While most of the entertainment world was focused on San Diego Comic-Con 2017, the new road comedy Girls Trip was doing the unthinkable; earning the biggest-opening weekend for a live-action comedy in 2017. Keep in mind, it opened opposite Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk, which unsurprisingly held the top spot in its opening weekend, but according to The Hollywood Reporter, Girls Trip did something special. For everyone who thought that a comedy starring four black women couldn't win big at the box office, Girls Trip shut those notions the hell up, hopefully signaling a much-needed shift in Hollywood to properly diversify their output. Or, at the very least, learn to take some risks.
What's even more interesting is that in a cast that featured established women like Jada Pinkett-Smith, Regina Hall, and Queen Latifah as stars, it was Tiffany Haddish—who many have seen killing stages with her stand-up, on The Carmichael Show, or in recent movies like Keanu—that was getting the majority of the praise for Girls Trip.
For many, though, the question might be, "Who the hell is Tiffany Haddish?" Simply put, she's a hilarious woman who's got a tremendous story and should finally be able to capitalize on the dues she's paid in the industry.
Her story begins in South Central Los Angeles. Born in 1979, Tiffany Haddish's childhood was hard. During an intense episode of The Champs podcast, Haddish broke down how her father left their family when she was three, and after a horrific car accident seemed to be the catalyst of her mother's mental health issues, Tiffany was essentially taking care of her younger siblings ("I was a 10-year-old mom," Haddish told People). Their home life got worse, ultimately resulting in her family being broken up and placed in the foster care system. Haddish also told a story about being raped by an older individual,
It was through comedy that Haddish found her chance to shine and bring herself out of a rough situation, taking inspiration from a quote from Who Framed Roger Rabbit; Haddish says that Roger's response to a detective asking why people are doing nice things for him ("because I make them laugh. If you make them laugh, they'll do anything for you") stuck with her, and eventually lead to her going to a camp for kids put on by the famous Los Angeles comedy club the Laugh Factory. Well, she was given the decision based on how she'd been acting out during her time in school.
"Look you've got two choices,'" Haddish said her social worker told her at the age of 15, "'you can go to the Laugh Factory comedy camp, or you can go to psychiatric therapy. Which one you want to do?' I was like, 'Which one got drugs?' She said I'd be on drugs if I went to therapy, and I was like, 'OK I'll got to comedy camp,' and it changed my entire existence." It was there that she met Charles Fleischer, the voice of Roger Rabbit, and yes, she was able to thank him for being an inspiration on her life. She also had aspirations to work in the entertainment industry.
Her life didn't change in an instant; she's not only spoken of being raped again at the age of 17, but when she turned 18, she aged out of the foster care system, and ended up homeless, working jobs that she ended up hating. "I was living in my Geo Metro in Beverly Hills," she told Huff Po, "so you couldn’t tell me I wasn’t doing it right. I was sleeping in front of this one house every day, and every morning at 6:45, the police would come and make me move." After going to counseling to deal with her post-graduation life, she went back to the stand-up stage, which turned into Hollywood slowly calling.
Her acting credits go back to 2005, with her getting guest spots on shows like That's So Raven, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Meet the Spartans to begin. As people started to take notice, she started to get bigger roles, including on BET's Real Husbands of Hollywood and the OWN Network's Tyler Perry series If Loving You Is Wrong. She ended up leaving the Perry series to join the cast of Jerrod Carmichael's NBC sitcom The Carmichael Show, although she almost didn't get the gig despite being friends with Carmichael.
"I guess because I was doing If Loving You Is Wrong," she remembered in a conversation with us in 2016, "and they thought I was still obligated to that—which technically I was—but I saw Jerrod at the Comedy Club, and I walked up to him, and I was like: 'Jerrod, I'm so happy for you, congratulations on the special, congratulations on the pilot, man. This is a tremendous thing you're doing. But you know what? It's real messed up how you didn't ask me to come and audition or nothing. That's real disrespectful. Why you saying you respect my comedy? Why you saying you love what I do and all that? You didn't even invite me to audition. You telling everybody I'm talented, but you don't give a fuck about me. You don't give a fuck about me. But you know what? If you need help with anything just let me know. You need somebody to run lines with you. To be a PA, a stand-in, anything. I'm here to help. I'm here to be of service.' And he was like, 'OK.'"
Carmichael listened, and we got Haddish to play Nekeisha, the ex-wife of Bobby, who is portrayed by Lil Rel (Get Out). The character keeps it 100 all of the time, even if she could be considered a little ratchet, but Haddish's performance speaks to an underserved group of women who want to laugh all the same. When asked about people recognizing her in the street for her work on The Carmichael Show, she told us that people are "always like, 'Thank you for being there for us. Thank you for showing them us. Thank you for keeping it real.'"
With word from NBC that The Carmichael Show had been canceled after three seasons devastating to fans across the country, it would appear that Haddish's role as Dina in Girls Trip hit at just the right time. Dina is the free spirit in the foursome, living life the most turnt as she can; she's the one spiking her girls drinks with Absinthe, teaching her squad intimate actions using grapefruits, and just being extremely physical. In a conversation with Buzzfeed, she credited two people as inspiration in how she wanted to perform in Girls Trip. "Whoopi Goldberg in Jumpin’ Jack Flash was the first black woman I ever saw get to be really physical," she told Buzzfeed. "I am a comedy connoisseur, and when I got this role, I knew there’s a certain way I had to play it, because Dina could be considered the super nasty dirtiest chick in the world and people would hate her." She also says she studied the great Charlie Chaplin for this role, primarily because "he was doing bad stuff—hitting people, kicking things, hurting dogs, all kind of stuff—but he was always forgiven because he made it feel like childlike behavior. So I was like, if I can bring this childlike vibe to Dina and just be this wild teenage chick, people would be like, 'She's nasty and I like it because she's so fucking sweet.'"
As of right now, there's no real word on where Haddish's Hollywood aspirations will take her. She told Hannibal Buress during a recent appearance on his Handsome Rambler podcast that she'd been reading for some parts, but the only thing on the horizon right now is her upcoming comedy special, Tiffany Haddish: She Ready! From the Hood to Hollywood (which premieres Aug. 18 on Showtime), and she's also starring opposite Tracy Morgan in Morgan's TBS series The Last O.G., which he's working on with Jordan Peele. She's also a master storyteller, which she recently showcased on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
With Haddish finally getting the mainstream buzz that a comedian and actress of her caliber deserves, we have a feeling that even more opportunities for movies will come her way. Hell, if she's already being compared to Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids, Haddish could follow in McCarthy's ultra-successful footsteps. Or, at the very least, she could move into the same lanes that people like Kevin Hart have, going from a dynamic comedian to being a bonafide box office attraction. However it works, Haddish's time is now; don't fuck this one up, Hollywood.