How ‘Nailed It!’ Host Nicole Byer Became the Bob Saget of Her Generation
The Emmy-nominated host of Netflix’s “Nailed It!” opens up to The Last Laugh podcast about learning to balance her “raunchy” stand-up persona with the family-friendly show.
Before Nicole Byer became the Emmy-nominated face of Netflix’s family-friendly baking-competition show Nailed It!, she was best known as one of the raunchier comedians on the stand-up scene. It’s the type of juxtaposition that has drawn parallels to Bob Saget, another filthy comic who found fame on the super-saccharine sitcom Full House.
On this week’s episode of The Last Laugh podcast, Byer breaks down how she balances these two sides of her comedy persona, sizes up her Emmy competition, and reflects on the bizarrely “segregated” SNL audition in which she lost out to her best friend Sasheer Zamata.
“You better believe she is a two-time Emmy nominee!” Byer exclaims about herself early in our conversation—before remembering that she actually received a third nod for producing Nailed It!.
This summer, Byer landed her second nomination in the Outstanding Host for a Reality or Competition Program category, the same award that her friend RuPaul has won five years in a row. “Here’s the thing, RuPaul is one of the most generous, wonderful, magical people I’ve ever met in my life,” Byer says, highlighting how well she was treated when she appeared as a guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race. “Rupaul will win this year and that’s OK!”
Byer says she had “no fucking clue” Nailed It! would become the phenomenon it is, with season six set to premiere Sept. 15. She was thrown into the world of reality show hosting without any real idea of what she was supposed to be doing, joking that when she showed up on the first day and they briefly explained how the show would work, she responded, “OK, but like, how does one host? What happens?”
It’s helpful that her lack of preparation happened to be the perfect way to prepare for a show that celebrates failure and defeat above all else. “We have these people who don’t know how to cook and a host who doesn’t really know how to host,” Byer admits.
And yet, especially behind-the-scenes, she has blossomed into the driving force of the show’s success. As an executive producer, she pitched and had a “heavy-handed” role in a Black history-themed episode that will air in the upcoming season.
When I ask how long she thinks she will keep hosting the show, Byer replies, “I love being employed. I love cashing a check. But jokes aside, I’ll do it for as long as they have me,” adding, “It’s hard to articulate how cool it feels to bring so many people joy, especially since the last year-and-a-half has been shitty.”
Inevitably, the divide between the G-rated persona she displays on Nailed It! and the hard R of her stand-up material has led to some awkward moments with fans who expect one thing from her and get something very different when they buy a ticket to watch her perform live.
“For a while I was calling myself the Bob Saget of this generation,” Byer says when I bring up the parallels with TV’s Danny Tanner. “But I like going dirty,” she says, teasing one joke from her current set “where, after the laugh dissipates, there’s usually a very low voice in the crowd of a man who goes, ‘Jesus Christ.’” When that happens, she thinks, “I’ve done my job.”
“Now that more people know about the show, I do try to not go as hard, or as blue, because I would hate for some grandma to be like, ‘My child loves this dirty, nasty, filthy woman?’” she adds. “So it is a hard balance to be like, ‘How do I actually get to be me?’ as opposed to, ‘How do I be me and give the show what they want?’ Because my comedy is pretty raunchy.”
It used to annoy her when people started to yell “nailed it!” after she would deliver punchlines on stage. But when she was shooting the new season of another reality show, Wipeout, with the actor and wrestler John Cena and complained about it to him, he set her straight by explaining that fans just want to “connect” with her the only way they know how. “So now it doesn’t bother me,” she says. “Now, I’m like, you can yell it all you want. Also, I don’t even hear it anymore.”
Byer also recognizes that Nailed It! has finally made her the kind of hot Hollywood commodity she dreamed of becoming from her very first TV role playing “Mo’Nique Lookalike” at the very end of a 30 Rock episode.
Now, in addition to her starring role in the upcoming NBC sitcom Grand Crew, which she describes as Living Single or Friends but set in a wine bar, Netflix has just announced that she will at long last get her own hour-long stand-up special on the service later this year.
And no, she won’t be holding anything back.
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