‘Nailed It!’ Host Nicole Byer Talks Her History-Making Emmy Nomination
Everyone needs a good laugh these days, and Netflix’s Nailed It! is always a sure bet for plenty of giggles. The competition series putting home bakers to the test with challenges fit for seasoned professionals has become a streaming hit over four seasons.
But it’s not just the baking fails that keeps viewers returning — it’s also host Nicole Byer, who provides great comedic relief throughout the half-hour installments. Fans aren’t the only ones recognizing her spunk either as Byer just made history as the first Black woman to receive an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality Competition Program.
Whether it’s tasting the contestant’s creations or interacting with uber-fans through social media, Byer’s Nailed It! experience is certainly something to recognize. TV Insider caught up with Byer to discuss her Emmy nomination, the show’s impact and more.
The show has been nominated for Outstanding Competition Series, but what was it like to learn that you had earned a solo nomination for Nailed It!?
Nicole Byer: I didn’t realize I had been nominated. I figured the show would be nominated again, since we were nominated last year. So I was getting congratulations from people. They’re like, “Congrats. The show’s nominated again.” And I was like, “Yeah, that’s so awesome. I’m so happy. I’m so proud to be a part of it. Everyone works so hard. The editors are so great.”
And then one of the execs from Netflix was like, “Congrats, Nicole.” And I was like, “I know, I’m so happy about the show.” She was like, “No, you.” And I was like, “Wait, what?” She said, “You were nominated.” And then I cried.
When it comes to Nailed It!, what makes for a great episode? Actual skills or a confident effort?
My favorite people are the people who are super, super real and they’re confident to a point and then they’re like, “Oh, this is bad. I don’t even know who this person is.” Like the bust they had to recreate [in Season 3, Episode 5], I loved the woman who just didn’t know it was Napoleon after we said it was one of the most famous French men that you’ve learned about in school. It just made me laugh so hard.
And I like that everyone is so game to play. Nobody takes themselves too seriously. Maybe the first season because nobody really knew what the show was. But later seasons, everyone is just a really good sport. It’s just a really fun show when people try. It’s funny when an adult tries so hard and it’s bad. It’s so bad, but they’ve worked so hard at this.
Speaking of “bad,” you have to taste all of the creations. Is everything truly terrible that you taste or are there any good dishes you’ve sampled?
I mean, everything we eat is truly pretty awful. What we say on the show, we’re not playing it up for the cameras. Jacques [Torres] is the most polite man I’ve ever met. He’s so kind, so caring. So when he is like, “Yuck,” it means it’s yuck.
Speaking of Jacques, the banter between you two is half the fun of watching Nailed It! Are there ever occasions where you try to surprise or shock him?
I think Jacques just knows me better now. Sometimes he’ll just be like, “Oh, Nicole, I can’t believe you said that.” But now he just knows me. It’s hard to say, because he’s not a comedian. So sometimes he doesn’t see the joke coming, whereas maybe a guest judge who’s a comic knows where I’m going with it. So it is so fun to see him do the math in his head sometimes. But yeah, I guess I still surprise him.
You’re very active on social media. Do fans ever send you their own baking fails or ask for advice?
Oh, yeah. People love to ask, “Did I nail it?” And usually it’s something horrific and wonderful to look at. So I love that people want to share that with me. It’s fun. It’s really fun to see the beautiful monstrosities that people can come up with.
How do you think you’d fare in the Nailed It! kitchen?
I think I would fare very well. I’m very competitive. I’m also pretty strategic. And also I read directions.
That does seem to be the downfall of most contestants on the show.
Season 4 just dropped earlier this spring. Are there any plans for Season 5 and how do you think Nailed It! will change due to coronavirus?
We were supposed to go back into production on Season 5 when the pandemic hit. I’m so excited to get back to work when it’s safe to do so, which is why I stay home and wear a mask. That’s how I truly feel. But yeah, hopefully soon we will be able to go back into production. Hopefully it’s safe. I’d rather be safe than rush back into something and have it not be good.
You’ve also had your fair share of great guest judges. Is there anyone you’d like to see stop by the Nailed It! kitchen or return?
Oh, I’d always love to have Maya Rudolph back. She’s honestly so funny to me. I put a lot of effort into being funny. I don’t think anyone would be like, “Nicole’s easy breezy at comedy.” But Maya Rudolph is so easy at being funny. She doesn’t have to say much and she’s just so wonderful, lively, beautiful and smart. I got a real comedy crush on her.
My mom used to play her mom’s records when I was little, so it was just a real nice moment to get to work with her because I admire her so much. Adam Scott was also really great. Ron Funches is so funny. We really lucked out with the guest judges because everyone is wonderful. Sylvia Weinstock is the funniest person I have ever met. I want Beyoncé. That’s my big ask. And guess what? I think she passed!
Another hilarious part of the show has to be your onscreen interactions with Wes Bahr. Was that improvised, and how did it come about?
Yeah, he’s an assistant director. He’s the one who is screaming at me when I’m like, “My hair doesn’t look good. I need more time.” He’s the one who’s just like, “We got to get back on track.” So the first season they were like, “Who’s going to hand out the trophy?” And one of the crew was just like, “Oh, Wes can just do it.”
And nobody told me to say anything to him, but I just kind of started and then it blossomed from there. The way I say his name, truly I’m like his annoying sister he never asked for. I would say that’s mostly our relationship. He was just like, “I love her. But I never once said I wanted this.”
Have you had any favorite fails throughout the series?
The one I liked the most was last season. It was this man named Larry who made a sloth cake and it made me laugh so hard. And I had to keep saying, “I’m not laughing at you. I genuinely love this.” It just made me laugh. It was so funny looking.
Nailed It!, Streaming now, Netflix