Comedienne and talk show panelist Aisha Tyler has made a career of comic juxtapositions: she’s a stunningly gorgeous woman, but a proud gamer and the queen of the blerds; she’s self-assured and intellectual, yet endearingly awkward – shades of the misfit in middle school with the gangly arms and the unabashed love for reading still reside in Tyler, despite her supermodel looks. In Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation, the comic looks back at her life and moments when she went through some embarrassing or traumatic experience.
The structure of the book has each short chapter chronicle some sort of memory – a time Tyler injured herself, said something inappropriate at a party, her experience going through puberty early. It’s a bit of a gimmick, and doesn’t allow for much deep introspection. It’s when Tyler shifts away from the somewhat forced cuteness of her hook that she shows off a genuine talent – and this talent is especially appreciated when she writes of her childhood. While not a dysfunctional or tragic childhood, like most artists or entertainers, it wasn’t the easiest upbringing: perilously close to poverty (even homelessness), Tyler was raised by her single father – an imposing and intimidating figure, drawn with respect and love (and with a soupcon of fear).
Another great Tyler story has the author recount her time in an a capella group in college. Nothing in the story is especially novel or distinct, but she writes of the time with a loving affection for her time in college – she also mines humor in being an outsider – again, something that’s a tad hard to believe when someone looks as great as Tyler. Also engaging are her stories of doing standup, paying her dues as a struggling comic – if Tyler abandoned the vaguely rigid constraints of the book’s setup, and instead devoted her work to her time as a talented no-name pounding the pavements looking for a break, this would be a much more intriguing book.
Some of the stories in these books are lighter than air and, while well-written, are pretty disposable – the guiltiest culprit being a regretful tale of an ugly see-through dress she donned for some red carpet event (there’s even a picture included as evidence). It’s not that the story’s badly told, but it feels like such a bit of filler, thrown in to pad the book as well as to fit into the format.
But there’s still more than enough great stories, and some big laughs to make Aisha Tyler’s Self-Inflicted Wounds a real find. Like fellow comedienne, Kirstie Alley, who penned the similarly mixed bag memoir, The Art of Men (I Prefer Mine al Dente), Tyler only falls slightly short because she’s committed to a gimmicky formula that tends to hamper her considerable talents. Hopefully, by the time she gets around to writing a third book, she’ll just put pen to paper and write about her thoughts and life without trying to be funny – it’s her moments of effortless musing that she’s transcendentally hilarious.
Click here to buy Aisha Tyler’s Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation on amazon.com.