If you happen to see American comedian Nicole Byer on stage or in public at Just for Laughs this year, resist the urge to yell “Nailed it!” at her. It’s tempting, I know, but rest assured Byer hears it, a lot.
“It’s a blessing and a curse,” Byer says from her home in Los Angeles, referring to her hosting duties on Nailed It!, the Netflix dessert-baking game show where bumbling home pastry chefs fail miserably at recreating complex confectionary under a strict time limit.
Instead of yelling the show’s titular catchphrase at her when she hits the stage in Montreal this July, consider sending her a pic of a mangled homemade cake on social media.
“People do that and it’s fine,” she says. “People really connect with the show and they’re at home cooking and that’s cute — I like that. I just don’t need to be screamed at every day.”
It’s no surprise Nailed It! has taken off as an alternative to the glut of overly serious cooking shows out there, and Byer is the reason for it. Under her stewardship, the three contestants in every episode laugh off their misfortune and feel comfortable being their klutzy selves in the kitchen, knowing that Byer and fellow judge Jacques Torres are laughing with them, not at them.
“That’s not my style,” Byer says. “I’m not here to make anybody feel like shit. And we all know what the game is: it’s to be the best of the worst. They took the time, energy and effort to make these things. And what fun would it be if we just told them how bad they were?”
As a result of keeping things light, Byer, Torres and a rotating cast of guest judges genuinely look like they’re having fun while filming. Infectious laughter rings through the kitchen and their earnest reactions (usually looks of horror) to the big reveals at the end can’t be faked. Byer says the show is as enjoyable to make as it is to watch.
“Jacques is a great person. I love hanging out with him for the 12-hour days we shoot,” she says. “The contestants are all really fun, everyone is there to poke fun at themselves. It’s a good time.”
And yes, Byer and Torres’s reactions are completely real.
“But I don’t think either of us have gotten sick from eating anything yet,” she adds.
While in town for the festival, the multitasking Byer will be doing stand-up as well as recording two of her four podcasts: Why Won’t You Date Me? and Best Friends with co-host (and best pal) Sasheer Zamata. Byer is no stranger to the city: she filmed her Comedians of the World Netflix special at Club Soda last year.
Why Won’t You Date Me?, which has been running consistently since 2017, finds the comedian asking that very personal question from ex-partners, while also gabbing with other friends about a variety of subjects pertaining to love and sex.
“It strikes a chord with a lot of people who feel like it’s hard to meet people and they don’t understand why they can’t find a partner, so I think I’m saying a lot of things that people are feeling,” Byer says. “Then I’ll have people I hooked up with on the show and I’ll ask them to their faces why they won’t date me. I think that’s the dream that everybody has — they would love to just know why.” ■
Nicole Byer performs at Café Cléopâtre (1230 St-Laurent) from July 24–27, 7:30 p.m., $25.75. Byer is also recording episodes of Why Won’t You Date Me? (July 26, 4 p.m.) and appearing in Best Friends (July 25, 11:30 a.m.) at DoubleTree by Hilton (1255 Jeanne-Mance), $27.50 each, as well as the Jim Jefferies Galas at Place des Arts’s Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier (175 Ste-Catherine W.) on July 25, 7 and 9:45 p.m., $65.85–$150.06