Geeking Out with Aisha Tyler

8.1.2013

By Patrick Yacco

Comedian and activist discusses her new book, how Comic-Con is like pride, childhood trauma, and Metallica.

Aisha Tyler had her own geek out at Comic-Con, but this wonder woman wasn't swooning over the spandex-clad superheroes cruising around the San Diego Convention Center. It was the rock band Metallica that caught her eye. "I had just wrapped the Archer panel and was speaking with a fan, but I stopped talking mid-sentence and ran over to see them," she said. "I grew up in the Bay Area and loved them!"

It was Tyler's fourth appearance at the famed pop culture convention, and it may have been her busiest. "It was just go, go, go! I think the only free time I had was 45 minutes for dinner on Saturday," said Tyler in an interview soon after the annual event, once she had a moment to catch her breath. In addition to appearing at several panels at Comic-Con, she hosted an off-site book signing and podcast with Supernatural dreamboat Jared Padalecki. I was one of 25 lucky fans who won entry, and it was a highlight for us both.

"The best part of Comic Con for me was that afternoon," said Tyler. "It was the first time I had tried something like that, in an intimate space. Plus Jared is a great guest -- I had had him on the show before but knew I had to have him back."

When I drew comparisons between Comic-Con and LGBT pride parades, Tyler chuckled. "Yeah, there are definitely similarities! LGBT pride is more important politically, but for a lot of people Comic-Con's the one time of the year that people can come out and be themselves." She goes on, "But when you go to the Con, you feel like you're a part of something. You feel like you belong."

Tyler knows something about growing into one's self. The gorgeous actress, now recognized for roles on Archer and 24, as well as for her place alongside Sarah Gilbert and Sharon Osborne on CBS's The Talk, faced her own bullies during those awkward pubescent years, when her gangly limbs, big glasses, and abnormal height garnered plenty of snickers. Those experiences, hilarious in hindsight, are collected in Tyler's new book, Self-Inflicted Wounds, a collection of humorous anecdotes about taking debasement with grace.

As Tyler puts it in her book, reacting to bullies was "throwing metaphorical gas onto their flame." She learned to redirect her innate weirdness, she says. And she also learned another valuable lesson: "The world is full of assholes, and that's probably never going to change."

"Kids are terrible [and young adults that are bullied] are going to have to find an inner strength and not give anyone control over the tone in their head." We can't change bullies, but we can change the way they make us feel. "You can choose not to let them make you feel unhappy or sad."

No doubt the San Francisco-born Tyler's own background with bullies helped her become the fierce LGBT advocate she is today. In addition to posing for the NoH8 campaign, Tyler recorded a video for HRC in which she joked, "Let’s save traditional marriage by letting gays marry… because we straight people are fucking it up.” She also teared up over married gay military heroes while hosting the NewNowNext Awards. And tears came again when Tyler and The Talk panel celebrated the Supreme Court's decision to overturn DOMA and Prop 8.

Such vocal activism has garnered her some hate, yes, but Tyler won't kowtow. Not this heroine.

"I have this interesting gift and I have this opportunity to speak to a lot of people," she told me, turning serious. "It's a magical gift when you're in the business — and can use it for good or evil. And I feel an incredible responsibility to use it for good."

"It is a struggle because I'm prominent and also a target. It's hard: you speak up and get pushback on the Internet, but I won't have it take my passion to be a force for good," she said. "I want to be known as being on the side of the right thing, not just for being on TV and for having a lot of dresses."

Knowing Tyler, she'll be remembered for a lot more than that.

Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation is out now from the HarperCollins imprint It Books.

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