ILLUSTRATION BY HANOCH PIVEN
When Girls Trip premiered in July 2017, audiences and critics alike had a common response to the least-known member of the leading quartet: Where did this Tiffany Haddish woman come from? The South LA–born performer seemed like the kind of star you’d loved for years, despite her short résumé (Keanu, The Carmichael Show). She was a carefree, oft-bawdy Mae West for the Internet Age, and W magazine dubbed her “the best friend America has dreamed of.”
Within five months of that success, she released a stand-up special (She Ready!) and a memoir (The Last Black Unicorn) and became the first black female stand-up comic to host Saturday Night Live (she won an Emmy). But it was her confessional tone—her willingness to talk about domestic abuse and homelessness—that endeared her to a public that’s become used to polished, media-trained stars.
Since then, her roles have only worked to reinforce her status as the national BFF: She’s been the everywoman spokesperson for Groupon and Lawry’s Seasoned Salt; the big-sisterly host of Kids Say the Darndest Things; and, most recently, a mentor in Netflix’s They Ready, in which she turned over the mic to six under-the-radar comedians she met on her way to stardom.
She’s starting 2020 off strong, with this month’s Like a Boss, opposite Rose Byrne and Salma Hayek, followed by Bad Trip, a Jackass-style hidden-camera movie, and Netflix’s Madam C.J. Walker miniseries, in which she’ll play the daughter of the turn-of-the-20th-century hair-care magnate. Haddish called Hemispheres bright and early (8 a.m.) to discuss the state of modern stand-up, her Jewish heritage, and the best Groupon deals she’s ever scored. Why the early wake-up? She had to catch a helicopter for a daytime first date, of course.
Good morning, Tiffany! Where are you calling from?
America. My bed. Where are you calling from?
Oh, cool, that’s where I am too.
I figured you must be an early riser to fit in all your different gigs—it’s been less than three years since Girls Trip.
I’ve done more than that years before, but nobody knows about it! All my labor is paying off now.
In light of your new film, Like a Boss, I’m curious when you started to feel like one.
I don’t feel like a boss. I feel like the owner of everything. The boss usually works for the owner. I feel like the owner.
Do you remember a turning point when that became your mentality?
I want to say when I was homeless, because I started to learn that you are responsible for your existence. You start to think, “If this happened to me, this is probably because I put myself in this situation. So I’m going to start changing my environment with my thoughts.” When I started doing that, my world got a lot better.
You once told an interviewer that your goal was to become a “little baby Oprah.” What’s your plan for world domination?
I want to open an anger management center where you could go into a padded room and scream as much as you want and throw plates at a wall. Maybe we print a picture of somebody who’s rubbed you the wrong way, and you can throw darts at it. Kids are allowed to cry and throw temper tantrums—that’s a great way to relieve stress. That’s why the Haddish Anger
Management Center would be amazing.
Your motto could be “Go ham at H.A.M.”
I see the commercial right now. And my last name means “new rebirth,” so new management of anger, new way to remove that hurt.
I’ll be an early investor. One of my favorite things you’ve done recently is They Ready. Why did you keep your relationships with these comedians going?
I kept them alive because I needed them to survive. You have your family that you’re born to, and that’s cool and all; you share DNA with them. But I learned at an early age that you got to build your own family. When I got into comedy, I realized that women don’t really stick together, because they are pitted against each other. Men will make you turn against the other females, because they’re feeling some type of way about your power. And so I would always be the little voice, like, “We going to make it. Don’t you guys worry.” I would make everybody make this promise: “Whoever gets there first…” I have a list of 120 comedians—120 relationships— that I would love to elevate. If I don’t have kids, maybe they’re like my kids.
It doesn’t hurt that the comedians you chose are hilarious; it feels like a big middle finger to people who think that women aren’t funny.
You know what? I don’t even think about that part, but you are right. Big middle finger to Jerry Lewis and anybody who thinks like he did.
They’re also pretty edgy, which made me think about cancel culture and political correctness. Do you think about all that when you’re writing?
When you see my [latest] special, you’re going to be like, “Yeah, Tiffany gives zero f**** about cancel culture.” When I write, I think, “How does this make me feel?” If it makes me feel offended, then I won’t do it. But if it makes me feel good, I do it, because I know there’s at least a million people out there that’s like, “I agree with that completely.” People say, “We’re going to cancel Dave Chappelle.” It’s not stopping him at all, though. He talked about his point of view, and he just got the Mark Twain Prize, the biggest honor you can get as a comic. I think a true entertainer, a true voice of the community, is someone who’s willing to say things that might make others uncomfortable but need to be said. Period.
After you told a now-viral story on Jimmy Kimmel Live! about taking Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith on a Groupon swamp boat tour, a few critics called you the perfect talk-show guest. Where did you get your storytelling skills?
I definitely got that skill from my family. We didn’t have cable, so we would sit around and tell stories. My great-grandmother died when she was 99, and to the day she died she had a story to tell. When you would sit with her, it’d be so funny, and then everybody’d be dead at the end because she outlived all her friends! Maybe it’s in my DNA. I did my 23andMe, and I’m Hebrew. I’m about to have a bat mitzvah. The thing that’s prevalent in the Jewish community is to tell stories through song. You learn through others’ experiences. That’s always been in my realm.
You made money in high school as a bar mitzvah hypewoman, so I have to imagine yours will be the party of the century.
It’s going to be a blast, baby. I’m getting all the people that I used to do bat mitzvahs with back together.
Speaking of childhood, you’re hosting Kids Say the Darndest Things now, which seems like a perfect fit for you. Did you have any memorable “darndest” things you used to say as a kid?
My dad told me this story that I always think is so funny. He didn’t marry my mom, and my grandma used to tell me, “No man should be in your mama’s bed until she get married.” So my dad would come over, and I was 2 and a half, 3 years old. I crawled in bed and said, “Daddy, why you in the bed with my mommy? I’m telling Grandma.” And I would go tell on him. I was
Oh, what a snitch!
Yeah, I was a snitch, and I’m still a snitch. Don’t do no bad around me, because I’m going to tell. That’s how I keep safe. That’s why I’m not in the Illuminati. They know I’m going to tell everybody.
Something you do tell everybody about is your love of Groupon. What’s the best deal you’ve ever gotten?
The bidet was probably the best investment I made. My other really great thing was I got a Groupon Experience—11 days in Thailand and China for $1,400. I rode elephants. I made out with a guy. It was great.
You sound like a good traveler.
I am a good traveler. The best part is you meet other people from all over the world. I made so many friends on that trip. Every time you see me with a nice bag that’s not a known designer bag, that’s because I met this lady from Florida that makes bags. I met this really cool dude from India that does accounting. He taught me about buying a piece of land every year for 15 years, and you’ll be a multimillionaire even if your career doesn’t work out. I met so many cool people that taught me so much about being a businesswoman, about being frugal yet having awesome experiences that rich people have.
I think people who spend money on travel instead of crazy cars or jewelry tend to be more interesting anyway.
I agree with you 110 percent. Here’s the thing: Whether you believe in God or not, some energy created this super-beautiful, super-great earth, and you were born where you were born. But you were born in a time with airplanes, trains, automobiles, boats. And I think every human should take advantage of the opportunity to go somewhere different than where you have ever been. It does something to your brain. It really helps you to understand how small you are, but also how powerful you are as a human being.
So where are you off to today? Are you in town for a talk show or something?
To be honest with you, I haven’t had a date in five months. Last year, I put out an Instagram video saying, “That’s it, I want to start dating. Whoever has the best date experience for me, I’m going to go.” This very handsome doctor for the U.S. military was like, “I’ll take you on a helicopter ride.” He’s been going back to the Middle East and doing all these things for the troops, so we’ve been trying to coordinate our schedules for the past year. And finally today, when I get off the phone with you, he better be in the lobby with flowers! He’s going to take me on a helicopter ride, we’re going to lunch and a nice little day date, and then I got to get dropped off at the movie set. I’m shooting a movie with Billy Crystal right now.
Good luck! A helicopter ride over New York sounds amazing.
I made him get a Groupon.
BY THE NUMBERS
Year Haddish earned duel citizenship with Eritrea (her late father was an Eritrean refugee from an Ethiopian Jewish family)
Age she started doing stand-up at the Laugh Factory Comedy Camp
Amount Haddish got paid to play the Conquistador mascot at football games during her senior year at El Camino Real High School
Amount she got paid to be a bar mitzvah hypewoman by teen party planner DJ Timbo
Weeks her memior, The Last Black Unicorn, spent on the New York Times Best Seller List
Languages she speaks (English, Spanish, Japanese)
Global box office gross of Girls Trip, the first film produced, directed, written by, and starring African Americans to make $100 million