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In tattooing, we’ve become accustomed to seeing all sorts of sleeves—arm sleeves, leg sleeves. But a butt sleeve? Who would have even dreamed of such a thing? Comedian Nicole Byer, that’s who. “On my right cheek, I have a watermelon, a peach and a strawberry that says ‘Juicy’ and a chili pepper that says ‘Muy Caliente’ and then I have a lemon that says ‘When life gives you lemons, suck a dick,’” Byer reveals. “On my other cheek I have a cupcake, a lollipop and an ice cream cone that says ‘It’s sweet, just taste it.’ I have a hamburger and a hot dog that says ‘Stick it in these buns.’ I got all of these because I thought they were really funny and I still think they’re really funny.”

Byer was born with an instinct for comedy, which has served her well in ways far beyond her ludicrous butt sleeve. She began her career in the New York comedy scene, cutting her teeth at the acclaimed Upright Citizens Brigade. This experience prepared her for the myriad comedic ventures she’d embark on throughout her career—acting, television hosting and podcasting, just to name a few. Ultimately, stand-up will always be her bread and butter, and she showcased this love in her debut comedy special, “Nicole Byer: BBW (Big Beautiful Weirdo).”

“I think it pretty much encapsulates who I am as a comic, which is silly, and then I love talking about dicks, so I talk about dicks a lot,” Byer says. “I talk about relationships and hooking up. I also talk about being a Black woman in America, but you know, you make it funny. I talk a little bit about COVID, but I don’t think anyone wants to listen to someone talk about the pandemy for a super long time, so I tried to keep it short and succinct.”

Photos by Troy Conrad

Photos by Troy Conrad

This was Byer’s first special and the experience presented unique challenges. Navigating those obstacles was a valuable learning experience, giving her insight she’ll carry for the rest of her career. “I learned I have anxiety,” Byer says. “I was so fucking anxious going to New York to shoot it and I was anxious every time I went on the road to figure out how I could expand jokes a little bit more. By the time I landed to shoot, Sasheer Zamata, who’s my best friend, was like, ‘Nicole, I feel like you’re doing things to make yourself a little later.’ I was like, ‘I have to put the tomatoes away and I need to do my laundry!’ So yeah, I truly fucking learned that I have anxiety.”

Shooting her special may have been anxiety-inducing; nevertheless, it was a positive experience for Byer. Not only did she pop her Netflix cherry, she gave back to her fanbase in a major way. “I hope that you watch it and for an hour of your life you’re laughing, you forget about the bullshit of the world and you find some joy in me having a good time,” Byer says. “I had such a good time shooting this special, the crowd was so hyped and fun. I hope you feel that heat and energy the crowd was giving me and I was giving them.”

Byer does more than flaunt her comedy chops and share some funny stories throughout the special, she also took the opportunity to showcase one of her lesser known passions with an international audience. “My friend Eleanor started posting herself pole dancing and I was like, ‘Holy shit, Eleanor, you’re so good at this,’” Byer says of her entry into recreational pole dancing. “I was like, ‘Oh, I might be too fat to pole dance,’ and she was like, ‘No, you are not.’ Then I just started taking classes and she was right, I’m not too fat. Truly, fat people need to get in the mindset that you have limitations but you’re not too fat to do anything.”

Photos by Troy Conrad

Photos by Troy Conrad

Pole dancing has introduced Byer to a brand new side of herself. She had already built up her confidence through years of working out jokes in front of an audience, proving she has a wealth of mental strength, but through pole dancing she has learned she’s physically stronger than she ever imagined. Plus, she’s definitely not afraid to try something new and fall flat on her tattooed butt.

“One time I was in a class and I was trying to do a trick called ‘Hello Boys,’ where you’re holding the pole with your thighs, then you spread your legs into a V and lean back,” Byer says. “I didn’t have my hands right and when I leaned back I fell right off. The sound my body made when it hit the floor was wild. I just tried to play it off like, ‘Yes, I’m fine. Everything is OK.’ So yeah, I fall all the time.”

Byer may be falling off the pole on occasion, but for the most part she leaves the big tumbles to the contestants on ABC’s “Wipeout.” In 2021, the popular television game show made its triumphant return to television and when it was rebooted, Byer was hand picked to watch people take some seriously nasty spills. “Matt Kunitz, the guy who created ‘Wipeout,’ was like, ‘We’re bringing back “Wipeout,” John Cena is signed on, and we want you to co-host,’” Byer says. “And I was like, ‘With John Cena? He’s a fucking megastar. Are you sure you want me to do that?’ Then we started shooting and the first time I met [Cena] was at a photoshoot. He’s an incredibly kind, wonderful, funny person and a joy to work with. And I’m not just saying that because he’s super famous.”

Photos by Troy Conrad

Photos by Troy Conrad

Cena may be a superstar, but Byer is being overly humble if she truly didn’t believe the execs at ABC would want her in the booth with him. Last time we counted she was the only one with a pair of Primetime Emmy nominations to her name. She served as the host of Netflix’s “Nail It!” for eight seasons, providing some acerbic wit that paired well with epic fails as amateur bakers struggled to recreate complicated culinary confections. In many ways, “Nail It!” was the perfect crash course to prepare her for commentating on the very literal crash course that is “Wipeout.” “It’s really incredible,” Byer says of her accomplishment. “It’s always nice when people recognize your hard work and say that your hard work is good enough for an award. And losing to RuPaul every year has become a beautiful tradition that I love. That sounded sarcastic, but it’s not. I love RuPaul, I love ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’ and I feel so lucky that I even get to guest on the show. So it’s truly an honor to lose to her every single year.”

RuPaul may have a mantle full of Emmys but Nicole Byer has something the media mogul will never have—the greatest butt sleeve in the world. Considering Byer is also armed with a massive amount of talent and a relentless work ethic, we can’t guarantee the butt sleeve is the secret to her fame and fortune… but we can’t rule it out. Nonetheless, Byer is on to something, that we’re sure of. 

Photos by Troy Conrad

Photos by Troy Conrad