By Lynette Rice
Updated December 05, 2011 at 11:06 PM EST
Cliff Lipson/CBS

Ratings for CBS’ daytime show The Talk may not look great, but the network insists they don’t tell the whole story. Though the show is averaging about 500,000 less viewers than what As The World Turns did in its final year (2.0 million versus 2.5 million), the show costs nearly 40 percent less to produce and is already considered profitable. And now that comics Aisha Tyler and Sheryl Underwood have joined the panel (replacing Leah Remini and Holly Robinson Peete), the show is finally finding its voice.

In their first interview together, the women of The Talk sat down with EW to chat about the show’s one-year anniversary and the addition of the two comediennes. “The fact that we got a second season is huge for us,” said host Julie Chen. “It felt like a reboot for sure when Sheryl and Aisha came in. Even if you just change out one person, one person can drastically change the chemistry and the dynamics at the table.”

On what they’ve learned in the first year

Chen: “We all have to choreograph a dance, where the conversation is organic. I know now that I can read Sheryl’s body language, and I can see she’s got something funny coming up. I know to sit back and let her do her thing. I never had to learn that dance before. Now when the camera is on, we are doing a five-person dance and learning not to step on each other’s toes. After one week you know you can be a team or not. You know, okay we’ve got chemistry or we don’t have the chemistry, and once you figure out the dance, they can literally drop in a TV topic for us and we’ll know how to do it.”

Sarah Gilbert: “I’m like a straight A student. I’m looking over all the research, and then I would do shows and feel a little robotic or a little too shy, so what I learned was when I do a little less homework and a little more connecting, I have a much better experience and give a much better performance.”

Sharon Osbourne: “You’ve got to stay true to who you are and just do your thing. People think it’s easy doing this. It’s difficult. It’s the hardest thing on your own, and then finding the right combination that works. But we got it. We all get on great.”

Chen: “In the beginning, people would be like, ‘what’s so and so like to work with? Oh it must be like herding cats!’ Now they know that’s not us. We’ve never had a moment like that.”

On learning to lighten up .. and open up

Underwood: “I’m proud when Sara and Julie hit a joke. I have to learn how to control my loud cackle, ‘you get ’em baby!’ I’m like, ‘my baby got it!’ It’s the most fun of the world when two non-standups hit jokes really hard.”

Gilbert: “I will share things on this show that I won’t share in an interview, which is so strange because it’s the same thing but for some reason I feel safe in the group and I’m still saying the same things to all of America. We are revealing more because we feel like we trust each other. I do feel like I’m going to say something horrible someday and regret it.I feel like my job is, the more I can reveal, the better the show will do. That’s my personal mission.”

Underwood: “I feel safe enough, that’s the beauty. [During a discussion about accused child molester Jerry Sandusky) I felt it was being directed toward Joe Paterno and not the alleged predator. I’ve been molested. [She ended up talking about it on the show]. At no time did anyone disregard my feelings. It was more like we were having a conversation.”

Chen: “When the show first started, someone who works for [CBS Corp Chairman and her husband] Leslie Moonves went into him and said, ‘every time Julie mentions you, we all stop what we’re doing and watch.’ And then another exec walked into Les’ office and said, ‘You know Les, I learn something about you every day.’ Leslie was like, ‘what are you saying?’ I’m like I don’t know, it goes so fast! To be honest, I don’t remember. I cleared some things by him. One time I told him I really wanted to tell the story that he didn’t know what a fuse box was, but it might make him sound really stupid. He was like, go for it. I caught him at a busy time, and he was running to a meeting. Our executive producer was like, ‘I wouldn’t tell that story.’ My husband is a brilliant man, he’s a captain of the industry. That being said, he forgets about domestic stuff! One day the lights went out in the house, so I told him to go to the fuse box, and he was like, ‘the what?’ I told him it’s down in the laundry room. He said, ‘where’s the laundry room?'” [Her comments did air].

Tyler: [To Chen] “I feel like there’s no ivory tower. You talk about your husband like any wife would.”

On not trying to copy The View

Chen: “What’s different from our show and that show, we don’t have a resident punching bag. I feel like for at least Los Angeles and New York audiences, if you’re not in a red state, you love to hate Elisabeth Hasselback. We don’t have that. I really feel like the average viewer likes every single one of us. If we had a Star Jones type, then they don’t want to see us getting along. Average viewers want us to have harmony. The punching bags are the Justin Biebers, the Arnold Schwarzeneggers, the Anthony Weiners. We may beat up on that person, or we might disagree, but we don’t make enemies out of each other.”

Gilbert: “That’s always been the premise of the show — to be friends, and not be antagonistic. It wasn’t conceived as a political show. We’re more likely to ask guests about their family.”

Aisha Tyler: “We’re not trying to create a show in which half of the country gets furious with the TV. We disagree, but there’s no meanness to it.”

On booking newsmakers like former Penn State Coach and accused molester Jerry Sandusky

Chen: “I’m sure Barbara Walters and whoever else is trying to lock him up right now. We wouldn’t expect to be the first to get Jerry, but would we want him? Absolutely.”

Underwood: “It just wouldn’t go good!”

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