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The Dartmouth
May 26, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Tyler '92 talks about love, hook-ups and 'Friends'

Every Thursday, Dartmouth students from Amarna to Zimmerman put their studies on hold and flock to the nearest television set to catch the latest episode of "Friends." Last night, we watched one of our own on the small screen as Aisha Tyler '92 brought her humor and charm to NBC's hit sitcom.

Tyler became the first female host of E!'s "Talk Soup" in 2001 and has moved on up to the big screen with roles in "The Santa Clause 2" and next year's "Never Die Alone" with David Arquette.

She is currently starring as one of the few non-white love-interests on "Friends," a sexy paleontologist named Charlie who comes between Ross and Joey after Ross invites her to a rooftop party for the cast of "Days of Our Lives." Tyler took the time to talk with The Dartmouth via Blitzmail about her college memories and hopes for the future.

The Dartmouth: How has your time at Dartmouth influenced your career?

Aisha Tyler: I think because of the history of Dartmouth, of what it was, and what it is, people who go there are natural self-starters. We are kind of bred to be brave, to take initiative, to strike out on our own. You have to be self-confident, resilient, passionate and a little crazy to get into the entertainment business, and the culture of Dartmouth definitely fosters those qualities! It's a place where no one ever thinks, "No, that can't be done."

The D: What activities were you involved with at Dartmouth?

AT: I was a founding member of the Rockapellas, which really fostered and strengthened my ability and desire to be a performer. I am so proud of my time with that group! I also was a member of The Tabard and co-founded the Dartmouth Snowboarding Club. We competed against UVM, as well as gave lessons at the Skiway. At that time snowboarding was still pretty much an outlaw sport. People seeing a six-foot tall black female snowboarder on the slopes would faint dead away! I also rowed crew freshman year, until I realized that my life had become a litany of homework, sleeping, and choking down dry cinnamon-raisin bagels -- plus the 5 a.m. workouts were really cutting into my party time!

The D: Are there any favorite Dartmouth professors or courses you remember as having affected your life?

AT: Oh, I've tried to suppress most of those memories! I think that my experience on the Kenya FSP was most transformative. Learning Swahili and spending three months in Africa was a life-changing experience. We Americans live in such a plush and insular world, and spending time in a country far less fortunate than ours in terms of monetary wealth, with people who are just as full of joy and aspiration and compassion as we are, really opened my eyes. My perspective on global politics is much less "us-centric" than it would be otherwise.

The D: Rumor has it you married your college sweetheart. Any tips on dating at Dartmouth?

AT: I did marry my college sweetheart, Jeff Tietjens '91. I don't know what advice I could give on dating at Dartmouth -- we have it pretty easy there! Lots of cute people your own age, a contained social environment, a weekend that lasts from Wednesday to Sunday -- my advice is live it up before it all goes away! I guess my only advice is make sure you don't hook up with a talker -- the campus is way too small to have some knucklehead you jammed with yammering about it in front of the HBs the next day. Choose your hookups discreetly!

The D: How did you land this incredible role? And how do you think your life will change because of it?

AT: I auditioned for the role against like a million other actresses. I think because I was such a huge fan of the show, I really understood the tone and cadence of the show's comedic voice, so I had a bit of a leg up against the other women. And the producers and network knew me from "Talk Soup," so I guess that helped. But I read against a lot of women a lot more famous than me.

My life has already changed because of the show, and I'm very thankful for it -- 35 million people a week watch it. At the height of "Talk Soup's" popularity, if we got a million viewers, we bought everybody on the staff a beer! I very much want to do movies, and the "Friends" gig has helped that cause quite a bit.

The D: What other exciting projects do you have lined up?

AT: I just finished a film with DMX and David Arquette called "Never Die Alone," which should come out later this year. I just made a deal with Dutton to write a book -- a kind of long comedic essay about women and guys and sex and dating that will come out sometime early next year. And right now, I'm looking at a bunch of film projects and trying to figure out what I'll do this summer.

The D: Any advice for people getting into the entertainment industry?

AT: Be tenacious. This business is not for the thin-skinned or weak of heart. No matter what aspect of entertainment you get into, in front of the camera or behind, be prepared to take repeated blows to the ego on your way to success. If you can gut it out, this business can be very rewarding, but know that you need to love what you do and have a fire for the work regardless of the monetary rewards, because they can be long in coming!

Don't be seduced by the glamour -- most of this life is no-sleep, hardscrabble, dirt-under-the-fingernails labor! The glamorous part is just the icing.