Editor’s Note: “The Reel Black List” is our annual spotlight of brothers and sisters in the worlds of advertising, film, TV, music, radio and media who are making a difference through their contributions and creativity on a daily basis. For the month of February, you will be able to celebrate wonderful human beings, like Tyler Davis with us.
Tyler Davis is an actor, comedian, filmmaker and musician in Los Angeles by way of Chicago. He co-wrote and performed in the 2020 CBS Showcase and was an editor, writer & DP for the 2021 Showcase. Back in Chicago, he starred in two mainstage sketch revues with The Second City Chicago as well as created online sketches for Comedy Central.
Currently, Tyler is a Production Consultant and guest-stars on the Showtime series Work In Progress, voices the character of Jonnit on the podcast Campaign Skyjacks and has recently signed on to direct commercials with TESSA films. Davis is repped by DPN Talent in LA, Grossman & Jack Talent in Chicago and managed by El Centro Management.
What’s your origin story?
I grew up nerdy and black in Columbus, Ohio. My mother was an optometrist, my father was a firefighter and I… wanted to draw cartoons. I taught myself Macromedia Flash (RIP) and how to edit videos in college while I was getting my degree in Marketing. I won a guitar in a game of ring toss at Cedar Point and started teaching myself how to produce music during that time, and I’ve been trying to blend these different skills together ever since!
How did you get into the entertainment industry?
I got into the entertainment industry through the Chicago improv scene. I’ve performed sketch and improv in venues across the country, from the Kennedy Center to Bar Harbor, Maine. I was making my own stuff throughout that time but most recently I self produced and filmed a series of Quarantine Sketches that got me some attention and has led to my recent signing with TESSA.
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Who were your mentors?
Mick Napier for sure. He’s a lovely curmudgeonly owner of The Annoyance Theater in Chicago. He gave me a lot of my first opportunities to be seen when I was starting out, and helped me meet a bunch of performers that I would go on to work with continuously over the next five years. He’s got a real brain for comedy and is the only person I know that can convey stage directions in sound effects.
While there will be others, what do you consider your biggest achievement to date?
In 2009 I told myself I was going to work for Second City and in 2017 I was working for Second City on their Mainstage. Our lives are an amalgamation of influences, circumstances and drive, but it felt so good to be able to take in the moment and think “I did that!”
How about your biggest disappointment?
This isn’t the biggest, but it’s at the front of my mind: I recently had the editing PC I had been building for years and feeling pretty cocky about completely crash on me during a gig. I went into the project feeling like shit until Premiere said “NOPE!” and just black-screen-of-death-bucked. I wasted days trying to figure out what was going wrong until I finally just broke down and bought a Mac. Have I mentioned I’m nerdy?
How has having the superpower of your Blackness helped you?
It drives me to want to do the best I can in whatever I’m doing! It charges me up to be able to use what I know to make something with other black people. That’s the most electric feeling. Everyone wants everyone else to succeed and there’s so much joy!
If Black culture is your superpower, what is your kryptonite?
Youtube. It’s the cause of and solution to so many of my problems.
How did last year’s BLM movements affect you personally?
It led me to take a break from creating. I noticed how showing up in person for the marches in LA had me feeling physically and emotionally drained, and that was okay. I had the impression that I needed to be creating content that spoke to the movement throughout but I learned it was just as important to take care of myself when I could so I could remain healthy in mind, body & spirit. Sometimes you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of others.
What can the industry do better to promote true diversity?
MORE diversity outside of just folks on screen! More black directors, more black writers in the room, more black stylists in hair and makeup! The first time I had a black woman do my hair on set was an INCREDIBLE FEELING. She roasted me for coming into work with my twists all busted then proceeded to hook me up because she knew what she was doing and I looked better on camera because of it!
If you’re Batman, who’s Robin?
My cousin. He’s been my sounding board for all of my creative ventures over the last year. We live in the same house and is always down if I need to say a dumb idea out loud or if I needed someone to hold the camera for a split second. Knowing you’ve got someone in your corner does so much for your self esteem and what you believe you’re capable of.
What drives you to create?
This is probably corny, but I genuinely love the creative process. I’m self taught in all things filmmaking so I’m constantly giddy that I’m even here, but I’m also lowkey obsessed with learning from the last thing I did and topping it in the next iteration. My aspirations sometimes feel bigger than my fairly small body (I’m hoping to pull a Dave Chapelle and Hulk out in my 40’s) and being able to better express that through what I create is drive enough to make me want to keep making until I’m old and grey.