Between Baking and Wipeouts, Comic-Host Nicole Byer is Too Busy To Slow Down

To borrow a phrase, Nicole Byer is nailing it
To borrow a phrase, Nicole Byer is nailing it Photo by Robyn Von Swank

Where does Nicole Byer find the time? Between hosting and acting and voice over and podcasting, it’s a wonder that Houston Improv landed her for a five-show weekend from July 16-18.

When asked how why she still puts value on the live and in-person stand-up experience with such a full dance card, the 34-year-old funny woman is quick on the draw. “I like attention,” she offers, with a big laugh. “I don’t know, I just love it. For an hour, people have to sit and listen to me. No, no, I just really love making people laugh and there’s something magical there to stand-up. When somebody gets to leave their house for an hour or two and just not think about the bullshit of the pandemic or the bullshit of their lives. I feel so lucky that I can do that for people. That’s actually a very genuine goofy answer,” Byer concludes with a surprise in her voice, before punctuating with another laugh.

Byer has amassed a sizable fan base from all over the map. When she’s not co-hosting TBS’s reality obstacle bonanza Wipeout with John Cena, she’s serving jokes on the zeitgiesty Netflix baking competition Nailed It! But for those who are used to seeing Byer with a bit more of a filter, she both welcomes and prepares the uninitiated. “I think my style is like: I’m fun, I’m goofy as fuck, a little bit more raunchy than you might believe if you only know me from Nailed It! But if you know my podcast Why Won’t You Date Me?, then you’re like I know exactly what I’m in for — a lot about dating and life. [Stand-up’s] absolutely the most direct. There’s no editing, it’s like you, me, the audience – it’s all so instant.”

Byer’s podcasting empire began in earnest with her on-going exploration of the single life on Why Won’t You Date Me? which has clocked over 140 episodes and in 2021, joined Conan O’Brien’s Team Coco studio. Along the way, Byer began four additional podcast series, co-hosting along side well known faces like Jurassic World’s Lauren Lapkus and Saturday Night Live star Sasheer Zamata.

“With my podcast its just like,” the podcaster explains, “staying true to me and I don’t know – being single is not monolithic so the stories I tell a lot of people identity with. Like, oh yeah I went out with this shitty dude too. Oh my God, we have the same experience. So being able to share yourself with people is key. Being yourself, like, is just a very normal common thing people say, but you know when your friend is like putting something on. You know what I’m saying? And if you do that while you’re performing, I think people can feel that. They’re like: what is this weird character version of you. No, just be you. You’re enough.”

When asked if any podcast can go “too niche” – Byer is doubtful. “I don’t think so, because like: if you like it, somebody will like it. At least a couple dozen people on this planet will like it!”

With her podcast firmly nestled alongside other exciting Conan O’Brien-produced ventures, Byers shares some stories about the legendary late night jokester, who signed off from his nightly post after 28 years in late June. “I fucking love Conan,” she wails. “So like, in order to get a late night spot, you have to have a late night tape. And it’s like if I haven’t done a late night spot, how do I get the tape? So you just have to wait for someone to like, take a chance on you. And he was like, come and do the show, or whatever. I think I was promoting my show on MTV at the time, and I was like so nervous. But he came to the dressing room and it was one of those things where he made me feel like not that we were equal because it's like no I’m not equal to Conan, but more like I was worthy. Sometimes you’ll meet people in your life and it’ll be clear they don’t give two shits about you. And he might not have given a shit about me at the time, but like he made me feel like he did so like he put me at ease. And we had a really fun interview and after he told me anytime you want to come back, come back. That was really cool. And I feel like he had a lot of women on, women comics. Nikki Glazer was on all the time so, just like he embraces weird people and he’s a weirdo. Just a lovely man.”

And while the pandemic threw a number of big-time Hollywood projects for a loop, the world of animation remained mostly unscathed – and there is where Byer has been making another mark. She’s a regular on the newly rebooted Rugrats which can be seen on Paramount+ and she’s been popping up on the second season of the recently revived Tuca and Bertie, now on Adult Swim. “I was a fan of the Rugrats, but I didn’t get to watch the Rugrats because I didn’t have cable growing up because my parents were fucking cheap and wanted to deprive me of fun and good times. So I had to make friends with kids with cable at school. But like yeah, it's really fucking cool to work with them.”

With the surreal Tuca and Bertie, Byer credits “the power of fan support” for reviving that show after Netflix dropped the axe after only one season. “I think the fans were like: what the fuck? Where did it go? I love this show. It moved to Adult Swim and... I recorded that a while ago. But yes, the Tuca and Bertie table reads are always so much fun. Tiffany [Haddish] is truly a delight and I love her so much, and I’m so so happy for her success. Because she’s like one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met. And then Ali Wong, I didn’t really know Ali before but she is delightful, she’s a real dream. She’s such a hard worker and so funny, both work so well together.”

And perhaps a sign of Byer’s entertainment take over – she’s part of an exciting new project entitled Vivo which she can’t say a thing about. “What can I tell you? I don’t know if there’s anything I’m allowed to tell you because I think I signed an NDA before even auditioning,” she explains, laughing. “A lot of times with bigger animation stuff, they don’t send you a script. Even with Marvel movies, you’ll get like dummy lines that sometimes aren’t even like in the movie. And you’re like what is this? This is confusing. So I just got like my chunks and then during the recording they explained more of the movie to me. I truly don’t know what I’m allowed to say. I’m so excited and can’t wait to watch it. Lin Manuel is so wonderful, I like truly love him.” As for more about the Sony-produced musical featuring Hamilton’s Miranda as a tropical kinkajou, fans will have to wait until Netflix sets a release date.

With so much already checked off the bucket list, it’s a wonder there’s still more Byer dreams of making it happen. But when asked, she has some compelling wish list items that seem within grasp. “I’d like to tour England and Europe and see if they like me. And then I want to do a movie! I’ve done a lot of TV and hosted, I want to act in a movie. Someone to write it, and I get to improvise and dabble in and out.”

And her advice for the next generation of funny people coming up the pipeline is the kind of mantra that should be hanging on inspirational posters in high schools across America? "When one door opens," she says, pausing "No... When a door closes... I don’t fucking know. There’s a bunch of fucking doors, just try and find the open one! You gotta keep trying."

Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. on Friday, July 16, and 7 and 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 17 and 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 18 at Improv Comedy Club Houston, 7620 Katy Freeway, Suite 455. For information, call 713-333-8800 or visit $100-210

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Vic covers the comedy scene, in Houston and beyond. When not writing articles, he's working on his scripts, editing a podcast, doing some funny make-em-ups or preaching the good word of supporting education in the arts.
Contact: Vic Shuttee