Nicole Byer Won’t Apologize For Her Comedy (But She’ll Always Read the Comments)

August 29, 2016 8:15am PT by Sydney Bucksbaum

"I shouldn't have a show on paper. A fat black lady who just f--ks people left and right on her show and we never talk about how she's fat and black? That's crazy!" Byer tells THR about her new MTV series with a laugh. Screengrab/MTV

“I shouldn’t have a show on paper. A fat black lady who just f–ks people left and right on her show and we never talk about how she’s fat and black? That’s crazy!” Byer tells THR about her new MTV series with a laugh.

Some comedy isn’t for everyone. That’s the mantra that comedian Nicole Byer has to repeat to herself on a daily basis, and it’s a lesson that took her a long time to learn.

The stand-up comic and writer is about to debut her first scripted series, MTV’s semi-autobiographical comedy Loosely Exactly Nicole. But Byer, the most honest and outspoken star of the network’s Guy Code spinoff show Girl Code, was never “one of those kids that wanted to be an actor” when she grew up. She actually wanted to be an illustrator – “But I can’t draw so that’s a problem,” she tells The Hollywood Reporter with a laugh – and it was her mother who pushed her to try out for theater in high school.

“My mom was like, ‘You talk so much. You have too much energy. Why don’t you just join the play or something?'” Byer says. “It was a comedy, and I got laughs in rehearsal but on stage in front of a whole audience, I got a lot of laughs. And truly, it is like a drug. I’ve been chasing that high ever since.”

After launching her career at MTV with Hasan Minhaj’s Failosophy back in 2013, just a few months later Byer got involved with reality/comedy/advice series Girl Code, a show in which comediennes were interviewed about topics ranging from one-night-stands to periods to the rules of friendship. But the start of her Girl Code residency wasn’t as smooth as it could have been.

“I didn’t really understand the audition. It was hard for me to understand exactly what the show was trying to be,” Byer says. “But they kept calling me back. The whole time that I was doing the first season, no one told me that it was a full season. They just kept flying me back. So I finally asked, ‘How many episodes am I doing?’ And they were like, ‘All of them.’ I was like, ‘Oh, cool, I guess I won’t tell anyone that I don’t know what I’m doing.'”

And her confusion didn’t end after her first season.

“The real challenge for me was trying to figure out the format of what they wanted,” Byer says. “It was a really weird format for a show. Talking head shows are just a camera, a sound guy, and then a PA writing down what you say and a producer asking you questions. And you’re just supposed to rephrase the question and add a joke to it. Figuring out how to do that was super hard.”

She pauses to laugh, and then adds, “I still don’t even do it well. I just ramble and then they’re like, ‘OK, that was funny. Say that again.’ I try to write jokes in advance but I’m not a skilled joke writer. I’m pretty bad at it and I’m only just now getting better at it. So mostly I just went into the studio and just talked. Somehow they made a show out of it!”

Byer may have been unsure of her performance on the show, but viewers couldn’t get enough of her painfully honest, relatable stories and advice for women. As a result of her growing success, MTV kept offering her more and more unscripted opportunities on the network. But what Byer really wanted to do was break into scripted.

“Finally I realized that if I don’t put my foot down, I’m going to continue on this path and I don’t want to,” Byer says. “So I started saying no to those offers, and I have money from touring and stuff so I was able to do that. I finally told them I wanted to do scripted stuff and they actually listened.”

And thus the idea for Loosely Exactly Nicole was born. The upcoming half-hour comedy stars Byer as a version of herself, living in the San Fernando Valley and trying to achieve the Hollywood dream as she navigates friendships, relationships and more mundane topics like bills. But the series actually started off as a family show with kids, something Byer likes to refer to as “F–ked-Up Uncle Buck.”

“We shot the pilot, and I’m very proud of it, but no one is ever going to see it,” she says with a laugh. “We decided to make it more a situation about Nicole rather than Nicole in a situation.”

This is the part that Byer was born to play, not only because the show is based on her own life and experiences, but also because she helped develop the show and the role herself, and something she always struggled with in her career was auditioning for the right roles.

“In school, no one teaches you to look for things that are right for you,” Byer says. “I was just looking for auditions and I went on two really bad ones in the beginning that I quit. But I never thought about quitting comedy. For every shitty part, I can write a part for me. I did a web series that was the most fun thing I’ve ever done. I don’t consider myself a writer but my friend pushed me to do it. So it went from me going out for a part of a hooker named Bertha who is very fat and f–ks for money, to making my web series that I loved and I’m so proud of.”

Byer hates how, in Hollywood, most roles available to women (especially women of color) aren’t three dimensional, fully-formed characters. That’s something she’s hoping to help fix in the future by writing more.

“If you look at women in general, most parts they’re talking about a man, talking to men, scantily clad, or they’re there to be the butt of the joke,” Byer says. “I mean, the only women who seem to work over the age of 50 are Meryl Streep and Judi Dench and Helen Mirren. There are three white women who can still work over the age of 50 and everyone else is a piece of shit by the time they turn that age, because the writers rooms are all these white dudes and if there are 10 white dudes spit balling ideas, who is going to be the person who is like, ‘Hey guys, I don’t agree with that. Let’s have some badass ladies who don’t have to be sexual eye candy or whatever.'”

She continues, “Like in Suicide Squad, why did Harley Quinn [Margot Robbie] have to wear underwear? That’s not the costume she wears in the comics. Mystique in X-Men is not nude in the comics. These men turn these strong women into eye candy. And on top of women not being represented well, you’re going to throw a minority at these white dudes to make into a human being? Come on.”

Instead of saying the word “diversity,” Byer champions “inclusiveness” when it comes to representation in Hollywood both in front of and behind the camera.

“Inclusiveness has to start at the top in order for it to trickle to down to the roles,” she says. “I do want to start writing more to combat that issue. It’s easier to cast yourself in something you’ve written because you know your voice. I shouldn’t have a show on paper. A fat black lady who just f–ks people left and right on her show and we never talk about how she’s fat and black? That’s crazy! (Laughs.) But I look at women like Queen Latifah, Monique and Gabourey Sidibe as having paved the way for someone like me to exist. So Living Single, The Parkers, without these shows, I wouldn’t have my show.”

While Byer reveals that some character names have been changed for Loosely Exactly Nicole, the rest of the show is “verbatim” from her life.

“All the situations are all from my past and I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve done,” Byer says. “I’ve led a pretty fun, interesting life and I’m happy to share it.”

She pauses to think, then adds, “Although the guy I date on and off throughout the season is literally based on a guy I just ended a relationship with in December. (Laughs.) His name is so similar to his real name. If he watches it, he’ll definitely know that it’s him. And there are things he said that I wrote in the show verbatim because it was just so wild.”

Byer isn’t nervous about sharing her life with the world sans filter because when it comes to her comedy, “nothing is off limits.”

“I don’t think that’s every going to change,” Byer says with a laugh. “I figure that if I’m going to be ashamed about something, I probably shouldn’t be doing it anyway. It’s cost me so much money to arrive at that conclusion, I’ve done so much therapy.”

But regardless of how true-to-life her series is, Byer knows that her show and her comedy don’t appeal to everyone. And to hear her tell it, that’s OK — but it is a lesson she had to learn the hard way.

“I once went to this school to do a show, and I told a half-baked joke about domestic violence about how my boyfriend that I had was abusive. I didn’t know this at the time but this girl’s sister was killed by her boyfriend a day before I got to the school,” Byer says. “So they all went real quiet after that joke. I didn’t think anything of it. But then she wrote something to me on Tumblr about the situation and I was like, ‘Oh. Shit!'”

But no matter the situation, don’t ever expect Byer to say she’s sorry.

“I just didn’t want to apologize for it then, and I won’t now,” Byer says. “I won’t apologize for my joke because I thought it was funny. I only say things I think are funny and I don’t know what is going on with every problem in the world. I refuse to apologize for jokes that offend somebody. You can’t please everybody. I’ve had people take issue with jokes that I’ve said and take issue with the fact that I won’t apologize, but I’m not here to make everybody happy. If there’s a room full of 10 people and seven laugh, I’m not going to apologize to those three who didn’t find it funny. That’s not my problem.”

That doesn’t mean that Byer stays away from criticism. In fact, she freely admits that she can’t stop reading the comments about her and her comedy on the internet.

“People tell me not to read it all but I do. It’s a very bad habit,” Byer says with a laugh. “But I just like to know what people are saying, good or bad. The biggest thing that I learned from my time on Girl Code is that people are very mean. People on the internet are so nasty and they say the meanest things to you as if you’re not going to read it. But I guess that comes with being on TV and being in the public eye? But truly Girl Code is a show that is body positive and woman positive and we’re trying to be empowering, but people tweet you the meanest f–king things. It’s like, ‘Were you not listening to any of it?’ It’s wild.”

In fact, that’s exactly why Byer had to delete her Facebook profile once and for good. “I didn’t want to read people’s thoughts in more than 140 characters,” she says with a laugh.

“And then people from high school would say these awful things,” Byer says. “I’m a feminist and I’m pro-choice and I’m pro-literally-do-whatever-the-f–k-you-want-with-your-life-as-long-as-it-doesn’t-affect-me. That’s how I live. And I think we should all live like that. But people from high school say such awful things I had to get off Facebook.”

While some comedians use social media to benefit their careers, Byer tries to shy away from it altogether aside from tweeting jokes and retweeting “some nasty things” people say to her.

“I try not to get involved with fights because it’s too much to be stressed over literally the internet,” Byer says. “It’s nothing tangible. You’re fighting nothing. And you can’t change someone’s mind over the internet, you can barely change people’s minds in person. So I just stay far away from it.”

Loosely Exactly Nicole premieres Monday, Sept. 5, at 10:30 p.m. on MTV.


Sydney Bucksbaum

Sydney Bucksbaum

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Nickelodeon Renews ‘Crashletes,’ Launches New Sports-Themed Friday Night Block (Exclusive)

August 29, 2016 7:53am PT by Kimberly Nordyke

'Jagger Eaton's Mega Life' and 'All In With Cam Newton' will join the Friday night lineup.Rob Gronkowski  Getty Images

‘Jagger Eaton’s Mega Life’ and ‘All In With Cam Newton’ will join the Friday night lineup.

Nickelodeon has given a second-season renewal to Crashletes, which will continue to air on Friday nights as part of a new sports-themed programming block.

Crashletes will continue to feature New England Patriots Super Bowl champion Rob Gronkowski as he highlights “the most epic sports fails” in the viral sports series.

Co-hosts Stevie Nelson and Brandon Broady also will return for the show, which will debut 20 new episodes starting Sept. 16 at 7 p.m.

The new season will include guest appearances from Tony Hawk (professional skateboarder), Von Miller (Denver Broncos), Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons), Nick Young (Los Angeles Lakers), Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns) and more.

Also joining Nickelodeon’s Friday night block are new series Jagger Eaton’s Mega Life and All In With Cam Newton.

Mega Life, which debuts at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 9, centers on 15-year-old skateboarding phenomenon Eaton. The 20-episode doc-series follows Eaton as he immerses himself in the world of his sports idols, including Chris Bosh, Leticia Bufoni, Bubba Wallace, Larry Fitzgerald and Erika Lang, while learning how they train and test themselves to be the best.  

Some of his experiences include cage-free diving with sharks in the Bahamas; Heli-boarding down a 10,000-foot mountain in Alaska; Fat-tire biking down Wyoming’s treacherous slopes; and jousting head-to-head on horseback against a world champion jouster.

Watch the trailer, which is exclusive to The Hollywood Reporter, below.

All In, a docu-series premieres at 8 p.m. Sept. 9, will find Carolina Panthers quarterback Newton helping kids fulfill their lifelong dreams. The series  pairs kids with unique mentors who lend their expertise in a variety of fields, like gymnastics, animation, basketball and even local city government.

The new Friday night block replaces the current block that includes The Thundermans and Henry Danger.

Kimberly Nordyke

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‘Ray Donovan’ Star on Tragic and “Taboo” Storyline

August 28, 2016 7:00pm PT by Amber Dowling

Actress breaks down show's latest twist and filming "that" scene.  Erica Parise/SHOWTIME

Actress breaks down show’s latest twist and filming “that” scene.

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Sunday’s Ray Donovan.]

When it comes to death and destruction, Showtime’s Ray Donovan has never shied away from the brutal or controversial. This season in particular that controversy has taken center stage as Ray (Liev Schreiber) fell deeper into the boxing world, where he met superstar Hector Campos (Ismael Cruz Cardova) and his drug-addict half-sister and lover Marisol (Lisa Bonet).

With each passing week it became harder to keep Hector out of his sister’s clutches as she threatened to go to the press and expose the boxer to the world if he didn’t settle down and join her in her drug-addled haze. It all came to a head in Sunday’s ironically titled “Lake Hollywood” episode when Hector’s wife finally took their daughter away to Montreal. Hector retaliated by spontaneously drowning his sister in a bathtub to be rid of her forever but not before he realized how dire the consequences.

By the episode’s end it was up to Ray to step in again as he staged the entire thing to look like a suicide when he dropped Marisol’s lifeless body from a bridge into the water below. THR caught up with star Lisa Bonet about her turn on the show.

Did you know Marisol’s fate from the beginning?

I didn’t know exactly, and I don’t even know if they knew what was going to happen. But it was apparent that Marisol could never do anything right — she never makes the right decisions. And she burned so hot it was clear that it was going to be a crash and burn. I didn’t anticipate it to continue.

Was signing on for a season-long arc part of the allure of doing the show?

It was a way to get my feet wet, and I really left the experience as an artist feeling very satisfied. It was just perfect.

What was it about Marisol that made you want to play her?

I loved how damaged she was. I loved the idea of bringing some form of humanity to that human being and to explore those phases. There were a lot of risks and a lot of fun in those risks to be had.

Did you do any specific research to dig into it?

I did some research. When I auditioned — which I did have to do — I didn’t feel comfortable at all just winging it. So most of my research was done during the process of auditioning and really wanting to portray an addict with authenticity. And feel genuine in my portrayal.

Marisol wasn’t necessarily a dialogue-heavy character; what kind of thought did you put into her physicality?

Part of the allure for me in terms of the character she was, was just to be able to explore that aspect of her. I had challenges in the past with some television and some directors where they want very obvious reactions and I think it really undermines the power that can be done by an actor. It also undermines the audience if you think they’re not going to get it if you don’t hit them over the head with some form of reaction.

When it came to playing out the relationship with Hector, did you and Ismael Cruz Cordova have any specific discussions or goals?

We definitely realized we were going to go on this journey together. He’s just a wonderful person and someone who I consider a friend now. I felt very safe with him, we just spend time in between scenes getting to know each other as much as possible so that we could fill in the blanks with a sense of history and familiarity. We had a dinner too, and just talked about what we could decipher from what was on the page with [showrunner] David Hollander and Liev just to try and create as much history as we could.

Do you think an in-depth incest storyline could exist on TV like this one without Game of Thrones kind of paving the way?

I don’t know … it’s true, it has been seen now and people have accepted it. Who knows, that might be a question more for producers in terms of the inspiration for exploring that kind of love. Obviously it’s still very much a taboo.

What was it like to film that bathtub scene? Were there safety measures in place?

It was very wet. Four dresses later! I was very wet … and very irritated, to be quite honest! I don’t think they mapped that one out as well as it could have been, but for the actual thrashing it was a stunt person.

Would you predict that Marisol could somehow make Hector’s life hell from her watery grave or is he finally rid of her?

[Laughs.] I shall let that remain a mystery.

Any chance of seeing Tandice on the final season of Girls?

You know, I don’t know. I haven’t heard from them. I really love comedy. I love laughing, I love making people laugh. I love trying not to laugh when you’re not supposed. The whole thing.

Ray Donovan airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Showtime. What did you think of Lisa Bonet’s turn? Sound off in the comments below.

Twitter: @amber_dowling

Ray Donovan

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