BY Ross von Metzke

January 14 2010 6:00 PM ET

AISHA TYLER 2 X390 (FX) | ADVOCATE.COM

When you do something like The Joy Behar Show — you all [Tyler appeared with Sandra Bernhard and Fran Drescher] were very funny, but you were talking about somewhat serious subject matter. Do you feel a responsibility to temper the humor with the ultimate message you’re trying to get across ... that homophobia isn’t right and it needs to end.
You know, that is a really good question, and it’s interesting because I think, as a comedian, you’re always kind of slavishly devoted to being funny. It’s almost compulsive. And I also think comedy can be such an effective weapon with people. In my special I talk a lot about growing up in San Francisco, having a lot of gay friends, that people need to open their minds, they need to welcome people into their lives. I do a joke about how everybody needs one gay friend — it doesn’t matter if they’re a guy or a girl ... the gay men are more fun, but the lesbians are more useful. Change a tire, arrange a march, get you cat spayed or neutered, the lesbians are down. When I do it in San Francisco, everybody cheers and it’s hilarious, but when I do it in Iowa or North Carolina, it really means something different. And it’s important for me to do it in those places, because those are the people who really need to hear it. They might not listen to a lecture, but they will listen to a joke. And they’ll take that home with them and hopefully it sinks in.

Well, and, let's be honest, in some of those places, there are people who probably aren’t too pleased to see somebody who looks like you there.
Exactly. And I’ve had people come up to me and say, “You’re the first black girl I ever thought was funny.” I’ve gotten that stuff. There’s also something to bravery ... to getting up and saying, “This is what’s important to me ... and you’ve come to see me, and I’m going to tell you what I think you need to hear.” I think you can do that gingerly ... there are times when you can do it seriously and there are times when it’s about comedy. Comedy has always been an effective weapon for marginalized groups. For blacks, for Jews, for gays, for women. This comic who travels with me ... he’s 23, he’s gay, and he’s Iranian. He’s hilarious. He always worries — “I don’t want to go to that town. They’re not going to like me.” “Everybody’s going to like you, and I don’t give a fuck, because I like you.” I want people, when they come to my show, to see something different and to have a different experience. And I think that’s the power comedy has. I think it has the power to change minds.

What would you say is the gig you’re best remembered for?
Probably a toss-up between Friends and Talk Soup, which is funny because Friends had 25 million viewers and Talk Soup had, maybe 1 million ... but it was such a cult hit people remember me. Now I’ve done enough things where people go,"Aren’t you the girl from my Starbucks?"Or, "Didn’t we go to school together?"It was almost better when I was just known for one thing. Now I get,"Can you get me a cup of coffee?"Now I have to punch somebody.








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