Nicole Byer is no shrinking violet. She’s confident, hilarious, and her upbeat energy is absolutely infectious. The New Jersey native has deep roots in the worlds of stand-up and improv, and she’s finally tackling scripted television with her new series Loosely Exactly Nicole. We caught up with Nicole during the Television Critics Awards, to get an insider’s scoop into what viewers can expect to see when the show premieres this Monday, September 5th at 10:30/9:30c on MTV.
Tell me a little about the show—from the title alone I’m assuming it will be semi-autobiographical?
Honestly, that’s it! It’s loosely, exactly based on my life. Every episode has at least one true nugget to it. Some episodes are fully true, like verbatim just lifted from my life and peppered with jokes. Jacob Wysocki’s character is based on my old roommate Evan. Jen D’Angelo’s character is based on a friend that we know, Veronica, and a little bit of my sister I would say. The show’s about people in their mid-twenties just kind of fumbling around.
Our writers had a week to get to know each other, and I didn’t join them because I didn’t want to hover. I came in the second week, and they interviewed me. They would put idea cards on the wall, and then we would decide what we wanted to do from there. Since we didn’t have a pilot going in, we literally built the show from scratch, which is hard, because you’re like, “We don’t know what this is!” We shot it, and it became a thing. It’s pretty cohesive, and I think the first season is a very nice capsule of what we were trying to go for.
How have the challenges of stand-up and improv prepared you for the undertaking of having your own show?
Improv has helped in a way. People who don’t do improv have a harder time pitching jokes on their feet as quickly. When you’re filming if someone says something wrong, but funny, can you continue a scene, or will you start laughing because you don’t know what to do? In improv, it’s just like, “Well that person said that, why not just keep going?” Stand-up hasn’t really helped haha. You get on a stage, and you tell jokes for 15 minutes and hopefully people laugh. it’s very different than shooting a TV show.
Was the transition from New York City to Los Angeles difficult for you? Do you miss the NYC grind?
I was in New York for eight years, and my first two years out here, I really fucking hated it. I truly was like this is a garbage dump of a town. Everyone here’s a piece of goddamn shit! I can’t wait to go home. Then I woke up after two years, and I was like, “The fuck, it’s sunny! People are nice. I’m driving a car. I love it here. I’m never leaving.” Now, I love L.A. It’s such a dumb city. It’s filled with laughs.
You’ve developed a strong following for your work on shows like Girl Code and your web series Pursuit of Sexiness. I think part of why women love your your style of comedy so much is because it’s direct, unapologetic and so relatable. How did you develop your comedic voice, and who were some of your comedy idols?
What an interesting question! I’ll answer the second one first. Whoopi Goldberg is my absolute comedy idol. Leslie Jones was on The View recently and thanked her for just being a visible, dark-skinned, black woman doing comedy. Growing up, I watched all of her movies. I think she’s so funny. As a little girl I didn’t put it together that I loved it because it was like watching myself on screen. Then I saw her show Whoopi. It was a revival of her show from the 80s on Broadway. I saw that and I was like, “That’s all I want to do, is make people feel!” She’s very much an idol.
Also Marissa Tomei, specifically in My Cousin Vinny. Yes! She’s wearing this floral jumpsuit, stomping around about her time clock ticking to have a baby and when I was little I was like, “I don’t know what this woman is screaming about but it’s very funny to me!”
I think I developed my comedic voice when I was little. People would always be like, “Use your indoor voice,” and I’d be like, “No.” Then they’d be like, “You don’t have to tell people all your business,” and I was like, “No, I have to.” I think people kept telling me not to do things and I’d be like, “I’m going to do it anyway, just to spite you.” So I’m that person now.
How important is it for you to collaborate with other women in the business? Who would you love to have as a guest star on the show?
I would love to have Whoopi Goldberg as a guest start on the show. Come on now! My parents are dead on the show and they’re also dead in real life… so I guess she can’t play my mom. What would she be? I guess my aunt or just my imaginary friend. The show takes a turn into left field. Now I’m crazy!
So I would love to have her, Marissa Tomei or Tony Goldwyn. I know he’s on Scandal, but when I was little I would watch Ghost and I would be like, “That nasty man makes me feeeeeeel.” He was so evil but so sexy. Carl Bruner! I tried naming my character Nicole Bruner. They said, “No.” They’re like, “Too German sounding.” I’m like, “Pleaseeeee?” Then I was like, “Nicole Wheat,” because Patrick Swayze’s character is Sam Wheat. All of this was vetoed.
Specifically on the show, I guess there are a lot of women! There’s two of us, and our roomie played by Jacob. He’s in drag in one episode just really trying to make the woman thing happen. I think it’s important to collaborate with women. My showrunner is a woman. I was looking for a woman. That was honestly my only qualifier. I didn’t really care what ethnicity she was. I just wanted a strong, bad ass woman. That was my main goal.
Then we have a lot of ladies on staff who wrote the show. This woman Jackie Clark, who’s one of the funniest woman I’ve ever met. Grace Edwards, she was on Inside Amy Schumer. Now she’s on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. She’s black, beautiful and funny—oh so funny. She wrote two of my favorite episodes.
We also had two female directors work on the first season and they were so different than our male directors—in a good way! Neither one was bad. The men were great, but it was interesting to watch a woman do what I’ve only really seen men do because it’s a different process for them. I feel like things are just a little bit more specific with female directors.
What advice would you give to women who struggle with their self confidence?
I know it’s really cliché to be like, “Love the skin you’re in.” But yeah, love what you have right now! If you want to lose weight you can do that, but don’t hate the body you’re in. Love who you are because that’s who you are right now, and if you’re okay with you then other people will be okay with you! If they’re not, step the fuck off. You don’t need negative people in your life. Surround yourself with love!
Also, I look in the mirror a lot and I go, “You look good.” I think it’s helpful.
It is helpful, totally!
You should also go to sleep with a laugh. Here’s something embarrassing. I talked about this yesterday during this podcast I did. They were like, “What’s the last thing you laughed at?” I was like, “This hashtag: #veryfatverybrave. They’re like, “Well who said that?” and I was like “Me!”
It was something I said, and it was very narcissistic. The last couple of days I’ve just been giggling about fat ladies in bikinis eating hot dogs.
How did that hashtag come about?
I went Palm Springs on a whim with my friend Marcy who’s also a fat lady. We were in the car and I was like, “I can’t wait to put on my bikini so I can put it on Instagram and talk about brave I am.” Then we laughed very hard, and I was like, “Too fat, too brave.” Then we were like, “This is pretty funny!”
The reason why is because a lot of people will be like, “Oh, you’re a plus-sized lady. You’re curvy. Oh my god, you’re so brave for wearing that.” It’s like, no. If I wear a one-piece no one’s going to be like, “She swam,” but then once I put on my clothes be like, “She fat.” They know. It’s fine! A little belly’s not going to kill anybody!