Make us your home page
Instagram

Tiffany Haddish talks growing up in foster care and how she learned to be herself in comedy

Growing up in foster care, comedian Tiffany Haddish knew she was special.

"My grandmother used to tell me: 'The state of California is paying me a lot of money to make sure you don't die,' " Haddish, 37, said by telephone. "I could've taken that in a negative way but I took it positively: Yeah, I'm valuable. There must be something great I'm supposed to do here."

Apparently Haddish's destiny is making people laugh. So far, so funny. She's currently on a roll with a national stand-up tour coming to Clearwater's Capitol Theatre this weekend, co-starring on NBC's The Carmichael Show, a Showtime special She Ready and being the breakout star of Girls Trip, a $100 million sleeper hit and still counting.

Her bittersweet memoir The Last Black Unicorn is due in December. The ending is much happier than Haddish's beginnings.

"Last week I was reading (galleys) and I just started crying," Haddish said. "There's some stuff in there that's kind of dark, hard to deal with. I was, like, I don't know if I should put this out. If I'm crying, I know other people are going to cry.

"Then I get to the next paragraph and I'm dying laughing because of how I process it. I guess it's a tearjerker and a knee slapper."

The book's title describes how Haddish felt in foster childhood, different and unique. Her father left early and her mother was severely brain damaged in a car accident, separating 8-year-old Haddish and three younger siblings into foster care and uncertain futures.

"I remember being in the system until I wasn't worth anything (in state funding)," Haddish said. "When I talk to some of my comedy buddies now they'll say: 'Tiffany, you ain't never been afraid.' And I'm thinking to myself: 'Well, you obviously never knew me.' "

Being funny became Haddish's means of coping with a series of new families and classmates. It also got her in trouble for disrupting classes, leading to a life-changing ultimatum from a high school social worker: Either sign up for psychiatric therapy or attend a camp sponsored by Laugh Factory comedy club. At 17, she chose the latter.

"I was still learning who I was as a young lady then," Haddish said. "Now, I'm not afraid to be myself. Not afraid of too much of anything. Back then I was so scared of everything. … Now I couldn't care less. I enjoy me."

Haddish's comedy is equally bold: frat house raunch, fashion model fierce. In shows, she shares her grandmother's double entendre advice, explains the science behind a distracting sexual sound effect and offers fashion tips to the Ku Klux Klan.

Our conversation occurred a day before a white supremacist rally sparked violence in Charlottesville, Va. Haddish isn't likely to shy away from that topic, as she seldom shies from anything.

"As I matured, as I got comfortable in my skin, my comedy has transformed, for sure," Haddish said. "Especially the things I talk about that I'm sure a lot of comics would never talk about, like being in the foster care system. Like being in a very bad marriage. Like getting revenge on somebody and possibly incriminating myself."

Ah, yes. The ex-boyfriend who did Haddish wrong, whose brand new Air Jordan shoes became her toilet of vengeance. That's another true story in her act.

"I did it," she said defiantly. "Now that I think about it, who's going to go to jail for pooping in a shoe? They have to do some DNA testing on that."

Haddish knows her humor isn't for everyone. Haters remind her all the time online. Sometimes she replies, as when a troll suggested Haddish becoming a congressman's baby mama would be a better career move.

Haddish thanked the troll for "thinking I'm sexy enough and intelligent enough to get a congressman" and encouraging her to have children. "But that's not my choice right now," she said.

"I've been working for this for years. … I'm loving the fruits of my labor right now. Making people laugh, it's my drug of choice, my everything."

Contact Steve Persall at spersall@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

.If YOU GO

Tiffany Haddish

The comedian performs at 7 p.m. Friday at the Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater. Sold out. rutheckerdhall.com. (727) 791-7400.

Tiffany Haddish talks growing up in foster care and how she learned to be herself in comedy 08/29/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 30, 2017 1:28am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. From the archives: Account of famed Riggs-King match heightens Tampa mob intrigue

    Tennis

    With the Sept. 29 opening of "Battle of the Sexes" — the movie starring Emma Stone and Steve Carrell about Billie Jean King's landmark 1973 tennis win over Bobby Riggs — we thought there might be renewed interest in this 2013 Peter Jamison story from the Tampa Bay Times.

    Emma Stone as Billie Jean King and Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs in "Battle of the Sexes."  [Melinda Sue Gordon, Fox Searchlight Pictures]
  2. Halloween Horror Nights: 'The Shining,' 'Saw' and more things to give you nightmares at Universal Orlando

    Blogs

    The 27th year of Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights will scare the pants off you -- in the best possible way.

    The scare zone inspired by horror flick Trick r' Treat is one of the most beautiful at this year's Halloween Horror Nights 27.
  3. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sept. 22

    Events

    Arcade Fire: The wildly acclaimed indie rock outfit tour in support of their fifth album, Infinite Content. Presumably, the band will also play songs from their first few albums. Wolf Parade opens. 7 p.m., University of South Florida Sun Dome, 4202 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. $35-$75. (813) 974-3004.

    LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 08:  Musician Win Butler of Arcade Fire performs onstage during The 24th Annual KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas at The Shrine Auditorium on December 8, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Radio.com)
  4. What the 10 terms Merriam-Webster just added to the dictionary say about our foodie culture

    Cooking

    Joining "troll" (as in, a rude person on the Internet, not a bridge-dwelling creature), "alt-right" and "dog whistle," 10 food-related words were added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary this week. That's out of 250 new terms, a pretty good ratio that signals the ongoing shift toward a more food-obsessed culture, one …

    IPA is one of the words recently added to the dictionary.