Comedian Nicole Byer is at her best when she's being her silliest self, which is probably why "Nailed It!" — the Netflix show she hosts where bad home bakers compete in challenges — has been such a hit.
"I got no direction," Byer says. "So I did what I thought was funny. I think people like the show because it's a bunch of people failing up. And it kind of shows that you don't have to be perfect. You can, you know, fail until you figure it out."
At 33, Byer is still figuring things out for herself. After getting her first break on MTV's panel show "Girl Code," Byer had a short-lived sitcom, "Loosely Exactly Nicole," from 2016 to 2018 that aired on MTV and Facebook Watch. Since then, she's racked up cameos and voice roles in such shows as "The Good Place" and "BoJack Horseman."
Equally adept at improv and stand-up, Byer hosts two podcasts: one about dating, "Why Won't You Date Me?" and one about friendship, "Best Friends," which she co-hosts with Sasheer Zamata. Byer discussed her comedy, a new podcast and her next big project.
Q: Is your stand-up constantly evolving?
A: It evolves every night because sometimes you'll improvise a new punchline, or you'll improvise a different way to get into the joke. Sometimes, the crowd will interject. So then you do a little bit of crowd work. So every show is truly different.
Q: Is your stand-up more personal or observational?
A: My stand-up is usually pretty personal. But I've been leaning in toward, toward the more observational humor. ... I do talk about dating, I talk about being black, the things that are personal to me.
Q: "Nailed It!" has been a surprise hit. Did you think the show would be successful?
A: No, I had no idea that it was gonna be as successful as it is. I don't know if anyone actually ever knows when something is going to be successful.
A: No. You always hope that something will be successful, but I don't think I've ever been confident that people will love this. People are fickle, and I don't know what they actually like.
Q: You don't think you're able to tap into what people love about the show?
A: Not really, because everyone has a different thing that they like about the show. I just tried to make the camera operators laugh. They see everything. If a camera operator laughs, that means you're funny.
Q: You have two podcasts, one about dating and one about friendship. Why talk about such personal topics at length like that?
A: I just did (a "Why Won't You Date Me?") with (comedian) Paul F. Tompkins and it was really fun to listen to him talk about his wife, who he obviously loves. To just see people light up when they talk about that person in their life is endearing. The world is filled with a lot of cruelty and I hope that when you listen to "Why Won't You Date Me?" or "Best Friends" you'll smile, and you're like, "Oh, yeah, people still really love and respect each other. There is good in this world." And that's why I do it.
Q: I heard you're starting a podcast with comedian Lauren Lapkus about the "Star Wars" movies.
A: We are because we've never seen them. Someone on Twitter was like you should do this.
Q: So what do you think "Star Wars" is?
A: It's like space time. They're in a galaxy far away or something but like close to us. There's like Han Solo and George Lucas and Princess Leia. And there's a Chewbacca and there's baba ghanoush?
Q: Boba Fett?
A: Sure. And then there's a little dumpster that rolls around with a gold gay man. I don't actually know what the story line is other than I think someone steals Princess Leia and Han Solo has to go save her or something. And then he meets a whole bunch of weird people. And then Luke is his father or something. No, Darth Vader is Luke's dad but I don't know who Luke is.
Q: What else are you working on?
A: I have a book coming out next spring. It's a self-help guide for fat women. I just changed the title. It is "#Veryfat #Verybrave: A Fat Girl's Guide to Being Brave and Not a Melancholy, Down in the Dumps, Weeping Fat Girl in a Bikini." I don't know if it's the official title.
Q: What has the writing process been like for you?
A: It's been hard. I'm pretty cool and chill with my body. But it's hard to try to come up with different angles on truly the same idea. The one idea of being comfortable in the bikini, being comfortable with your body. It's also a picture book. I think it's 80 pictures (of me) in different bikinis around L.A.
Q: Was modeling hard? You seem to take a body-positive approach to things.
A: I don't think I'm body positive. I just don't believe in hating the body you're in. I don't think you need to be positive about it. I think if you don't like what you see you can change it. Everyone can change their body.
Q: To some extent.
A: People have disabilities and whatnot, they cannot change that. If you can't change it, you have to accept it. Why beat yourself up? The world will beat you up.
Q: I assume you learned a lot about yourself writing this book.
A: I mean, I like the way I look. I take pictures in bikinis. I didn't write it for me, I wrote it for the women were like, "How are you so confident?" And the answer is: I don't know. I just choose to like what I see in the mirror.
Q: So it's literally just being positive.
A: Yeah, like, just fake it till you make it, look in the mirror, grab your fat rolls and go, "These are mine, and I like them."