Between hosting two television shows (Nailed It! and Wipeout), a myriad of different podcasts (including Why Won’t You Date Me?, 90 Day Bae, Best Friends, and Newcomers), performing stand-up, and acting in films and television series like Tuca & Bertie and Rugrats, it’s hard to imagine anyone in Hollywood is working harder right now than Nicole Byer.
You’d think this would make her a stressed out nightmare to be around, yet she remains an absolute delight every time she shows up on talk shows or in interviews. That was the case with my experience speaking with her, where we got to have an easygoing conversation over Zoom, primarily to discuss her work on the Netflix baking competition series Nailed It!, which is hoping to keep its Emmy streak going this year after having spent the last two years nominated for the award for Outstanding Competition Program (Byer picked up another nod for herself last year for Outstanding Host for a Reality Competition Program).
Over the course of half an hour, we spoke about the latest season of the series, subtitled Double Trouble to reflect its new twist of having contestants compete as pairs rather than individuals, along with the joys of working with judge and baking legend Jacques Torres, and how Byer has been keeping herself busy over the past year and a half.
Read below for my conversation with Nicole Byer.
Mitchell Beaupre: You’re fully vaccinated now. What’s your favorite thing about post-vaccination life?
Nicole Byer: Honestly, it’s really small but it’s going out to restaurants with my friends. Being able to just call someone and be like, “Do you want to go outside and not be scared?”
MB: One of the many things that you have going on is your podcast Why Won’t You Date Me? where you talk quite candidly about your love life. How did the pandemic impact the dating scene for you, and how are things going now?
NB: During the pandemic I did not date very much. Part of that was because I was still working so I didn’t want to test positive for COVID and then cost people money because we couldn’t work that week. So I tried really hard to be responsible. Now that I’m vaccinated though I’m back on all the apps trying to get it going again!
MB: That’s just one of several podcasts you have at the moment, along with your hosting duties on Nailed It! and Wipeout. These days it more and more feels like Nicole Byer is taking over the world. How do you find the time to manage it all and keep a level head?
NB: I have a lot of help! I’ve got fabulous producers and engineers on my podcasts who always help me out. On Nailed It! we shoot an episode a day, six episodes in a season, so that doesn’t take a whole lot of time. Then Wipeout is also its own succinct thing. It’s easy to compartmentalize when things are scheduled out like that with this system that my managers make so helpful.
MB: This season for Nailed It! you added on the Double Trouble twist where we saw contestants competing in pairs as opposed to as individuals. How did that make these episodes different?
NB: You would think that having more hands in the kitchen, more eyes to read the recipe and look at the example piece would make things better, but it really just added to the chaos of things in such a lovely, delightful way. It was so fun to watch a team of people breaking down and being like, “I thought you were doing this? Why are you doing that?” It was so funny.
MB: As a judge who has to sit back and watch people make mistakes, does it ever become difficult for you not to jump in and tell people that they’re doing something horribly wrong?
NB: I can say it’s harder for Jacques because he knows what you’re supposed to be doing. Personally, I don’t know if something is bad until I smell something burning. Or when time is running down and people are in a position where they basically have to fail. You have to assemble something but there’s just no way it can work. But then I get to yell at them.
MB: Would you say that it’s more surprising when you bite into something and it actually tastes good than when it tastes awful?
NB: Yeah, it’s absolutely shocking and surprising. It wasn’t this season, it was maybe two seasons ago, where they had to make these like ice cream boombox cakes. I remember tasting it and thinking, “Oh my god, this is everything I’ve ever wanted.” This one woman made a spice cake or something, where the ice cream was cinnamon, and I couldn’t believe it. After they left Jacques and I went back for seconds. So yeah, it’s shocking. That’s honestly like the only time it ever happened.
MB: This season being Double Trouble and focusing on pairs is a fun twist, and it also calls to mind the fact that you and Jacques are really the perfect balance for each other. On paper you might seem like an odd pairing, but it just works so well. What is it about that dynamic between the two of you that’s so special?
NB: Jacques is a world-class chocolatier pastry chef. He’s also just a good chef. The man can make anything you want and it’s delicious. He’ll cook for me when he’s in town and he’s like, “Nicole, do you like lamb?” And I say that I hate lamb and he just says, “I’ll make you lamb.” Then I eat it and I’m like, “Oh my god I love lamb.” He’s just so talented, and he’s so willing to teach. He’s one of those people who legitimately means it when he says there’s no dumb questions. He’s so kind, so caring. I genuinely love that man. He’s really incredible, and he has such a sense of humor. I think that’s why we fit together so well.
MB: It’s amusing because he doesn’t think he’s funny but he’s constantly cracking me up on the show.
NB: Sometimes the funniest people, the really naturally funny people, don’t even realize they’re funny. He’s so fun, and not at all afraid to poke fun at himself. He doesn’t take himself too seriously. Like the opening of his old, I think it was his old PBS show, he’s on roller skates and there’s this jaunty tune. It’s so funny. He’s just filled with joy.
MB: What is it that you think separates Nailed It! from all of the other competition shows out there?
NB: I think every other competition show is about a bunch of people who know what they’re doing. Here, I didn’t even know what I was doing. I had never hosted before, so the first season I was standing around like, “What are we doing?” I think that social media shows the best parts of life – you get to show people when they are thriving, and that’s not life. That’s not how it is all the time. Our show highlights those times where it’s like, “If you try, you’ll make something, and sometimes it might not be good. But if you keep trying, it’ll get better.” I think it’s a scrappy little show. It gives people the experience of watching people who bake like them. We don’t ever take ourselves too seriously.
MB: For a lot of people, including myself, Nailed It! was able to provide a lot of comfort during this scary and stressful last year and a half. What were the things that you latched onto as comforts? I know you’ve been posting a lot of your pole dancing videos on Instagram.
NB: A lot of it was pole dancing, yeah. It was something where I could set up my phone and then tangibly see myself get better at. That can be really helpful when you’re like, “What are days? What is time? What is going on?” It’s like it’s Groundhog Day but then I can point to it and see oh no I wore a pink bikini that day, then I wore a yellow bikini, then I took this video which was better, then this one is great. I also started a skate gang where I insisted that five or six of my friends buy roller skates so we could go and skate around. It was just finding a lot of things that bring me joy because there was a huge hole in my life because I couldn’t do stand-up anymore.
MB: Well I’m glad you’re able to get back out there now! I’ve got to wrap in a moment, but for my last question I’d love to know – you’ve had a few celebrities come on as contestants on the show, rather than as guests. Paul Scheer competed, so did Joey King. If you could have your choice of anyone in the world to be a contestant on Nailed It!, who would it be?
NB: Beyoncé. Who doesn’t want to see Beyoncé try to read a recipe and assemble like a rocket ship cake?
[This interview has been edited for length and clarity]