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Aisha Tyler’s recipe for success: Fail, and fail hard

Comedian Aisha Tyler jokes about her biggest embarrassments in her new book

CNN News Wire | 8/20/2013, 1:10 p.m.
Aisha Tyler is not your typical comedian. The 42-year-old is a 6 foot tall woman who snowboards, camps, raps about her lack of a rear end, and can't dance.

Aisha Tyler is not your typical comedian.

The 42-year-old is a 6 foot tall woman who snowboards, camps, raps about her lack of a rear end, and can’t dance.

“I will never be the lead in Step it Up 17: Old lady gets to Krumpin’,” she writes in her new book. “I have made my peace with this.”

While she might lack rhythm, the Dartmouth grad speaks fluent French, with some functionality in Russian and Swahili.

Tyler was the first Black recurring character on Friends, has filled in for the late movie critic Robert Ebert and taken on gamers who questioned her nerd status.

A few funny things happened on the way to the native San Franciscan finding success as Lana Kane in the edgy animated FX series “Archer,” and hosting “The Talk, and the CW’s “Who’s Line is It Anyway?” She (regrettably) wore two-toned hair and a see-through dress on the red carpet, survived throwing up on a guy during their first date, and bombed countless times on stage.

In “Self-Inflicted Wounds,” her second book, Tyler argues that the path to success is paved with epic failures. And she’s not afraid to share her own hard-luck stories for a laugh or to show that fear of striking out should never keep you from swinging for the fences.

CNN recently caught up with the host of the podcast “Girl on Guy,” which inspired the book, out now.

CNN: How did an Ivy League grad, with a degree in political science and environmental studies, become interested in comedy?

Tyler: Well, I think I was always interested in comedy. I was always a very, kind of, fiction-obsessed kid, and a big reader, and just loved make-believe. And then in high school I started to do improv, and sketch comedy, and did that all the way through college. I was always interested in performing ... I just came from a really academically driven family. I was really focused on school, so it just never seemed like a real job to me.

And so after I got my degree in government and environmental studies, I thought, “Well, now I have a degree and I can take a risk and see if it will pay off because I can always go back to a traditional job.”

CNN: Throughout the book, you share stories of your self-inflicted wounds. In some way it is an anti-self-help book, showing how failure can help in your success. Why write about the failures?

Tyler: I always tell people that success is not the absence of failure, success is persistence through failure. So it does show how failure can help. I mean I think there are a lot of people who are crippled by a failure. Crippled by something that goes wrong in their lives. And we’re crippled by a fear of failure.

And the people who say, who say, you know “I don’t want to try this. I would like to be a comedian, but I’m afraid I’m going to fail. I want to write a book, but I’m afraid I’m going to fail.” And well I say, “You are. You are going to fail. There’s no doubt about it that something’s going to go terribly wrong.”