Five times comedian Tiffany Haddish has lifted her projects to new heights

Tiffany Haddish performs at the Mirage January 25 and 26.
Julie Seabaugh

1. Navigating South Central LA was only the beginning of Haddish’s gripping, rags-to-riches memoir The Last Black Unicorn. She was 8 years old when her stepfather tampered with the family car’s brakes in an attempt to kill all six members. Her mother’s brain injury in the ensuring crash triggered schizophrenia and physical violence. Haddish was placed in foster care at age 13, was sexually assaulted by a family friend, slept in her car and suffered domestic abuse as an adult. After a social worker offered Haddish the choice between psychiatric therapy and comedy camp, getting interrupted and critiqued onstage by Richard Pryor proved decidedly manageable in comparison.

2. NBC sitcom The Carmichael Show might have lasted only three seasons, but Haddish made the breakout role of Nekeisha Williams more than memorable. Whether tackling topics including gentrification, religion, abortion, Black Lives Matter, transgender issues and Bill Cosby, her estranged wife of title star Jerrod Carmichael's brother Bobby (Lil Rel Howery) could single-handedly turn pivotal moments from painfully uncomfortable to endearingly hilarious.

3. While subsequent parts in Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s Keanu, Peele and John Carcieri’s The Last O.G. and Kevin Hart’s Night School heightened Haddish’s profile, it was record-breaking feature film Girls Trip that put her squarely on the mainstream map practically overnight. Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith might have been the ensemble comedy’s marquee stars, but Haddish’s over-the-top demonstration on how to increase sexual pleasure via grapefruit stole the show. As an added bonus, Haddish’s promo-circuit stories of taking a Groupon swamp tour with Smith landed her a spokesperson gig with the discount-activity service.

4. Debut stand-up special She Ready: From the Hood to Hollywood featured biographical storytelling that started grim, yet never failed to end optimistically. After tracking her three major psychotic breaks, Haddish maintained steadfast belief in the power of positive reinvention: “This is why people come from all over the world to be in this country, because only in America can you be whatever the fuck you want to be… I hope you can find the beauty in every single moment. I hope you become so f*cking happy, your happiness becomes contagious. I hope you sneeze joy! I hope you sh*t success!”!”

5. As the first black female comic to host Saturday Night Live in the show’s 43-year history, Haddish’s November 11, 2017 opening monologue addressed both social services—“I grew up in foster care, so I want to thank anyone who paid taxes between 1990 and 1999,”—and the #MeToo Movement: “If you got your thing-thing out and she got all her clothes on, you’re wrong.” (On the topic of clothing, she continued bucking Hollywood tradition and refused to apologize for wearing her favorite white Alexander McQueen dress multiple times.) The following September Haddish turned the historic appearance into her first Emmy award, winning Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series.

TIFFANY HADDISH January 25-26, 10 p.m., $71-$150. Mirage's Terry Fator Theatre, 702-792-7777.

Tags: Comedy, Mirage
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