Aisha Tyler — How to Use Pain, Comedy, and Practice for Creativity (#327)

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“You can’t own results. You can only own initiative.” – Aisha Tyler

Aisha Tyler (@aishatyler on Twitter, Instagram, and Vimeo) is an award-winning director, actor, comedian, bestselling author, podcaster, and activist. She’s amazing. If you enjoyed my episodes with Brandon Stanton, Debbie Millman, or Adam Robinson, among others, you will love this one.

Whether you do any type of creative work, want to be too complex to categorize, or want to overcome rejection and beat the odds, this one has something for you.

Aisha voices superspy Lana Kane on F/X’s Emmy award-winning animated comedy series Archer, which won four back-to-back Television Critics’ Choice Awards. She is a regular on the hit CBS show Criminal Minds, now in its 13th season, for which she has also directed. Aisha continues to host the CW’s hit improv show, Whose Line Is It Anyway, and she is launching a line of bottled cocktails she created, Courage + Stone, in Summer of 2018.

Aisha was a co-host for seven seasons of CBS’s Emmy-winning daytime show The Talk, which she departed in September 2017 to focus more on acting and directing. She is also well-remembered for her character arc on Friends, and she was the first African-American to have a long-standing role on the show. Her feature film debut, the thriller AXIS, premiered 2017, and the won the Outstanding Achievement in Feature Filmmaking award at the 2017 Newport Beach Film Festival, then had a theatrical run at Arclight Hollywood, Landmark NYC and Alamo Drafthouse, Austin, Texas. A San Francisco native, Aisha graduated from Dartmouth College with a degree in Government and Environmental Policy. An avid gamer and passionate advocate (and occasional adversary) of the gaming community, Aisha’s voice can be heard in the video games Halo: Reach, Gears of War 3, and Watch Dogs. Aisha is a bourbon and hard rock fan, a snowboarder, and a sci-fi obsessive.

Enjoy!

#327: Aisha Tyler — How to Use Pain, Comedy, and Practice for Creativity
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Want to hear another podcast with an artist who tells stories in a unique way? — Listen to my conversation with Brandon Stanton, the photographer behind Humans of New York. (Stream below or right-click here to download):

Brandon Stanton – The Story of Humans of New York and 25M+ Fans
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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE

  • Connect with Aisha Tyler:

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Vimeo

SHOW NOTES

  • How is Aisha partly to blame for the existence of The Tim Ferriss Show? [07:42]
  • The trademark question Aisha would ask of all her podcast guests. [09:15]
  • Aisha tells us about her somewhat unorthodox childhood and family relationships. [10:52]
  • How did Aisha answer the questions “Whose day is it?” and “What are you going to do?” every morning? [12:04]
  • From where does Aisha get her general sense of optimism? [16:05]
  • Has Aisha been good at following her father’s earlier advice? How does she feel about regret? [18:15]
  • Contrasting Mr. Tyler’s free-range parenting style with the modern model that tends toward overprotection. [20:29]
  • Having a bad day? You’re not special! [26:22]
  • What did the young and scholarly Aisha want to be when she grew up? [27:38]
  • Why was Aisha miserable at what she thought was her dream job? [30:06]
  • Why did Aisha pick standup comedy to break into show business? [31:00]
  • What it was like to keep a day job and do standup comedy as a hobby. [33:09]
  • If San Francisco was known as a comedy town, why would Aisha commute hours away to do standup when she was getting started? [35:11]
  • What made the comedy club bubble of the ’80s burst? [37:40]
  • How did Aisha practice to get better at standup? [41:32]
  • A memorable set Aisha bombed and the gift it gave her. [43:29]
  • Dealing with hecklers Bill Burr and Kenny Moore style. [47:06]
  • Aisha shares some of her own heckler stories. [54:18]
  • Aisha’s academic approach to the math of comedy. [59:03]
  • What’s the Rule of Threes? [1:01:37]
  • Aisha may not have the discipline of Garry Shandling, but she has her own ways of gauging her evolution as a comic. [1:02:47]
  • How comedians are like musicians, writers, and other artists. [1:04:53]
  • The changing metrics of success and a common trap modern-day creatives can fall into if they’re not careful (or scrupulous). [1:05:30]
  • What happens when you operate from a place of fear and want to please the nebulous majority more than you want to please yourself. [1:09:06]
  • If one likes big butts, one cannot lie — even if it might tick someone off. Especially if it might tick someone off. [1:12:00]
  • Sometimes constructive feedback does make me change my mind. [1:14:52]
  • No matter how you present your art to the world, there are always going to be people who don’t get what you do. Aisha strives to do meaningful work that’s authentic to her experience. [1:15:18]
  • Why being funny isn’t actually the most important part of comedy. [1:17:32]
  • When you’re beginning in the creative game, expect that most things are not going to work out. [1:18:28]
  • Why it doesn’t pay to emulate a master of a craft in their own field. [1:19:02]
  • After wearing so many different career hats, how did Aisha decide to get started in filmmaking? [1:21:17]
  • Aisha believes in personal aggression. [1:24:38]
  • How Aisha piggybacked on resources being used for her Comedy Central special to make her first music video. [1:25:34]
  • Aisha made music videos for her friends’ bands and other short-format films to learn more about the craft. [1:26:39]
  • What lessons did Aisha learn from these projects? [1:28:22]
  • Aisha talks about visiting the sets of Penny Dreadful and Vikings in Ireland and how it led to making AXIS. [1:29:42]
  • How did Aisha get the time off and the financial resources to sustain herself on this trip? [1:31:42]
  • What did the email Aisha sent to get permission to visit the set of Vikings look like? [1:33:33]
  • Why you don’t have to be Aisha Tyler or even have a verified social media account for your kind words expressing appreciation for a show to be seen by the people who make that show. [1:34:27]
  • How the Budweiser “Whassup” campaign came about — and a director’s career was launched — because of a catchy short film that was seen by the right people. [1:35:53]
  • Why Aisha made AXIS. [1:37:45]
  • Resources for people who are interested in screenplays or early stage tech investing but don’t have a foot in the door of the establishment. [1:39:00]
  • What is AXIS, and did anyone try to talk Aisha out of making it? [1:40:14]
  • How would Aisha describe her experience of being involved with AXIS? Why did she crowdfund its financial resources and shoot it in seven days? Would she make a movie this way again? [1:42:31]
  • The magic, intensity, and clarity of operating on an aggressive deadline. [1:47:03]
  • If everything we want is on the other side of fear, what is Aisha afraid of now or hoping to get on the other side of in the next year or so? [1:48:30]
  • What is one of Aisha’s current struggles? [1:50:27]
  • “If art imitates life, in order to create art, you have to have a life.” [1:51:40]
  • As a workaholic, how does Aisha manage to live a life that influences her art? [1:53:03]
  • How would Aisha’s life be different if she didn’t have exercise as an element? [1:56:03]
  • What equipment does Aisha use to work out? [1:58:07]
  • What does a prototypical workout look like for Aisha? [1:59:00]
  • How does Aisha take her glutathione, and what does it help with? [2:00:00]
  • Does Aisha exercise before or after breakfast? What time does she wake up, and what do her first 60 to 90 minutes look like? [2:02:28]
  • Aisha works out at home to save transit time. What does she watch when she rows? [2:04:32]
  • Does Aisha make New Year’s resolutions? [2:05:56]
  • Aisha likens her first (unwatchable and destroyed) short film to the standup set she bombed. [2:08:27]
  • When has Aisha been extremely proud of herself? [2:12:17]
  • How the confidence developed in exploring areas outside of the box can transfer to future projects. [2:15:28]
  • To grow from failure, you have to be aggressive. [2:17:45]
  • Parting thoughts. [2:18:28]

PEOPLE MENTIONED

Posted on: July 16, 2018.

Please check out Tribe of Mentors, my newest book, which shares short, tactical life advice from 100+ world-class performers. Many of the world's most famous entrepreneurs, athletes, investors, poker players, and artists are part of the book. The tips and strategies in Tribe of Mentors have already changed my life, and I hope the same for you. Click here for a sample chapter and full details. Roughly 90% of the guests have never appeared on my podcast.

Who was interviewed? Here's a very partial list: tech icons (founders of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Craigslist, Pinterest, Spotify, Salesforce, Dropbox, and more), Jimmy Fallon, Arianna Huffington, Brandon Stanton (Humans of New York), Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ben Stiller, Maurice Ashley (first African-American Grandmaster of chess), Brené Brown (researcher and bestselling author), Rick Rubin (legendary music producer), Temple Grandin (animal behavior expert and autism activist), Franklin Leonard (The Black List), Dara Torres (12-time Olympic medalist in swimming), David Lynch (director), Kelly Slater (surfing legend), Bozoma Saint John (Beats/Apple/Uber), Lewis Cantley (famed cancer researcher), Maria Sharapova, Chris Anderson (curator of TED), Terry Crews, Greg Norman (golf icon), Vitalik Buterin (creator of Ethereum), and nearly 100 more. Check it all out by clicking here.

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14 comments on “Aisha Tyler — How to Use Pain, Comedy, and Practice for Creativity (#327)

  1. Hi Tim!

    I LOVE listening to your podcasts, but this was the first one that I listened to from start to finish in one sitting. It was personally very inspiring to hear you interview a woman of color and to hear my own inspiration and strength through Aisha’s poignant words. She is truly a role model. What I enjoyed most were the insights gleaned from your on-going dialogue around staying true to one’s voice, persona, and mission. F the haters – learn, innovate, grow, and keep moving forward, unabashedly, towards your desires. Thank you!

    Like

    • Ditto, I enjoy the podcast, but I identified with Aisha’s upbringing and ability to stay true to who you are. I don’t fit into a mold and that’s okay.

      Like

  2. Dear Tim,

    This was a brilliant podcast episode, but I am writing to you today to express my sincere gratitude for all you have done. I am an 18-year old girl who recently graduated high school. I have read the 4-Hour Workweek, the 4-Hour Body, am currently reading Tools of Titans, and have been a subscriber of your podcast for most of my senior year. You are indeed very successful monetarily, but I admire you for far different reasons. First of all, you are authentic. Thank you for unapologetically being yourself. Thank you for sharing your dark times in addition to your beautiful “flaws” which I don’t see as flaws at all but rather things that facilitate deeper connections. You are incredibly honest–something that is extremely refreshing in today’s crazy society. Your passion for learning and your insatiable curiosity have inspired me to tap into my unquenchable curiosity which I had allowed to be dormant for far too long. I know this may sound cliché, but you have truly changed my life Tim. Reading your books and those you recommend on your podcast, listening to your podcast and those of your friends, trying things that you have dabbled in, and implementing your tactical tricks for optimizing life have all gifted me with a new and more fulfilling perspective. Tim, thank you for making life more exciting for me, and for providing so much knowledge (whether directly or indirectly) that has expanded my mind in ways I could have never envisioned. Because of you, I have started jiu-jitsu. Being a 120 pound teenager about to head off to college, I thought that this would be a good idea :). Speaking of college, I applied to Princeton early decision, was deferred, and ultimately rejected, but hearing you talk so openly about your experience there made me accept the fact that perhaps this was the best scenario for me. So thank you for helping to alleviate some of the sadness that comes with rejection. Anyway, I know that this is long and that you are off doing far more important and brilliant things, so please do not feel obliged to respond. I completely understand and only hope that you see this and see how you are positively influencing the world through your honest and raw demeanor, your humility, and your kindness. For me, these qualities are what make you successful. So thank you for all that you do and for living up to everything I expect out of a role model. I hear you, I see you, and I love you. Thank you for everything, Tim, and thank you for enriching my life, but perhaps more importantly, for being so real.

    Love,

    M

    Like

  3. Great episode Tim. It is obvious when you have a friendship with your guests and it really comes through in this episode. I’d recommend trying to bring on more people you are friends with outside the podcast as it really adds a different dynamic to show that isnt always there when you are speaking to someone for essentially the first time.

    Like

  4. Terrific episode Tim and Aisha. There are rivers of gold here. For me, this is a top 10, up there with Naval and Jamie Foxx.

    Like

  5. Tim hopefully your team passes this along. I really appreciate your interview with Aisha Tyler. I could tell during the podcast you both have genuine respect and interest in each other. Hope you hook up! 😂🙅👍

    Like

  6. This was such a great episode thank you! I was terrified about writing my first screenplay. I wound up working with Jess Hinds and her Meditative writing Method it changed my life. I highly recommend for anyone who wants to write a screenplay. Always love when you have women on the show.

    Like

  7. This was a dynamite episode with the two of you. Aisha’s perspectives are refreshing. It inspired me around the purpose and grace of failing over and over to get better and better.

    Like

  8. I’ve just got to 25:20, & this woman has had almost the exact opposite experience to me, with regards to emotional management & parenting. This isn’t easy to listen to!

    Like

  9. Dear Tim

    I am a hostage survivor from an terrorist group while working as a humanitarian aid worker in Somalia. I have a harrowing story to tell and listening to your “Fear Less” interview with Vince Vaughn has given me the inspiration and courage to tell it.

    You are an inspiration to me and I am a follower of your work for around three years now, especially since I have easier access to Internet

    I am a humanitarian aid worker for 20+ year now, dedicating my life to help people who are suffering. I have seen and experienced many difficult events in my life while doing this work and I want an opportunity to share it with the world.

    I have a professionally written book proposal but I am unable to personally finance having the fully story written and I have not had success finding a publisher to finance it.

    I would love to get your advice on how I can have my story told and written or even better, help me to get my book written.

    Thank you.

    Randal

    Like

  10. Dear Tim,

    You’re are an amazing person as a whole. As a follower and fan I’m curious as to why you didn’t add a topic about marriage or settling down in Tribe of Mentors. Granted, you haven’t settled down yet, but at age 41 doesn’t the thought cross your mind? The last I recall hearing you talk on the subject you were hoping to find an Italian-Japanese girl. Has this happened yet? In all sensitivity, and I don’t mean to pry, can you explore this topic? And I ask because some find having family to be one of the most important part or if not the most important part in living life, even though not all of us are blessed enough to receive one.
    What are your thoughts? And what would your amazing network of people say?

    Thank you for reading this. I hope this comment brings a smile to your face.

    Like