyper-focused lens. Inspiration can truly strike at any moment, which is half the fun.

      “Suddenly I’ll be like driving and I’ll be like, ‘This?’ ” Byer says. “And then I’ll have to pull over, write it down, and  forget about it for a month and a half—and then be like, ‘Wait, I thought about something funny…’ ”

      She laughs, amused at her own joke. Cracking herself up is something she’s become known for.

      “People always are like, ‘You laugh a lot during stand-up at your own jokes,’ ” she says. “And I’m like, ‘Yeah—you think I left my fucking house to tell you jokes that I don’t think are funny? I’m having a great time along with you.’ ”

      Still, some sets are more challenging than others.

      “The hardest thing about stand-up is if I’m not in the mood and I still have to do a show,” she admits. “When you’re on the road alone, going through it, you’re like, ‘Ah, fuck! I’ve gotta put on a happy face and talk for an hour?’ I know it’s just an hour, but when you’re sad, that hour is excruciating. That’s another reason why I only tell jokes that I think are funny—because I’m also helping myself.”

      Nicole Byer is at the Vogue on February 16 as part of Just For Laughs Vancouver.

      Comments