Thursday, August 8, 2013

'On Writing' with Aisha Tyler and 'Self-Inflicted Wounds'...

As a comedienne, Aisha Tyler has thousands of funny stories stored up inside of her that she doles out on stage at her stand-up shows, on her Girl on Guy podcast, and daily on The Talk, as well. There is a specific art to telling a story that encompasses one's own shortcomings or missteps but does so with humility and humor. Tyler has mastered that. But there is also a specific art telling such stories in print, rather than verbally, and Tyler's newest book, "Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation," Tyler is not only exercising those slightly different muscles but mastering them as well.

"I hate reading books where it’s just people talking about how awesome they are and aren’t they fascinating?" Inspirational Women in the Entertainment Industry profilee Tyler, who is loath to call "Self-Inflicted Wounds" a memoir, said when I sat down with her in Los Angeles.

"It’s essentially ‘Here’s how I fucked up and what you can get out of it.’ If all it does is make people laugh, that’s great, but if what it does is make people feel better about the mistakes they’ve made, that’s great. If what it does is encourage people to not let their mistakes cripple them, which is my goal—to make everybody brave—then [I’ve done it]. That’s my ultimate goal."

Though Tyler released her first book in 2004 and admitted to wanting to do another one since almost immediately after her debut publishing, that is often easier said than done. Not only does she have an extremely busy performing schedule (she also hosts Whose Line Is It Anyway? on The CW and voices Lana Kane on FX' Archer), but the kind of writer she is doesn't necessarily lend itself to sitting down and banging out pages on a plane or in the make-up chair.

"Creatively for me, I have ideas swimming for a long time before [they] gel," Tyler said, crediting her podcast for why it all-- finally-- came together again.

"I had been doing the podcast for awhile; I was thinking about what was working, and what started to instill from the podcast was that people were really starting to connect with me. I wish I could say I came up with some kind of grand scheme, but really it was just an idea that people really loved. And it was time to turn the tables on myself because I had been making people humiliate themselves for two years on my podcast."

Being surrounded by funny, creative people all of the time helped Tyler hone in on the areas of her life she wanted to explore more in-depth in the book, noting the most important factor was not to protect her friends and family whose stories were being told by association but to ensure she wasn't making herself look too good through hindsight or image-consciousness.

"I really didn't want any of the things to be naval-gazing self-indulgence," Tyler said.

"There are [certainly] some things I left out of the book that I was like, ‘I can’t bring myself to write about this now,’ but maybe in "Self-Inflicted Wounds the Redux: The Woundening!" Anything that was really painful, they say the more you digest and process and look at it through more distance and experience, it scabs over. For me this was maybe also an exercise in putting my own demons in the light, and in doing so you render them harmless."

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