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Comedian Nicole Byer Talks Career, Coronavirus, & More During Virtual SPA Q&A

Penn State’s Student Programming Association (SPA) hosted comedian Nicole Byer for a virtual question and answer session Friday night.

The actress, known for her roles in MTV’s “Girl Code” and hosting reality baking series “Nailed It!”, discussed everything from her work to current events during the 45-minute session.

Byer began the interview by discussing everyone’s favorite subject: dogs. She set the tone be immediately cracking a joke.

“[My dog] loves to eat weed,” Byer said. “Have you ever seen a dog right after they eat weed? It’s terrifying!”

Byer also discussed the coronavirus pandemic, which made her work as a comedian rather tough due to a lack of large-scale events. However, she said she’s made the most of it by picking up some new hobbies.

“I pole dance more, I took up roller skating, just like a lot of bullshit to fill the days,” Byer said.

The comedian also made her stance on social distancing and masks very clear.

“If we just stayed inside for two weeks and didn’t go anywhere, we could’ve had a summer!”

Byer is constantly traveling for different gigs, podcasts, and more. She said Hawaii and Rome were some of her favorite destinations in the past.

“Basically anywhere not on the mainland United States, where people act foolish,” Byer said.

Byer also heavily discussed her upbringing and career path. When she was younger, she said she looked up to other prominent Black comedians, including Whoopi Goldberg and Steve Harvey. She gave some advice to the crowd on how to handle performing in front of a live audience.

“It’s inherently scary to get on stage,” Byer said. “You just have to get over that, it is what it is. You can’t change that aspect.”

When Byer does receive criticism, she is good at brushing it off.

“I’m living my dream, so if yelling at me on Twitter makes you feel better then that’s great,” Byer said. “You can’t get upset over everything.”

That sentiment segued the conversation to the current events regarding racial issues in America. Byer scoffed at a question about how she’s feeling these days.

“I’ve been a Black woman my whole life, and I’ve had microagressions my whole life. None of this is new to Black people, so how did we find joy during slavery?” Byer said.

Byer discussed how many Black comedians do pieces on racial issues, and it isn’t a touchy subject amongst them. However, she noted that most white people will laugh at the jokes without listening to the content.

“If you don’t have a seat at the table, make your own table. That way you will earn a seat at the original table,” Byer said.

Byer has been working to keep the conversation about race going, whether it be posting content on systemic racism or promoting affirmative action, which benefitted her at getting into her university, Ohio Wesleyan.

The conversation then turned to “Girl Code,” a TV series that lasted four seasons on MTV before turning to Snapchat for two additional seasons. Byer was asked how she differentiated from the other cast members on the show, and she mentioned weight.

“I was the only fat one on the show,” Byer said. “I think it was good for young girls to see another fat woman on screen.”

Byer was then asked about her current endeavor, “Nailed It!” Byer said when she tastes something horrible, the reaction is most definitely real.

Byer continued with a lighthearted tone when asked what advice she’d give incoming college students.

“Steal,” Byer said. “Steal from corporations. Spend your money at mom and pop shops. Fuck Amazon. Don’t buy anything from them.”

The conversation turned back to the coronavirus, and Byer once again stated how easy it is to wear a mask.

“You wear a seat belt, you look both ways before you cross the street, you stop at red lights, you can do this one other safety precaution we have been asked to,” Byer said.

“If you have trouble breathing in a mask, then maybe you have asthma… or COVID!”

One of Byer’s passions is roller skating, and she has found a sense of community through it.

“You don’t have to do friend things, like ‘Who’s your mom?’, ‘What’s her name?'” Byer joked. “No, it’s just skating around and having a good time!”

Byer also circled back to racial issues, and how the decline in skate parks around the nation is related to systemic oppression.

“People are like, ‘You always bring it back to race,’ but a lot of shit’s about race,” Byer said.

For the final question of the day, Byer discussed what she’d like to do in her career that she hasn’t yet done.

“I want to be in an action movie. I want to do stunts and I want to fight,” Byer said.

She added her dream would be to play Marvel X-Men character “Storm” in a spinoff. Will we see Byer as a Marvel character? Only time will tell. But for now, you can watch her podcast “Why Won’t You Date Me” here, and “Nailed It!” on Netflix.

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About the Author

Otis Lyons

Otis is a sophomore majoring in print journalism and is one of Onward State's associate editors. He lives just north of San Francisco, and is a diehard San Jose Earthquakes fan. Feel free to send over your soccer hot takes to his twitter @otisnlyons1 and instagram @otislyons

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