Tiffany Haddish is swiftly and brilliantly making her mark on comedy by sharing her raw, real, and transparent life experiences that have shaped the woman she is today.
While on stage she may joke and make light of “the struggle,” the realities Tiffany faced were much more heavy and comedy served as a distraction from the madness.
Starring in Key & Peele‘s upcoming movie Keanu and NBC’s The Carmichael Show (the latter as the always real and blunt Nekeisha), Tiffany believes the world would be a much better place if everyone set out to “make someone else smile just once.”
Between being in foster care during her youth, to living in her car while trying to make it in Hollywood, Tiffany turned her pain into laughter by trying to find the beauty in the struggle.
What draws you to comedy?
I watched Who Framed Roger Rabbit and it changed my life. As a teen, I had a hard time making friends, since I was very shy and introverted; I wasn’t very good in school and anything else really. In the movie, there’s a part where the detective asks the rabbit how he’s getting everyone to do his dirty work and Roger Rabbit goes, “Because I make ‘em laugh.” I decided right then and there that I was going to make people laugh, so they’d warm up to me and help do the things I was struggling to do. Ever since then I’ve turned to comedy as a way to engage people.
How did you find yourself doing stand-up as a career?
Wildly enough, even though it helped me during my youth, eventually playing the happy role all the time took its toll on me because my reality was actually very depressing. I got emancipated out of foster care at 18 and that was very hard for me. I became depressed and introverted again. After graduation I took a job in retail, and my depression continued. I decided to get some counseling and through talking with my counselor, she suggested I go back to comedy, maybe as a hobby to take my mind off everything I was going through. I started performing at amateur nights, and then it turned into club owners paying me maybe $50 or $100 a night to tell jokes for a few minutes. I said, “Hey, I can do this for real” and decided to keep on doing stand-up.
How did your life shift after trying to find the humor in everything in life?
I definitely gained more friends because of it. I felt like if I could say one [funny] thing that changes someone’s existence, I want to do that, because that one movie did all that for me. It’s funny, because I got in trouble as a teen and was basically given my choice of having to go to the psych ward or comedy camp. [Of course] I chose camp and wouldn’t you know, at that camp was Charles Fleischer (the voice of Roger Rabbit). I told him all about how that movie changed me. I’ve had a lot of weird full circle moments like that.
What other kinds of full circles moments have you had?
Man, so many things are affirmed to me in strange ways. One of the strangest stories though: I was homeless for a month in Beverly Hills and was sleeping in my car in front of this same Beverly Hills home I thought was so beautiful. When people at the clubs would ask where I lived, I’d say, “In a house in Beverly Hills.” I’d wash and dress at a youth center, work all day, and then sleep in my car until the police would come and tell me to move. This was my life for a month. Cut to five years later, I’m on Def Comedy Jam, and one of the HBO execs invites me to his place after the show—wouldn’t you know his house was the exact house I used to camp in front of. I told him I used to sleep in my car in front of his house and he goes, “That was you? I used to call the police on you every morning!” Crazy stuff like that. That was also an affirmation for me to treat everyone well, because you never know when you’ll cross paths with that person, and in what capacity. I try to treat everyone really well because you never need someone again.
What attracts you to stand-up?
Everyday I take the most painful experiences I’ve had and make them funny. I always say I tell jokes for free; it makes me feel good to hear others’ laughter. What they pay me for is the travel to get there.
What’s the difference in scripted television versus stand-up?
On TV, you’re learning someone else’s words while also paying attention to a million different cues, but really you don’t have to think so much, just follow directions. On stage, your brain is always working, watching the room and having to constantly improvise based off of the energy, which is always changing.
What’s been your major key to success thus far?
Do one thing every day that takes you a step closer to your goals. Just doing one thing per day will get you closer to where you want to be. Another thing I found to be helpful is to press on despite your circumstances. Like I said, I was out in Beverly Hills living in my car, washing in youth centers, but every day I continued to work and go to comedy clubs to get practice, get better and get paid. I didn’t let my circumstance stop me from chasing my dream.