Describing yourself as a “nerd” isn’t the kind of anarchist “f*ck you” that it used to be for earlier generations of outcasts. Still, that’s what Aisha Tyler calls herself, and she’s been using that label long enough to earn its newly-recognized street cred.
As an avid gamer, actress, comic book collector, and now, host of Prime Rewind: Inside The Boys, Tyler’s been breaking new ground in a space that historically hasn’t been that welcoming to anyone other than white men. That’s changing, of course, and the success of The Boys is a good example of that shift. Eric Kripke and company have managed to take a fairly whitewashed property and transform it into a timely allegory on everything from race relations to the #MeToo movement, complete with a** bombs, superheroes with a mommy kink, and speed boats ramming through the intestines of humpback whales.
It’s peak nerd porn, and it’s totally in Tyler’s wheelhouse. We chatted with her about the new aftershow, finding her place in the space, and what a Boys video game adaptation might look like.
How did you end up being tapped to host The Boys aftershow?
When I was younger, I was big [into] comic books. I did not know these books, but I think people knew that this was my space because I’ve read The Walking Dead, and I used to collect Watchmen. They had come to me to host [a] panel, and I’m one of those people that really does my homework. I watch the whole show and I formulate my own take on moderating because I feel like the coolest part about Comic-Con is giving fans a unique experience. You want them to really feel like you’re connected to the material. So, I watched the show; I loved it. I thought it was so surprising, so extraordinary because it’s so entertaining, but also about these big sociocultural ideas about race and class and capitalism and culture and sexism. And I just remember being shocked at how hard it was leaning into this big stuff and really being delighted by it. So, I just moderated that panel and that was that.
You must’ve done a good job.
I was stoked when they decided they were going to do an aftershow, and they came to me because I felt like what’s cool about this show, and what would be cool about this aftershow was it wouldn’t just be a rehash. It wouldn’t just be a recap of what you had just seen. It would really expand The Boys’ universe and then tie the themes on the show to what’s happening in the real world. And that’s really what we’ve been able to do.
I’ll be honest, I don’t normally enjoy aftershows, but there’s such a good mix of story-related conversations and just ridiculousness that this thing is addictive. What’s the secret?
Without knocking other aftershows, I think it’s really important that it be a conversation and not like I’m a caller at a rodeo. Do you know what I mean? It really should be a dialogue. I get to be the audience. I get to try to ask the questions I think a fan would ask. And I think something that is important for people to understand about this show is that the artists really are putting a lot of their own heart and soul and energy into the performance. It’s not like they’re just reading words and kind of robotically going through the motions. Even thinking about Aya Cash playing Stormfront. I mean, we talked about it on the show. It was really hard for her to say and do those things as a person. And then cut and be like, “Oh my God, this is not who I am.” And of course, no one thinks that about her, but you’re putting so much of yourself into a character that inevitably you’re going to be connected to it emotionally.
And then you tackled BLM with Laz Alonso, who plays Mother’s Milk on the show.
I really love that conversation. It was just so personal and authentic and emotional. I think these are important stories to tell and we feel that it’s an important conversation to have, and to peg it to the real world in a way that helps people see that this is stuff we’re still working on, and we’re going to continue to work on as a culture. Not everybody is reading the newspaper every day, right? Not everybody’s marching and organizing, but these are conversations that need to be had everywhere, in every corner of our culture. And this is a great way for us to do it. I think we really believe in what the show is trying to do.
It’s refreshing because I think this space — comics and gaming — has been closed off to people of color, especially Black women for a while now. Is that something you’ve had to confront?
I was a very nerdy kid. I was two heads taller than everybody else in my grade. I was the only Black kid in my school until I was maybe 15 and I felt really isolated. And nobody liked the stuff I liked. The narrative of Black kids and girls is you don’t like that kind of stuff. You’re weird that you like that kind of stuff. For younger people, and especially for women of color, for queer kids, I want the kids who feel isolated to know, not just that there are people like them, but that it’s okay to be who they are; that they could point to somebody and be like, well, she’s doing it, so I can do it too, because I didn’t really have those examples when I was growing up. I really felt just very isolated. But weird kids make iconoclastic adults. So to look around and see it’s not weird that I’m a gamer. It’s not weird that a Latino kid loves heavy metal or a little Asian kid loves punk. We do a lot of gatekeeping in nerd culture. I think it’s getting better, but nerd culture should be about embracing exactly the things that make you different and really celebrating them. So for people to be able to see a Black woman who games and loves comic books, hosts a show, and have it be validating for them, I think is really important. I wish I had that when I was a kid.
You’re on another show, Archer, that’s done this as well, but do you think The Boys might crossover into gaming in the future?
You know, it’s so interesting because some of the games that we love have been turned into film properties, and most of the time it doesn’t work because gaming is so immersive, right? I mean, I played 300 hours of Fallout 3 and there’s just no way a TV show or a movie can mimic that experience. You really want it to be complimentary. I think this is a property that definitely could go in open world and be really, really fun. It’s hard because it’s so granular, so character-driven, you’d want campaign, but I don’t know that campaign would be as satisfying as watching the show. So you’d want it to have some open-world components. I would want like a big, console, rich, visual game with a dope campaign and lots of open-world, off campaign tasks and stuff to do — like cool little side missions.
That sounds like a pretty good one-sheet to me.
That was my elevator pitch.
And for The Boys after show? Is the pitch: Great conversations and then, ya know, weird sh*t?
[Laughs] We want to give you an enhanced Boys experience, so you’re definitely going away with something that you didn’t know, maybe something that you didn’t want to know.
There’s the tagline.
Amazon Prime is streaming new ‘The Boys’ episodes on Fridays.