Aisha Tyler's Life From Childhood To Comedy Stardom

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Aisha Tyler has been killing it in the entertainment industry since the early '90s. The multi-talented performer got her start in the stand-up comedy field, and she's been gracing our televisions in unforgettable acting roles ever since. Perhaps you know her as the brilliant paleontologist that Ross Geller dates on "Friends." Or maybe you're familiar with her voice acting work in which she voices Lana, the badass secret agent on "Archer." Tyler also added her sparkling charm to the cast of "Criminal Minds," where she portrays a forensic psychologist at the BAU. She has a habit of playing wildly intelligent characters, which isn't far off from her real-life persona.

As noted by CNN, she attended Dartmouth University where she majored in political science and environmental studies. One might not expect an ivy league student with such a major to pursue a career in telling jokes, but Tyler was always eager to take the road less traveled. "I realized that I wasn't happy doing what I thought I was going to be happy doing, and that what I really loved was performing,” she said of her career path in an interview with "It was a pretty simple thing. Once you get a degree, you kind of feel like, well, I can always go back to working behind a desk, so why don't I just go out on my own for a little while and see how it goes.”

Fortunately, Tyler is now able to do what she loves most by regularly participating in endless creative projects. Keep reading to learn more about the one-of-a-kind actor that will make you fan-girl over her more than ever before.

The Archer star had an abnormal upbringing

Aisha Tyler's childhood was a far cry from conventional. According to the "Criminal Minds" star in her thought-provoking memoir titled "Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation," her parents raised her in a household that had its share of strange values. For example, despite her father working in a meat factory for a living, Tyler was raised in a strictly vegetarian household. She has also described her parents as "hippies" (per "CBS This Morning"), noting that they refused to have a television in their household. 

Because of their lack of TV in the home, Tyler became a voracious reader. The "Friends" actor said in her memoir that she would often spend her weekends at the local library during her childhood, getting lost in the pages of books for hours. In fact, she was such a bookworm that the comedian admitted she used to read books while riding on the back of her father's motorcycle. "We didn't have a car till I was like in high school, so I grew up on the back of a motorcycle," she recalled in a 2017 interview on "Conan." "Even as a tiny kid I was on the back of that motorcycle, and I was a super nerdy kid. I loved to read," she said, noting that her father had a harness to secure her on the motorcycle so she could read as they rode. And while these childhood memories aren't exactly traditional by any means, they sure make for great stories! Perfect for a future in stand-up, eh?

Aisha Tyler was 'seven kinds of weird' in school

As Aisha Tyler has admitted in several interviews, she was a true nerd throughout her formative years. And not the kind of "nerd" that you see in the Hollywood movies where the conventionally attractive people just throw on a pair of glasses and call it a day. According to Tyler, she was truly nerdy to the point that her peers at school had no idea what to do with her. "When you're a kid, you may be able to get away with being one kind of weird," she wrote in her autobiography "Self-Inflicted Wounds." "But being seven kinds of weird is like putting gravy on your ice cream sundae. It's just. Not. Allowed." Explaining what made her stand out from others, she shared that she was the only Black kid in the entire school, was really tall before she even entered middle school, and came from a family of offbeat hippies.

Having once been teased for her differences by peers during childhood, Tyler now surrounds herself with people who celebrate her unconventional qualities. "That frustration of 'I don't fit anywhere' helped me just say, 'Well, if I can't conform, I might as well stay as far outside of the box as I possibly can and embrace the fact that I'm an outlier,'" she revealed to Buzzfeed News in 2015. "Weird kids make iconoclastic adults."

As a kid, her diet made her feel like an outcast

As Aisha Tyler reveals in her daring 2018 memoir, she grew up in a vegetarian household thanks to her parents' "hippie" lifestyle. And while she is deeply close with her folks, Tyler admits that she harbored some resentment toward them during her childhood when it came to the restrictive diet they instilled upon her. "We were vegetarian at a time when vegetarianism was neither cute, nor fun, nor hip, nor even particularly nutritious," she wrote.

She would have done anything to eat meat. Not just because it was forbidden, although she admitted it was a contributing factor. One of the main reasons she wanted to be carnivorous was because it represented something she felt she was not: normal. "In my case, meat represented something more than just a foodstuff. It symbolized my intense desire to fit in. All the other kids at school were eating bologna and American slices of white bread softly slipped with neon smears of yellow mustard. A sandwich that embodied everything that was mainstream and wholesome and normal in the world, while I was picking alfalfa sprouts from my teeth." She continued, adding, "Meat meant normalcy. Meat meant belonging."

The reason she got into comedy

A sense of humor can be used for more than just eliciting laughs. It can also be used as a self-protecting shield from hurtful behavior. For Aisha Tyler, who was tormented constantly throughout her childhood, she chose to utilize self-deprecating humor as a "defense mechanism."

"When I was a kid, I got teased constantly," she confessed while speaking to "CBS This Morning." "And so when you're a little kid, your defense mechanism is, 'I'm gonna make fun of me before you can make fun of me, and I'm gonna do it better and faster than you can.' So that was my defense mechanism as a kid."

But shielding herself from hurtful bullies wasn't the only reason the "Archer" star found herself drawn to the comedy world. According to the actor in her tell-all memoir, "Self-Inflicted Wounds," she is the ultimate risk-taker. Ever since her childhood, she actively dove head first into any terrifying situation due to her daredevil persona. And what's more terrifying than getting up on a stage to perform stand-up comedy? Describing her first time performing stand-up, she told the San Francisco Examiner, "It was around 2 a.m. It was just my husband and a hobo in the audience. I got one laugh and it was from the hobo. Since then, I was hooked."

The beginning of her stand-up career wasn't easy

As it turns out, Aisha Tyler is the ultimate optimist. In her memoir, "Self-Inflicted Wounds," she shared that it's simply a part of her DNA to be cheery and good-spirited. And even in the face of adversity, or perhaps especially in the face of adversity, Tyler is able to turn lemons into lemonade ... or, more specifically in her case, she's able to turn the food that'd been chucked at her during stand-up shows into free meals! 

During an interview on "Conan," she said that getting her foot in the door as stand-up comedian was far from a walk in the park. In fact, according to the "Ghost Whisperer" star, at times it felt as though she had some serious odds stacked up against her. While speaking with Conan O'Brien, she described one stand-up gig that resulted in the audience chucking pizzas at her. Yet instead of running off the stage in tears, Tyler embraced the experience as an opportunity to get free food!

Fortunately, as Tyler confessed in her interview with Forbes, she is a firm believer in failure being the ultimate way to help you grow. "What I realize as I have gotten older is specifically that it's my errors that have provided the most opportunities for growth," she wisely told the magazine. She said, "The more mistakes I made, I realized that I didn't die after. The more I realized that engaging risk and engaging in potential failure is an ideal time for growth.

The Friends actor feels most at home at Comic-Con

As a self-described "nerd," Aisha Tyler admits that one of her favorite places in the world is Comic-Con. The comedian, actor, and director often encourages her fans to fully embrace the most imaginative (and perhaps slightly uncool) sides of their personalities. And what better place is there to embrace that dorky and creative side than Comic-Con?

The "Ghost Whisperer" alum admitted that in her memoir that she never fit in to any group as a kid, as she was considered "seven kinds of weird." That's why, as an adult, she fully embraces the community that not only accepts her geekiness, but they encourage it! "This is my tribe, you know?" she revealed to BuzzFeed News in 2015. "I think what Comic-Con represents culturally is just broad, unapologetic acceptance of who you are. Whoever you are, how you express yourself is okay here." 

While speaking to James Corden on "The Late Late Show" in 2022, Tyler gushed about the event. She even proudly admitted to the talk show host that she had been to Comic-Con 11 times!

She prioritizes mental health and wellness

Self-care is of mandatory importance in today's day and age. Fortunately, many of us have been prioritizing our mental health and well-being more than ever before. Aisha Tyler has always been vocal about raising awareness for mental health issues, and she even took to Instagram on World Mental Health Day to share statistics regarding the subject with her followers. The post, which was a graphic created by National Institute of Mental Health, read, "50% of all lifetime mental illnesses start by age 14."

Understanding the importance of taking care of oneself both physically and mentally, the former "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" star has let her fans in on her own self-care routine. While talking to Forbes, Tyler said, "I am focusing a lot more on rest. I just try to be better about making sure I get 8 hours of sleep and not feeling guilty about it." The actor wisely added, "I look at sleep and exercise as an aspect of my work."

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

The actor maintains close relationships with her past co-stars

While many people are quick to regard their co-workers as no more than the people that they work with, Aisha Tyler makes it a point to get to know her co-stars on a deeper level. When she becomes a part of an ensemble, Tyler has a habit of getting incredibly close with her co-stars. This was certainly the case with her stint on the beloved sitcom "Friends." Despite not being a series regular on the most popular sitcom in the world, Tyler explained in a behind-the-scenes interview that the castmates helped her feel right at home.

Adorably, despite it being decades since "Friends" aired, Tyler insists that she maintains strong relationships with the cast. "I'm quite close to several of the cast members," she revealed in an interview with "Access." 

Furthermore, she said on "Larry King Now" that she considers her former co-hosts on "The Talk" to be like family to her as well. "That was a show that was built on those friendships," she shared, referring to her incredibly tight bond with her co-hosts Sara Gilbert and Sharon Osbourne. "That was the most painful part of leaving the show. It wasn't the hour on air, it was the time that I had with those women off screen." Aww! Can someone start a petition to get Aisha Tyler back on "The Talk"?

What is the talented star up to these days?

Aisha Tyler is killing it in the entertainment world. When she's not busy making everyone's day at Comic-Con, Tyler is directing her own movies and TV episodes, which is something she is deeply passionate about. While we already know that she adds a certain sparkle on screen, she also offers a whole lot of talent behind the camera as well. And according to the "Friendsgiving" actor, she thinks it's important that we focus on having more diversity on sets, but not just when it comes to actors. "Diversity is not just about making sure you have a diverse cast. It is really about diversity behind the camera," she told Forbes. According to her IMDb page, Tyler has directed a handful of projects, including episodes on "The Walking Dead," "Criminal Minds," and "Roswell, New Mexico."

Keep an eye out for Tyler in new episodes of "Archer" and "Criminal Minds: Evolution." We can't wait to see what exciting new creative projects she will grace us with next!