Tiffany Haddish Gets Real About the Struggles of Being a Woman in Comedy
The comedian opens up about her family relationships and how she kept her jokes sharp when she couldn't get on stage during COVID.
When Tiffany Haddish won the Grammy for Best Comedy Album on March 14th, she became the fourth woman to ever do so—and only the second Black woman in history. This is an honor the comedian doesn’t take lightly, and her unmatched joy over the award all goes back to a tough childhood and a little girl who only wanted to help people and be the best she could be.
Shortly after winning, Haddish shared a touching video on Instagram of the moment she found out the news. She was on set filming Kids Say the Darndest Things when the crew told her she’d won. In the video, Haddish is clearly overcome by emotion. She opened up to HelloGiggles about the exact moment she heard she was a Grammy winner.
“First, I thought they were playing with me, because they love to try and play pranks on me,” she tells HelloGiggles of the crew on set. “And inside I’m just melting away. I remember being a kid, like ‘I just want to be helpful. I just want to make the earth better.’ And that little girl is still inside of me. I get so emotional because I’m doing basically so much, you know, and it’s really hard.”
Being on set with the children who are part of Kids Say the Darndest Things threw that moment into sharp focus for the actress, because she says she looked around and saw a little bit of herself in them and so much hope for the future, which made her Grammy win that much more sweet. She shares that her win, which will live in the history books, is something she hopes will show kids—especially Black girls—that they can do anything they want to do, even when the world tries to tell them they can’t.
Sometimes you want to just quit, but it’s that other voice, that other voice inside of me that’s like, ‘Tiffany, you’re doing good. Don’t give up even when you mess up. It’s good, because somebody can learn from that. Somebody can grow from that. You’re going to grow from it,’ she says.
Though the past year has been hard because of COVID, the actress has found some bright spots aside from her Grammy win. The pandemic was actually almost a blessing for the actress, who usually finds herself away working but was instead able to spend time at home and with her loved ones much more in the past year.
“I miss my family so much, because I’m always gone,” she shares. “During the pandemic, the first six months were great, but then things started picking back up for me again. I’m not complaining at all because I’m able to help my grandma, and I’m looking out for my family members. For me, that’s the best thing in the world. Even though some of my family get on my nerves, they still recharge me.”
She hasn’t had an easy go of things with family, though. Haddish has spoken candidly in the past about her mother’s car accident that left her with severe brain damage and resulted in a traumatic home life for Haddish and her siblings. They eventually ended up in foster care, but Haddish credits everything she went through growing up with making her into the person she is today. She and her mother still have a strained relationship, but it didn’t stop Haddish from sharing her Grammy-winning moment with her.
“I gave her the biggest hug, and then I told her that I won. It was the third time that I can ever remember hearing her say she’s proud of me,” Haddish says. She added that this relationship over the years taught her to toughen up and be ready to handle not only internet trolls who are always ready to cut people down but also everyone in the comedy world who told her she couldn’t do it. “I love her for that,” she finishes.
It was this upbringing that also made Haddish close with her siblings—including her younger brother, whom she tapped for her latest project, a commercial with Cadillac for its otherworldly Super Cruise feature. The two show off what is essentially a self-driving car, which Haddish was thrilled to share with her brother.
“I was so happy to be able to get him to do something with me, because I’ve been trying to get him involved in things, because I think he’s so funny in life, in general,” she says. “And I just feel like he should share that with the world.” So she recruited him for the Cadillac project and split her time behind the wheel with him, something she was slightly nervous about, because Haddish likes to “be in control” at all times. Fortunately for both of them, the car drives itself, and Haddish is quick to point out that it definitely drives better than her brother.
For someone who has had to struggle to get to where she is now, and who has every reason to be bitter or angry at the hand she was dealt, Haddish instead leans on kindness as her superpower. “It’s dangerous being a woman in comedy to a certain extent,” she says. “There are people that are jealous, but you don’t want that juju. People want to take the essence of you and destroy it.” It’s here that she pauses and says that despite all of that, she turns to kindness.
Treat them with kindness; move on to the next thing. Don’t waste your energy.
Perhaps it’s her good energy that continues to make Haddish a force to be reckoned with in the comedy world—alongside her obvious talent. Though live entertainment shut down when COVID-19 struck, Haddish didn’t take a break. Instead, she sought out alternative ways to keep her jokes sharp—sharing them with her plants.
“The first six months, I was outside doing plant-based comedy,” she says with a laugh. “Doing comedy shows for my plants, which made my vegetables taste so damn good. So now, once a week, I go outside and I do these comedy shows for the plants, and my neighbors are like, ‘Who are you talking to?’ and I’m like, ‘Whoever can hear me. Mostly the artichokes. So here we go. Here are the jokes.'”
Her spirits remain high, even when there’s world tragedy, even when her home life is troubled, and even when she has momentary lapses of wanting to throw it all away, because this woman knows that her purpose is to make people laugh and to help the next generation achieve even more than she has.
“That’s why we try to tell these kids [on Kids Say the Darndest Things] all the time, like ‘Figure out what it is you love to do. What makes you feel good in your spirit.’ And you’ll never feel like you’re working. You’ll always feel like you’re on a really awesome adventure, a cool journey. And there’s going to be times that you want to give up. It’s going to be so many times you want to give up, but because you love it and you know that you’re giving your best, you’ll still be there. And you’ll rise to the top if you’re good at what you do.”
And Haddish has done just that—Grammy and all.