Tiffany Haddish answers the phone “HELLO KATE” in a scary monster voice, then immediately cracks up laughing. The 37-year-old comedian is calling in from New Orleans, where she’s doing press for “Girls Trip,” Malcolm D. Lee’s latest that is going to cement her as one of the best comic actors of her generation.
When we talk, it’s Essence Fest weekend, the same event that draws the film's cast of estranged besties — played by Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah and Haddish — down to NOLA for a long-time coming, raucous reunion. I tell her I’m from there, and she immediately says “All right, bay-by,” nailing the NOLA inflection.
In “Girls Trip,” Haddish's performance as the raunchy, at times violent, definitely batshit crazy Dina is a comic tour-de-force. If you don’t know her name already, you will soon: "The Carmichael Show” and “Keanu” actor’s debut standup special, “She Ready! From the Hood to Hollywood!” will air on Showtime this August. You’ll also catch her starring opposite Tracy Morgan in the upcoming Jordan Peele-directed TBS comedy, “The Last O.G.”
The L.A. native and I talk female friendship, what the hell the oral sex act “grapefruiting” is and who she would love to challenge to a dance-off.
"Girls Trip" is hilarious, but it also has a great message about female friendship: It’s not always easy, but those relationships are worth fighting for. Do you relate in your own life?
Yes. I have five really good friends and all of them have been my friends for 20 years or less. Actually, my oldest friendship is 26 years. Damn, I’m old! [Laughs] We don’t talk everyday, but we check in with each other every two, three months. Parties, birthdays are super important. Somebody having a stressful time, we’re there for each other. Just because you got a man or whatever doesn’t mean you forget about your girls. A lot of women get their man and forget they had girlfriends, but when that man’s gone, they’re like, “Uh, where are my friends?!” If you’ve got real friends, they forgive you for that. Sometimes in your 20s you get dickmatized, you don’t know any better. But you learn!
I loved the dance-off scenes in the movie. Who would you want to dance battle in real life?
Girl. In my dream dance-off battle world, I would love to battle dance Bruno Mars. Me and Bruno, head to head. What you got, Bruno? [Laughs] At the BET Awards I challenged him. I was like, “Me, you, dance-off, I’m serious!” He was like, “You’re crazy.” Or, me and Chris Brown, I would kill Chris Brown in a dance battle. And Justin Timberlake. Mm-hmm.
OK, can we talk about the “grapefruiting” sex move that your character demonstrates in the movie? Did you know about that before “Girls Trip”?
I’ve been talking about oral sex in my stand up comedy since 2003. Then this woman comes out — if you go to Youtube and put in “grapefruiting,” this lady Angel decided to do a tutorial on how to properly provide oral sex. When I saw it I was like, "Oh my god, that’s what I do on stage but not as graphic or as good as she does it!" When I read it in the script I just fell out laughing cuz I knew exactly what it was. A lot of people don’t know about [grapefruiting] though. But it’s so good, if the dude has a disease or he’s hiding herpes, [the grapefruit] is gonna burn and then you’ll know, don’t put your mouth on that. Understand? [Laughs]
You’ve talked about being bullied as a kid. Do you think Trump is normalizing the behavior?
I can’t stand bullies, personally, but without my bullies, I wouldn’t be doing what I do. The kid that bullied me on the playground was freaking 14 in the sixth grade. She obviously had some issues going on and was feeling inadequate. Now she works at Walmart and I’m successful, haha! [Laughs] I know so many people who have been bullied and now they’re successful adults. I’m not an advocate for bullying, but I know it molds people and gives you character. If you can outshine a bully, you can do anything. I hates it so much, I gotta talk Ebonics about it! [Laughs]
“The Carmichael Show” has been very politically relevant in its comedy. When the episode on mass shooting was rescheduled after Rep. Steve Scalise was shot, were you in favor of that?
No, I think they should have aired it right away. The thing I love about “The Carmichael Show” is that it creates conversations. It creates awareness and tackles taboos. All the best teachers I ever had growing up made me laugh and I never forgot anything they ever taught me. I get so many messages from [fans] saying, “Oh, I never thought of it that way,” or “Oh, I didn’t even know that was going on in the world.” Even in season one when we did the kale episode, this one girl hit me up, “My grandmother saw it and started eating healthier…now she’s walking everyday.” That simple message changed their whole relationship.
Any crazy stories from your time filming in New Orleans?
So many. When Will Smith came to set! We were shooting a scene where Jada was like, “I don’t think it’s funny enough,” so Will and I were punching up her lines. I was like, “Oh my god, I’m over here punching up lines with Will Smith, this is awesome.” Then they’re like, “What are you doing tomorrow?” “I’m like, oh, I’m going on a swamp tour I got off Groupon.” She’s like, “Oh, Will and I will go with you.”
Girl, why does she think I have my own boat? There were all these people there, she was all mad, “Tiffany, there’s going to be so much pandemonium.” I’m like, “Girl I’m from the hood, nobody’s gonna mess with us, it’s gonna be fun, we’re going to learn all kinda stuff about the swamp.” We ended up having the best time. Jada was like, “We should do more stuff with regular people.” [Laughs]