Aisha Tyler is a unique combination of drop dead gorgeous, horribly geeky and amazingly funny. Currently she voices the character of Lana Kane, female super spy on the hit FX animated comedy “Archer,” which airs Thursdays at 10 pm.
Her career has been as unique as her personality. From stand-up comedy and comedic roles in “Balls of Fury” and “Archer” to dramatic roles in “24” and “The Ghost Whisperer” to hosting gigs on “Talk Soap” and “The Talk.”
In a conference call last week promoting “Archer,” Tyler spoke about voicing the character of Lana Kane, females in comedy, her love of stand-up and
I heard you’re a San Francisco native just like me. So I just wanted to make sure you’re a Giants fan or a 49ers fan also.
I am absolutely a Giants fan and I’m a Dynasty baby so I was a 49ers fan for a long time. Then I was not a 49ers fan, and of course after this season I’m absolutely a 49ers fan again. I know I seem inconsistent and slutty, but the 49ers broke my heart for a good ten years there. It’s finally an exciting time to be a 9ers fan again.
I totally agree. It was the one year I moved away from San Francisco the Giants won the World Series.
I know. That was so exciting. I was home for the playoffs. We were in a bar in the Mission. We were actually at Hog & Rocks jumping around yelling, “The Giants win the pennant. The Giants win the pennant,” which was super fun.
How did you get involved with the show?
I got the script through my agent. I had known who Adam Reed was because I was a huge fan of his from his Sealab 2021days. I was obsessed with this kind of ridiculous, crazy kind of cockeyed show and just thought he was brilliant and loved what he and Matt [Thompson] had done with that show. I got the script, read about 1/3 of it, saw that there were curse words in it and said, “Yes.”
It was also quite funny, but I just couldn’t believe what a great combination of smart and funny it was. And I remember thinking, “This will never make it on the air, too smart and too funny,” but thank God for FX. And I say that without any …. They let the show be what it is and it’s just a joy to make it. It’s really wonderful.
Would you say there's any differences or similarities between you and Lana?
I wish I was more like her. I think she’s awesome. We’re definitely both tall and amply proportioned. My hands are neither crooked bass nor truckasaurus. Thank you. They are lovely, delicate feminine hands. Maybe the nails are a little stubby and gnawed on, but I definitely do not have man hands.
But I love ‘Lana.’ I think she’s smart. I think she’s effective. I think she’s funny. She probably could wear a pair of pants every once in a while. It might be good. Might be good for the constitution, ‘Lana,’ to cover up a little bit. But other than that, I wish I were more like her because she’s definitely bad …. I’d love to hang out of a moving van firing TEC-9s. I think that would be great. That’d be a good afternoon.
Now with Archer, you’ve done stand up where phrasing and timing can make good writing better and great writing unforgettable. How does that work when you’re working on a script for Archer? How much is writing and what do you do with the phrasing and the timing that adds your own touch?
That’s a very good question. I’m confident that every actor on the show has their own process so I can only tell you about how I work. The scripts are always hilarious when we get them, thank God. I’ve worked on programs where you think, “I’ve got to do something with this.” But with this show you pretty much just can’t wait to get in there and say these words.
That being said, I think Adam and Matt and the other guys on the show are passionate about comedy. There is joyfulness in the moment that we’re in the booth making the show. So for me what I do is I just kind of attack the lines and I try to come up with the funniest way to say these lines. Sometimes I’m just—this is kind of a business term—laying pipe. I’m like, “Hey guys, we’ve got to solve this issue for the German Chancellor because his daughter is about the get the clap,” or whatever it is. I’ve got to say that stuff.
But usually my goal is to just come at the lines from 20 different angles and just try to find the best possible way to say it that’s going to be the funniest and kind of drive the story best from my aspect of it. Usually I do it until I hear the guys on the other end of the line laugh and then I know I rang their bell.
But sometimes we’ll do a line a bunch of different ways and then we’ll just go—Adam or Matt or Casey [Willis] will go, “Try this. What about that?” And I’ll go, “Hey, what if I said this.” So sometimes we’ll do some improving on the fly. I hopefully know ‘Lana’ well enough now that I’m able to pitch something to those guys. They’re pretty open-minded.
I think we all are really passionate about comedy and we all really love the show. So it’s definitely always a collaborative thing. It’s not like—we’re never wrestling over who’s driving the truck. Both guys are driving the truck but I think they know that I love ‘Lana’ and love the show. So if I come and pitch something we usually kind of get a crack at it, and then they just chop it up however they like.
Do you know if XIII is going to get any U.S. exposure?
I’ll tell you that I do believe it will. I’m not quite sure if the deal’s closed, but I feel quite confident that there is a deal being made right now for an American network for the fall of 2012. They already started production on season two. I think we started a week ago. I’m going to be flying back and forth from L.A. to Canada for a few weeks to shoot some stuff for the second season. I have Archer and I have XIII and I have an American series here called The Talk that shoots daily so it’s going to be a little bit of a challenge for me. But I love XIII and I love playing ‘Jones’ so I’ll be going back and forth for a little while.
From 70-degree weather here to 7-degree weather there, it should be nice. I love Toronto. I love it. I love Toronto. I love Canada. I can’t wait to get back. Can’t wait to have some Timbits.
How have you evolved as a woman since you started playing ‘Lana Kane.’
I love it. How have I evolved as a woman since I started—I have not filled my closet with turtleneck mini dresses. I can tell you that. The one thing that I love ‘Lana’ is I think she can be both no nonsense and also self-deprecating. I think that’s something that’s really wonderful about her. She takes her work seriously, but she doesn’t take herself too seriously. I hope that I’ve incorporated that into my real life.
‘Lana’ lives the life that I would love to lead. She’s an international woman of mystery and doesn’t suffer fools lightly. I suffer fools constantly. I’m a fool sufferer. My husband is giving me a really nasty look right now. I’m the kindest, most supportive friend ever, probably to my own detriment, but I hope that I am toughening up a little bit. Hopefully I’ll get a little bit more of ‘Lana’s’ kind of Kevlar exterior. I don’t know. I’m kind of a softie. I would love to be more like her.
I don’t know that I’ve changed much at all. I’ve learned nothing. That’s what I’ve learned. I’ve grown in no way. I am stuck in a developmental rut never to progress. I can only grow through my cartoon character, not in real life.
Since we’ve realized we’re in a vacuum, what do you think the three elements are that make ‘Lana’ so darn discernable?
I think that she is obviously very sexy, but it’s not a crutch for her. I think that she calls it like she sees it and I think she’s not afraid to put herself in a line of fire. She also runs around firing machine guns in her underwear. I mean come on, who doesn’t want to do that? Every girl wants to do that. Every guy wants to watch a girl do that. Even my gay friends are like, “I would go straight for like three or four minutes just to hang out with ‘Lana’ a little bit in her Fiocchi knockoffs.”
Actuallu I see her as a madern day Jessica Rabbit with a lot of twist.
I like her because we love ‘Jessica Rabbit,’ but she still was a victim and ‘Lana’s’ definitely not a victim. ‘Lana’ is first in the door. She’s primary through the door in every mission and she will roll up her sleeves and do whatever it takes to get the job done. She’s definitely not a wuss, and I love that about her. She will just do what it takes to get the job done.
If you were going to be in a fight and you had to pick between ‘Archer’ and ‘Lana,’ obviously ‘Archer’ is super hot. He seems to always kind of get his man, but sometimes he gets his man by accident. But you know that if you’re bleeding from a neck wound and you’re about to die, ‘Lana’ will like repair your neck wound with like a paperclip and a Band-Aid and fight everybody off with her other hand while in her underwear. She’s the girl I’d want on my team.
What do you find so passionate about standup?
It’s how I got my start in the business. I’ve been doing it now for about 18 years. There is something incredibly electric and visceral about having a conversation with a group of people in a live environment. It’s very different from everything else I do. I’m very lucky. I feel very fortunate to do all the things I am able to do because I have my scripted television. I have drama. I have comedy. I have talk. I have my podcast.
I do a lot of different things, but with standup where you’re in a room full of people and there’s this heat and there’s this intensity—I don’t turn into a different person on stage but I turn into myself on eleven, if that’s even possible because I’m usually on like 10.7 all the time anyway. There’s just something incredibly invigorating and exciting about that.
Every show is a little different. I really get to say exactly what I’m feeling. I feed off of the audience’s energy and there’s that immediacy of knowing right in that moment whether something’s working or not. You’re working without a net. If you fail you fall to the floor. There’s nobody to catch you. Definitely there’s nobody to blame, but that’s what makes it so exciting. Standup is kind of the skydiving of the performance world because it’s all you.
And since you said you started 18 years ago, really at five in kindergarten you did that?
You’re adorable. If you were here I would kiss you right on your mouth. That was the cutest thing. It was so sweet. I started in first grade.
When you read a script, either for a film or a TV show, what is it in the first few pages that really grabs you and makes you know that this is good writing? And then also the flip side, what bugs you and isn’t good in the first few pages?
I’ll answer the second question first. If it starts out with any kind of a velvet painting description of the silhouette of a nude black woman with a giant afro, I’d probably either think I’d found an old Pam Grier script or it’s not the movie for me. Not that I don’t like afros. I’d love to wear an afro, just not nude. And also typos. I will say I’m a total snob and I feel like if you can’t have an assistant proof your script and get the typos out, you’re probably not going to know which end of the camera to put the film in.
On the up side, for me as an actor, it’s easy when the script is pedigreed. It’s easy if you know you’re going to be working with Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino or something like that. You say yes no matter what because you know you’re going to be in deft hands. I think if there are more question marks about the script you just want to see that there’s something in there that you can do. If I look at a script, I’m reading the entire story. That’s important
But what I really want to know is if I get my hands on this role can I do something exciting. Can I contribute to the film, because in the end if I don’t win it this film doesn’t win? So I’ve got to know can I make this better. Can I bring something to the table that’s going to be extraordinary? Sometimes you read a role and it’s a great movie and it’s a great role and you realize, “This is not the role for me. I’m not going to be able to do my best work here. This is not a fit.”
So really what I do is I look to see can I do something? Do I have some great transcendent idea that I can bring to this that’s going to really elevate the material? And then sometimes you look deep into the script and you see how much money they’re going to pay you and that sometimes drives your decision as well.
And a quick follow up, do you still have “No … At All?”
No, it’s actually caving in on itself like a point of singularity out in space. It’s developing some kind of gravitational pull and soon I’ll be sucking in children and strollers and small kitchen implements. It’s getting flatter, sadly, as I get older. I think Meryl Streep said at some age you’ve got to decide between your ass and your face, and clearly my ass has made the decision for me.
Well then you're just going to have to make a new music video about it.
I think so. I think it’s time. I definitely need to make a new music video this year. I think you’re absolutely right.
I know you’ve done a little bit of voice work before this and I’m wondering if you’re interested in doing any more? And if you are, if there are any particular animated shows right now that you would want to do?
I love doing voice work. I think it’s very liberating. It becomes much more of an academic exercise. Not in a negative way in a positive way to just be not thinking about anything else but how funny you can be. You’re not worried about your looks or your wardrobe or your makeup or anything like that. So in that way it’s very refreshing.
What would I like to do? Well I already did another really brilliant show called The Boondocks, and I would love to go back and do another episode of that show. That was a blast and that show is just extraordinary in a whole different way…but really wonderful.
Wouldn’t it be great to be part of a giant Pixar movie? I would love that. Mr. Pixar, I hope you’re listening. They do great—I love animated movies. I saw the last Puss in Boots. I love stuff like that. It was like a whole theater full of adults with their children and then me and my husband by ourselves. We don’t have kids. So I loved animation and I think you can do a lot of great comedy with animation that you can’t do in real life. So I’m open. Send me some scripts. I’m down. Let’s do this.
What do you think ‘Lana’s’ feelings are right now towards ‘Sterling’ after all they’ve been through?
They’re going through some really interesting stuff right now aren’t they? I think that especially after ‘Archer’ got sick and they went through their rampage together ‘Lana’ has a lot of sympathy for ‘Archer’ that she didn’t have before. He confessed to her during the three-part “The Heart of Archness” episodes that we did in the fall that she was his only real friend.
So I think she’s softened quite a bit towards him. I think sometimes she feels affection for him and I think sometimes she thinks he’s pathetic, but I think that she has a new-found compassion for ‘Archer’ and an understanding of who he is and why he is the way he is that she might not have had before when she was just furious with him.
I keep lobbying Adam for some kind of massive sexageddon between the two of them. And I’m hoping that it’ll happen because I think it would be great. It would add a nice layer to ‘Lana’s’ story if she started to kind of doubt her—she seems to always really know herself and really know how she is and what she wants.
She’s always very definitive about, “‘Archer’s’ on my last nerve and I’m here to get the job done and get out of my face.” But I would really love to see her have some kind of a breakdown because she’s always kind of perfect. It would be fun to see her be conflicted and a mess. It would also be great to see ‘Archer’ be conflicted and a mess or more conflicted and more of a mess than he’s been so far after losing his wife to the robot murder, Russian overlord. I can’t think of his first name, cyborg guy. It’ll come to me in a minute.
What was that?
Thank you. I was going to call him Donnie. I don't know where that came from.
I’m here just to say character names. ‘Barry,’ Bionic ‘Barry.’ He looks like the six-million-dollar man to me or the cartoon version of him.
Yes, exactly. So yes I would love to see them get together. I would like to see some relationship drama happen at ISIS and just turn into some kind of a big nuclear bomb, not a literal nuclear bomb but an emotional nuclear bomb. Let’s ruffle some feathers up in this bisnitch.
I think it would also—if we learn more about ‘Lana’s’ background, we’ve learned a lot now about ‘Sterling’ and his mother and that we know that she took his bicycle and all that stuff.
You know what we know about ‘Lana’? We don’t know anything about her family. We know that when ‘Malory’ met her she was an environmental activist protestor, throwing blood on people, wearing fur and that she was fearless. She was as titanium nails then as she is now. I love that about her but she has her soft spots. We know that she wants a baby and whenever she gets drunk she kind of starts to breakdown about that stuff. So she’s got a cranial center. It would be nice to learn more about it.
They went back in the—I don’t know if it’s aired yet—but the one about helping the other go back to his roots and helping him with his brother, the drug addict guy.
That was last season with the butler, with Woodhouse, going back. That one?
No, not him. The new espisodes with Jack McBrayer from 30 Rock?
I’m sure I was drinking when I recorded …. I’m going to find out what happens. I honestly cannot remember. And it’s so funny because the episodes that are airing now, we recorded, I feel like in the summer, like around Comic-Con or something like that. That was like lifetimes ago for me.
So you guys are recording new ones now?
We are finished recording this season. We’re finished. Adam Reed is in … moon or something relaxing and thinking up next season. One great thing about the show is you’ll read the script and then you’ll go and record your part and then it will fade away. So then you go back and you’re like, “Oh I remember when this happened.”
I would love to see more of ‘Lana’s’ background. We learned that ‘Pam’ was an underground fight club champion. It’s been great to find out who these people are. ‘Pam’ is my favorite character on the show, probably more than ‘Lana.’ I really love her. She’s who’d I want in my corner, her and ‘Lana.’ If we could have like a three-girl fight club, me, ‘Pam’ and ‘Lana,’ we’d rule this. We’d just go around crushing heads and taking names. It’d be great.
Since you’re a standup comedian, who were your biggest influences when you were growing up? Who made you want to become a standup comedian?
When I was very young I don’t think I even had a sense that comedy was a real job. I did not discover standup comedy in earnest until I was in college. I do remember vividly my dad taking me to see Live on the Sunset Strip when I was a kid, probably when I was way too young to actually see that concert, inappropriately young. But also … Eddie Murphy’s Delirious. I’m like repeating every single line of that special to my friends in the street.
But the person who inspired me to start standup comedy actually was Steven Wright. I saw a Steven Wright concert when I was at Dartmouth. He came and he was just so elegant and erudite, and you know how abstract his work is. It made it feel more accessible.
Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy were these kind of giants. They were like rock stars, and Steven was just much more of a literate, studious comedian. And that made it feel like there was room for me in there somewhere. And I think after I saw him live I went home and started making little notes.
We were wondering if you had a dream guest star that you’d like to have on the show?
On Archer, a dream guest star; that’s such a great question. We had Burt Reynolds and he made me think of George Clooney. Wouldn’t that be sexy? I’m trying to think of who we have coming up that is really exciting. Who’s in the finale? There’s somebody really awesome in the finale. I have the memory of literally of somebody’s great grandmother who has rickets. I can’t remember anything.
Bryan Cranston from Breaking Bad?
Bryan Cranston. I was going to say Brian Singer. He’s not an actor. Thank you. We have Bryan Cranston in the finale, who is incredible, obviously. I just finished season four of Breaking Badso I’m very excited about that. But he was a dream guest that we already have.
So our two-part finale with Bryan Cranston takes place in outer space. You couldn’t do that with real scripted television because space is really expensive. We budgeted it out. So he’s somebody that I’m really excited about. I would like to have Ryan Reynolds on the show just because I love Ryan Reynolds. That’s neither here nor there. I probably wouldn’t even get to see him.
That’s the problem. We have our dream guest stars and none of us ever interact with them because they go and do their work in the booth on their own. So everyone’s like, “How was it working with Burt Reynolds?” And I was like, “I have no idea.” But yes, those are two people that would be really exciting.
I have a big girl crush on Vera Farmiga. What about Viola Davis? She could be like a competitive spy like from a different agency, like from ODIN. She could be like an ODIN spy. She’s already played—she was like a big CIA muckety-muck in Knight and Daywith Tom Cruise so she’s already played spy muckety-mucks and I think that would be really cool.
If you oculd have one piece of spy equipment in real life what would it be?
A gun. That doesn’t really count. If I could have one piece of spy equipment—probably night vision goggles. Those are kind of cool. A black slinky kind of suit where no one can see your own body heat and then you put the night vision goggles on so you can see everybody else’s body heat and then I would just crawl around in people’s bushes and stuff like that. I don’t know what that I would be looking for anything in particular, but it’d just be nice to walk around and like look at people and have them not be able to see you.
So how about that? And also a grappling hook that shoots out of your belt that you could like scale the sides of buildings. That’d be very cool too.
It always comes in handy.
I mean I don’t really have any buildings to scale, but it’s nice to know that I could should the need arise.
Archerwon our reader’s poll for best spy TV in 2011, and you’ve also been on 24and now XIII. What is it about spy TV that you’re particularly drawn to and love and maybe how does Archerfit in the lexicon of spy TV?
I will say, first of all, that I grew up having much of my free time supervised by my dad, my single dad. I grew up loving action movies and being obsessed with that genre. I’ve seen Die Hardlike 40 or 50 times. So I just love that whole world. Even as adult I’ve watched … dozens and dozens of times. I just love all of that stuff. And I have played a spy now three times; how interesting.
So what was your question, spies are awesome? Was that your question?
Something specifically about spy TV that either you’re drawn to and then also how Archer fits kind of in the spy realm.
In the spy firmament? So I think I’m drawn to interesting, competitive, strong women. I think that’s the first thing. Women who are doing something that is complex and interesting. I love the idea of characters in peril, generally. I always like the idea about ordinary people going through extraordinary circumstances or extraordinary conditions. So I find that very appealing.
It’s not that I don’t like other kinds of character driven drama, but I like when people are called on to make extreme personal sacrifice on behalf of others. That’s always been a theme that I’ve been attracted to in my work as an actor and also when I’ve been writing or committing to other projects.
Like when someone has to go through—and that may go back to when I loved Die Hard. You have this kind of regular cop who’s got to walk barefoot across glass to save his wife down at the—what was it called, … Tower? I’ll think of it in a minute. Someone will think of it. Scott will Google it and then break in, in a minute, and tell me what the name of that tower was.
So I love that stuff. I just find that to be a really compelling set of conditions because people have to kind of reach outside of themselves and find a strength that they didn’t know they had in order to do something extraordinary, usually for other people, not for themselves. So I think that’s why I like the spy genre.
I think that Archer—I often describe it as James Bondmeets The Officewhere everybody is drunk and having sex with each other. How that fits into the spy firmament, I can’t tell you. But what I love about it is that it can be a very absurd office comedy, but also there’s this nice legitimate edge to it where they do go on real missions and they do engage in espionage that feels as real as a cartoon show about spies can feel and there’s real peril. I love that about it too. There’s this kind of odd mix of competency and extreme competency that goes on and I imagine that exists in the real world of espionage as well.
I think you’re thinking of the Nakatomi Plaza.
Nakatomi Plaza, thank you.
Also something I really cherish about Archeris the four women; you have ‘Malory,’ ‘Lana,’ ‘Cheryl’ and ‘Pam.’ Unlike any other females on television, when you guys get together on the promotion of … did the four of you ever talk about how unique these characters really are?
I don’t think we’ve ever kind of had a conversation where we said to each other, “Our characters are so unique.” I think we talk about how much we love them when we’re together. Unfortunately, we don’t see each other that frequently. It’s maybe only three times a year. Once …, then once at Comic-Con and then once at TCA.
I think we often remark on how much we like our characters, how much we enjoy playing them, how much we enjoy listening to the other people play them. I often tell the other actors on the show, “I just love what you do with this character. I love this character so much.” And so I feel like—especially with Judy [Greer] and …, I love those two characters and I think I tell them that quite a bit. But I’ve never really sat down and said, “These characters are unique.” I just kind of say, “Man, that character’s bad …,” which I’m sure is street slang for unique.
As the series deepens and whether it goes into fourth and fifth seasons, we got the three-parter at the beginning of the season and then we still have these stand-alone stories. Do you like how the serialized stories turn out as opposed to the stand alones or do you see more and more of this development going on as the series goes on?
I have really enjoyed some of the serialized stories. And I feel like there’s a serialized aspect to the show, especially now that the show’s done well and people love the character and they have the patience and the passion to follow where we go with what’s happening. So it’s been more fun now.
I feel like we have the luxury of being able to engage in these serialized shows. I love “The Heart of Archness” trilogy and I’m really looking forward to the season finale, which is two-parter. I feel like we’re able to explore bigger ideas and push harder with story ideas. It’s been fun.
But Adam’s also very good at one-offs. “Lo Scandalo,” which just aired last week was a fabulous, really artfully executed one off that drew elements from ‘Malory’s’ back story and from things that had happened in previous episodes, but was just this beautiful kind of who-done-it that held together really well on it’s own. And I think when you see an episode like that you just see what a great writer and what a great comedic mind Adam is.
So that is neither here nor there isn’t it? I said yes to both. That’s what I did. I said yes. That’s the answer, yes.
We’ve heard so much about women in comedy in the past year and there are so many funny women on TV and in films. What advice would you have for screenwriters wanting to write really good female roles in comedy?
The first thing I would say is be brave. Be brave. Don’t think that because you’re writing for a woman that you can’t push hard. I think that’s why people love this show. It’s because there’s no restraint. There’s no soft-pedaling. There’s a pure pursuit of what is essentially and irreducibly funny.
If we’re talking about kind of cultural touchstones, when they were making Bridesmaidsthere were a lot of people who were like, “This is too gross. Women won’t watch it. It’s too edgy. You pushed too hard.” And what you found was that uncompromising comedy is funny to everybody. I think write what you know to be funny. Don’t soften it. Don’t soft-pedal it. My gardeners have arrived.
Is that what that is?
That's my gardner
I thought you were making a margarita,
Wouldn’t that have been so much more of an interesting thing if I had said that’s what was happening? My life would’ve sounded much more exciting. I think that people are finally discovering that you don’t have to make the comedy about teacakes when women are involved. So I hope that more people will do that.
My show, my standup show and my podcast have a predominantly male, probably dominate 60/40 male listenership with my podcast, obviously. It’s called “Girl on Guy” so it’s aimed at men. A lot of women do like it. But my shows are also quite dominated by men because my comedy is not gender specific. I’m not doing girl comedy or …. I’m just going to try to get the women and maybe the guys will come along. I just do aggressive, edgy, unapologetic comedy and I think that if you do that people will find it and people will appreciate it. I think there was a time when people thought, “Well girl comedy’s got to be about remote controls and toilet seats.” With all respect, that’s total bull …. So that would be my advice. Be as funny as possible and don’t worry about the rest of it.
Is it more difficult to be funny or to think that they’re funny when they are very good looking actors?
I want to try to unpack that in a way that doesn’t devolve into douche baggery. For my own part, I was a very unattractive kid. I’m six feet tall. I’ve been this tall since I was about seven or eight years old. I am borderline legally blind and had glasses that proved it every day. If you would like me to burn a small anthill, I could’ve done that with my spectacles. And I was also a total social pariah. So my comedy comes out of outsidership.
I think comedy’s, in the end, about reliability, which is why some people feel like if someone is “attractive” they won’t be funny maybe because they have no problems, maybe because they can’t relate to me in my own problems. But my comedy’s always been about self-deprecation. It’s always been about relatability.
I think it’s not really about what you look like; it’s about how you perceive yourself. So if you get out there and you’re worried about your hair and your outfit, then sure it’s going to be hard for people to relate to you. But if you get out there and you’re honest and you tell the truth, that’s really what communicates with people. So yes, comedy is never pretty and it shouldn’t be precious. That should be the last thing on your mind when you get on stage.
I had a woman come to me once back to me when I was still on Ghost Whispererand she said, “You’re from TV and I didn’t think I wanted to come to the show because I was like ‘this girl is just going to be worried about her hair the whole time and how she looks’ and you did not care how you looked on stage.” I was like, “No, I really didn’t.” And she was like, “And you look like ….” I was like, “Thank you, I think.”
In the pursuit of comedy everything else should be secondary. I guess I would say that to somebody who’s trying to be funny no matter what they look like. Comedy is about honesty and not about your hairstyle.
What I’m kind of interested to know, with how isolating it can be to be doing voice work, like when it comes to an animated series, what challenges do you face and kind of keeping up that chemistry just because it comes across so well in the final product? It must be difficult for you to do.
You know what I want you to do? Ask me that question again.
No problem. With how an animated series is put together and recording your voice track, which is kind of a very isolated experience, what do you do personally to kind of keep that chemistry going with your co-stars when you don’t have those physical queues to pick up on as if you were in the same room together?
Some of that is just acting, just acting skill. Not like I’m like, “That’s just because I’m awesome.” That’s not what I’m saying. But I think some of that is knowing the character, knowing your own character, knowing how your own character feels about the other characters on the show and how they relate. And then because this is not an ensemble drama, some of it is just commitment just to being funny. The architecture of the show, quite honestly, there’s a percentage of it that’s in the hands of the editors. We deliver our funniest work and then they cut it together really, really beautifully.
At this point now, I feel like I know ‘Lana’ really well. And I know how ‘Lana’ feels about ‘Malory,’ how she feels about ‘Archer,’ how she feels about ‘Pam,’ and that infuses the way that I deliver my lines. And that’s just something—actually I think it’s probably gotten easier over time rather than harder.
As a quick follow up, I’m in Canada and I know you’ve spent some time here. I’m right in Toronto. Do you have any plans? I know that there have been some public appearances for you in the U.S. related to Archerand some of your other stuff. Do you have any plans to make any appearances here in Toronto while you’re around?
I would love that if I had the time. I would love it. It’s really, for me, just been about just disposable time. I was living in Canada last year when I was shooting XIII. I was in Toronto for about six months. I loved the city. I loved working on the show. If I can find the free time, and even if it’s not when I’m up there shooting XIII, if it’s later in the year, I would just love it. I’m a huge fan.
I just have one last question that I wanted to ask. As you go into work daily on The Talkafter Archerairs do you ever get any weird looks from your co-hosts or any guest that might’ve seen it?
No. It’s funny because I would think that maybe from the outside it might feel that way, like maybe they’re not quite a fit. But the women on the show, obviously Sharon [Osbourne]—you couldn’t shock Sharon with a murder scene. She’s seen it all. And all the other women on the show have a great sense of humor. My show, my standup and comedy are pretty edgy, but actually Sheryl’s [Underwood] show is much edgier than mine.
I think what’s interesting about The Talkis I think even if you’ve seen it over the last season it’s really evolved to be a much franker, more honest, and quite frankly more edgy show than it may have started out as in previous incarnations. So I think it’s more of a fit. I think there are so many people for whom you might think, “This person wouldn’t like that show,” but people’s senses of humor tend to kind of surprise you.
I just did some live shows in Grand Rapids, MI and there were a nice number of people who were fans of the podcast, a nice number of people who were Archerfans, and a nice number of people who were fans of The Talk. I remember saying, “My shows so much edgier than The Talk,” and they were like, “No, we loved it that you finally were able to”—obviously with daytime TV there are certain rules so they were like, “It was nice to see you kick the tires and light the fires.” But no, I’ve never gotten an evil look from anybody.
Are any of your co-hosts Archerfans?
I think they’ve all seen it and said that they really love it. A lot of the crew, I have a lot of crew and staff that come and say, “The show last night was so funny.”
I want to ask you if you were to sit down with three legendary comedians, alive or dead, who would they be and what would you be talking about?
Lenny Bruce, and we would talk about radicalism and art. Richard Pryor. I don’t know what we would talk about. I would probably just sit and listen to Richard Pryor talk. And then I think it might be a toss up between George Carlin and Tina Fey.
Obviously George Carlin had a grand transformation and so did Richard Pryor between who they were when they were younger artists and whom they morphed into. It would be really interesting to sit down—George was somebody who stayed relevant right until the end of his career, which is very hard to do for any artist, especially for a standup comedian.
But then also I feel like Tina Fey is a woman who has broken a lot of barriers, being the head writer for Saturday Night Live and then creating her own show. Having been in a writer’s room and having been in that environment, I know what it’s like. I love it. I feel very comfortable in it, but I also know how challenging it can be and it would be great to just sit with her and hear more from her.
She’s always so funny, but it would be great to have a real conversation with her about what it was like to work her way up through the ranks and everything she’s accomplished. I think she’s an extraordinary talent. But also not just an artistic talent but just an all around really competitive, interesting personality who’s really accomplished a lot. That’s four people. There you go.