In the world of comedy, where laughter is the ultimate goal, there are few performers who possess the unique ability to captivate audiences with their wit, charm, and authenticity. Today, I want to delve into the vibrant world of Nicole Byer—set to perform at the New York Comedy Festival at the Apollo Theater on November 10—whose comedic prowess and relatability have earned her a special place in the hearts of fans worldwide.
Nicole Byer is one of the most versatile voices in the comedy landscape today. An actress, comedian, writer, author and podcaster, she is perhaps most well-known as the host of Netflix’s Emmy-nominated competition baking series “Nailed It!,” which has gained a cult following of viewers since its premiere on the streaming platform in 2018. In 2020, Nicole made history by becoming the first Black woman ever to be nominated in the category of “Outstanding Host for A Reality or Competition Program” and was nominated again in 2021 and 2022. The series premiered its seventh season in October 2022.
I spoke with her via Zoom, and when she signed into my “room,” it said “Oprah Winfrey” instead of her name, which cracked me up—totally on brand for her.
Focusing on her stand up career, I asked how she got started, which was via lots of sketch and improv (she was in UCB), and on to her Girl Code show which was very popular with college kids. After word got out about how funny she is, she was asked to do a show at Rutgers, and worked up a 30-minute routine. Encouraged by her friend Emily Heller, she went on and crushed the entire half hour. After that, she did the grind for two years of lots of shows, to really polish her act, and hone the half hour to a solid ten minutes…and the rest is history.
I’ve seen her live a few times, and will tell you that the moment Nicole graces the stage, her quick wit and sharp sense of humor command attention. Her ability to effortlessly weave together observational comedy, and social commentary leaves audiences in stitches while also provoking thought. She tackles a wide range of topics, fearlessly addressing racial stereotypes, gender dynamics, and the challenges faced by Black women in society. Her unique perspective offers a refreshing take on life’s absurdities, delivering laughter that resonates deeply.
What sets Nicole apart is her unapologetic authenticity. She fearlessly embraces her identity, sharing personal anecdotes and experiences that many can relate to. Her ability to find humor in everyday situations, whether it’s navigating relationships, work, or family dynamics, is a testament to her relatability. By sharing her own stories, she creates an inclusive atmosphere, allowing audiences to see themselves in her laughter and finding solace in the shared experiences.
In an industry that has often marginalized Black women, to me, Nicole stands as a beacon of empowerment and representation. Her success and undeniable talent inspire aspiring comedians, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds, to pursue their dreams fearlessly. By breaking down barriers and creating space for diverse voices, she paves the way for greater inclusivity in comedy.
The New York Comedy Festival, founded by Caroline Hirsch and running from November 3 to 12, is the largest comedy festival in the U.S. Next Friday, November 10, right in the heart of Harlem, Nicole Byer is headlining at the world famous Apollo Theater. For more info, visit, www.nycomedyfestival.com/lineup/nicole-byer.