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Nicole Byer on Emmy-nominated Netflix comedy special: 'I tend to find a lot of humor in tragedy'

After 2019 extensive tour, Nicole Byer thinks her one-hour Netflix special is all over Finish. Then the pandemic hit, and a rewrite became inevitable.

“I tend to find a lot of humor in tragedies. That’s how I sometimes deal with trauma,” said Byer, who drew on her COVID experience and the Black Lives Matter movement — – and other themes that don’t always lend themselves to hilarity – turned into surprisingly hilarious scenes. If the tone of Big Beautiful Weirdo (and the introduction to pole dancing by Byer in a burger bikini) is pure enthusiasm, it’s safe to say the material was born from a series of mood. During the race uprising, she was confused by the conversation between Byer and her white friend, which turned out to be a moment of solidarity between her and the audience.

“I mentioned off-hand that a group of white people kept texting me during the march asking if I needed anything. When I started traveling again and counting the time, I would ask the people in the crowd Did black people happen to them. I realized it wasn’t a boulder. It was a common thing that happened to a lot of black people. Then I realized that no one I’ve ever been in a relationship with has reached out. It’s disrespectful.”

But perhaps it was her encounter in Appleton, Wisconsin with a woman who revelled in celebrating her birthday that disrupted Bayer’s arrangements, reflecting the greatest change from anger to empowerment evolution.

“White women were really the strongest when it came to their birthdays. I was so pissed off that she thought it was okay to interrupt my show,” recalls Byer. “I hardly ever wrote anything from cover to cover, but I wrote it when I got home. I really don’t like to repeat the same mistakes or get too frustrated, but sometimes it’s the funniest when I’m angry. I’m angry about the trivial— But also angry about the important things.”

In the end, Byer felt like she had put out a special that was very much like her. “I’m proud that I stand my ground,” she said. “The opening was expensive, but I think it really set the stage for who I was. I really liked that I was able to juxtapose beautiful with weird and very funny because I think women are often told to be between funny and weird and beautiful I wanted to make it feel special and it felt special. [Emmy nominee] Just acknowledging that my hard work paid off and was as much fun as I thought it would be.”

This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter Magazine’s August issue.

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