Aisha Tyler on Laughing, Love, and Telling It Like It Is
BY Jase Peeples
January 27 2014 9:00 AM ET
From geeking out about her superior Xbox skills at Comic-Con to freely speaking her mind as a cohost of The Talk, Aisha Tyler isn’t a woman who often finds herself at a loss for words. But when asked to pinpoint the LGBT appeal of Lana Kane — the sexy, sassy, kick-ass secret agent she has voiced for five seasons on the hit animated series Archer — the comedian playfully shrugs and throws up her hands.
“I always joke that gay men love a big black woman, but I don’t know if that really has anything to do with Lana’s popularity,” she says with a laugh after a long pause. “If I had to guess, I’d say I think the gay community loves honesty. They love people that tell the truth. For so many people, coming out is such a brave act that they really respect bravery in others. But honestly, I don’t really know why gay men love Lana other than — well, let’s be honest, she’s a little draggy. There’s a little bit of a drag queen vibe to her.”
Born in the diverse city of San Francisco, Tyler says she has long felt a kinship with the struggles of the LGBT community. “I was kind of a nerdy kid and I was teased so much for being a weirdo,” the 43-year-old admits. “But the great thing about being an outsider when I was growing up was that I eventually just stopped caring what other people thought and it made me really embrace who I was. That gave me a lot of — I don’t even know if self-confidence was what it was, because I was lonely and wanted to fit in. But when I realized I wasn’t going to fit in, I was able to follow my own path and be my own person.”
Tyler’s confidence in her talent drove the entertainer to follow her dreams when she moved to Los Angeles in 1996 to pursue a career in comedy. After experiencing some success as a standup comedian, Tyler’s career took off when she was cast as the host of the E! network series Talk Soup in 2001. From there, she quickly found herself appearing in a number of hit television shows, including Friends, 24, and Ghost Whisperer, before landing the role of Lana Kane in Archer — a series that Tyler is proud to be a part of due to its depiction of strong women and sexually fluid cast of characters. “I’ve always believed that sexuality is fluid,” Tyler says. “Some people fall very hard on one side or the other of the spectrum, but sexuality is a fluid, complex thing. I do think shows like ours that deal with that fluidity in a fun, open way, kind of bring those ideas into the mainstream. I think of the parts of the globe where women and gays are living in the equivalent of the equality Stone Ages, and I hope some of what we do makes a difference. The fact of the matter is that the rest of the world, for the most part, consumes Western culture. They watch our TV shows, they listen to our music. We lead culturally. We don’t always do a good job of leading culturally, but in this particular aspect, I do think we are helping the rest of the world catch up.”