I’m familiar with Aisha Tyler through her work as Lana Kane on the excellent FX network adult cartoon Archer, which my husband and I have been watching since it first aired. But to many others, she is a nerd queen on a level with Mila Kunis and Felicia Day. Tyler is an actor, stand-up comedian, gamer, podcaster, and Ivy-League educated lover of all things geeky and nerdy. She is also a talented and funny writer, and her second book Self-Inflicted Wounds is not only laugh-out-loud funny, but also truly inspiring. It’s comedy but should be cross-referenced under self-help.
Tyler’s message is to “…embrace your fears, learn from your failures, celebrate your victories, and run headlong into (metaphorical) danger.” Yes, you will make mistakes and they might be pretty awful, but you can survive the failure and/or embarrassment. Each chapter of the book then details specific episodes from Tyler’s life in which she sustained “self-inflicted wounds.” These she describes as “… a demon entirely of one’s own making — a self-conjured gorgon pulled from the netherworld, if not voluntarily, then at the very least unbidden. Eventually one has to wake up and smell the metaphorical blood; you did this to yourself.” Rather than allow these self-inflicted wounds to beat her down, Tyler views them philosophically: “You screwed the pooch. All you can do now is try to turn it into a learning experience.”
Tyler has plenty of fodder to draw from for her book, such as: nearly burning down the apartment and ruining her mother’s chiffon blouse when she was a kid and had decided to make fries; revealing her “meditation name” to classmates in a school where she already stood out as the very tall sci-fi reading, boob-sprouting (in 3rd grade) poor vegetarian black girl; joining a renegade a capella singing group at Dartmouth whose signature look was the mock turtleneck; drunk tweeting; and, of course, trying to break into stand-up comedy. My favorite chapter deals with her childhood desire to get her period and purchasing a box of maxi-pads in preparation. She decides to wear one on a test walk around the neighborhood and her description of the event is hysterical.
As humiliating as some of these self-inflicted wounds are, for Tyler, they are worth it. She says, “…I never look back and wish I had gone after something that I didn’t.” She gives a lot of credit (and dedicates this book) to her parents for her adventurous and independent spirit and her resiliency. As funny and entertaining as this book is, at the end, it really is inspiring to consider the adversity and obstacles that might have deterred Tyler from following her dreams. Nothing came easy for her and she’s pretty honest in saying that, for comedy especially, there’s no easy way to succeed. It’s all about hard work and learning how to handle the setbacks.
And if you aren’t familiar with Archer, do yourself a favor and check it out on Netflix or Hulu. It’s one of the smartest and funniest shows on TV. Tyler described it in an NPR interview as being “thinky and stinky,” a potent mix of intellectual and potty humor. They had me from the first “Bartleby the Scrivener” joke.