Tiffany Haddish is living her best life, and is bringing everyone along for the ride.
The stand-up comic and breakout star of “Girls Trip” delivered a nearly 18-minute acceptance speech at Wednesday’s New York Film Critics Circle awards, alternating between outrageous jokes and inspirational messages. As she accepted the award for best supporting actress, she openly hit on Michael B. Jordan and described a graphic scene cut from “Girls Trip.” She encouraged everyone to be their own true selves. And the stars who followed her couldn’t stop mentioning her.
Not many entertainers could hold court for so long and in such a captivating way, but the Haddish speech shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been watching her ascent in the last year. Somehow she is both a ball of sunshine and shocking. She can say crude things while never being truly mean. And she’s managed to turn some of the most potentially dull celebrity rituals – acceptance speeches and late-night interviews – into refreshing and gut-busting moments.
Haddish shows how to be authentic and charismatic at the very moments designated for celebrities to be authentic and charismatic.
Stand-up comics usually adapt their stage material to late-night show couch banter. But that transition works especially well for Haddish, whose comedy is rooted in personal storytelling. She has an incredible life story, going from foster care to living out of her car to Hollywood stardom. It feels more natural to watch her laugh along with the audience about her ridiculous antics during an interview than it does to watch her do it in a stand-up set. She also gets to play off someone else; with Haddish, a late-night host doesn’t have to fake interest.
Her NYFCC speech brought the audience to its feet, according to Vanity Fair, and afterward, everyone from Edward Norton to Willem Dafoe to Timothée Chalamet referenced her when they got on stage.
While the gala isn’t televised, tweets and video of her speech got considerable attention from those not in the room. It was filmed by BuzzFeed film critic Alison Willmore.
“First, I want to thank God, because without God, my mama and daddy wouldn’t have put their two uglies together and they wouldn’t have made me,” she told the audience.
Later, she thanked the critics. “I’m learning a lot about you guys. The only critics I ever known before this was Siskel and Ebert, and then when they passed, I was like, ‘Oh well.’ I ain’t going to lie to you: All my stuff comes from TV. Who’s the new movie critic TV show, is there one? Get it together, y’all.”
Then, she got emotional. Haddish thanked anyone who has talked about her, whether their comments have been positive or negative.
“I appreciate you; I’m glad you see me. Because it’s been so many years nobody saw me,” she said. “When you’re a little kid going through the [foster-care] system, doing, you wonder, ‘Does anybody even know I’m alive?’ ” she said. “And to be able to be this example to so many youth – there’s so many people like me that you guys have no clue about. But they coming. Because I kicked the f-ing door open.”
Haddish has had roles on “The Carmichael Show” and the movie “Keanu,” but many people first became acquainted with the real Haddish after her July appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” Her story about taking Will and Jada Pinkett Smith on a Groupon swamp tour was likely the best late-night interview of the year, and it quickly went viral.
“That is an unbelievably great story,” Kimmel said at the end. He clearly meant it, too.
A month later, after her “Girls Trip” performance was praised by critics and the film became a hit, Haddish left Stephen Colbert googly-eyed as she regaled him with stories about census surveys and living out of her car.
She had Trevor Noah giggling uncontrollably during her “Daily Show” interview. He also couldn’t stop complimenting her.
“There are human beings who have the ability to walk into a room and light it up with not just their personality but also their genuine positive energy,” Noah later wrote on Facebook. “Tiffany is one of those people – A superstar both on and off screen.”