Stop Hitting Yourself  

Pep Talks from Comedian Aisha Tyler

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I DON'T KNOW if she set out to, but Aisha Tyler wrote herself a sweet little self-help book with Self-Inflicted Wounds. With renaissance fervor (she just happens to do and be good at everything—she's an author, talk-show host, TV star, podcaster, and stand-up comedian), she's written a series of essays that dig deep into her rich back catalog of humiliating blunders and miscalculations. While the slim collection is definitely humorous, beneath the tales of passing out at parties and setting her house on fire, Tyler gives a masterful pep talk that goes something like this: "Don't think. Do. Even if it means you're going to wet yourself." And her verve is irresistible.

On Tyler's popular podcast, Girl on Guy, she has a segment called "Self-Inflicted Wounds" where famous guests tell embarrassing stories from their past. Now with this, her second book, she turns the spotlight on her own mortifications. As Tyler says, "Comedians love a good story. Unnaturally so. So much so, in fact, that we will subject ourselves to any amount of self-torture and humiliation to get it." In short chapters like "The Time I Got Drunk the Night Before Taking the SAT" and "The Time I Wore that Awful See-Through Dress," she creates a mélange of autobiography, ribald storytelling, and butt-clenching cautionary tales. They're not the garden-variety skirt-tucked-in-tights stories, either. Tyler is fearless and has been from the get-go and she's always been an odd duck (she was a big-boobied vegetarian black giant at the tender age of eight, with her nose ever-stuck in a sci-fi book), so her tales are particularly mortifying. Oh, like the time her dad gave her $60 to take a boy out on a date and she asked him at school... when she was 10 years old.

Because the phrase "life lessons" is synonymous with "the time I puked on a boy," Self-Inflicted Wounds is as earnest and crushing as it is funny. Tyler is whip-smart, nerdy, and charmingly self-deprecating, especially as she's espousing the virtues of just jumping in and doing shit. Her morale boosters work, too—by the end, grabbing life by the balls and doing a bit of twisting sounded like just the ticket—if not for the resultant foot-in-mouth and broken elbows, at least for the ridiculous and great stories that come from fortune favoring the bold.

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