Stage & Dance

Tiffany Haddish brings her ‘show-stopping, super-sized personality’ to UK

Tiffany Haddish arrives at the Oscars on March 4. She will perform at the University of Kentucky March 26.
Tiffany Haddish arrives at the Oscars on March 4. She will perform at the University of Kentucky March 26. Invision/AP

What feels like wayback in July 2017, stand-up comedian and actress Tiffany Haddish had her breakout role in the raunchy R-rated, highly successful comedy “Girls Trip.”

But over the last year, Haddish is still breaking out.

This is not due to any big-screen roles she’s taken lately, since “Girls Trip” was her last movie appearance when it debuted eight months ago. She hasn’t become one of Hollywood and comedy’s most buzzed-about performers due to her work in any recent hit sitcoms or TV dramas. She has almost done so with the sheer force of her show-stopping, super-sized personality – not to mention the ability to tell more than a few good stories.

Since last summer, through the promotion of “Girl’s Trip,” and projects that have included a new Showtime stand-up special (“Tiffany Haddish: She Ready! From the Hood to Hollywood”) a hosting gig on “Saturday Night Live” and her memoir “The Last Black Unicorn,” Haddish has made a number of talk show appearances — and boy, have they been memorable.

Skim YouTube and you’ll find multiple videos with millions of views that instantly sharable, whether it’s dating and hooking up with physically disabled baggage handler on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” or recalling taking “Girl’s Trip” co-star Jada Pinkett Smith and her husband Will Smith on a Groupon swamp tour on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (which landed her a Groupon spokesperson spot you may have seen during this year’s Super Bowl).

Haddish’s popularity doesn’t simply stem from one movie or her being a go-to talk show guest. Possibly not since Kentucky’s own Jennifer Lawrence has a Hollywood actress been so instantly likable and relatable — a person who seems to be famous but authentic and genuine, not letting that fame change their personality.

She is just excited to meet A-list celebrities as you would be, whether she is having an emotional breakdown meeting Oprah for the first time on “Ellen” or freaking out introducing herself to Meryl Streep on the red carpet at this year’s Oscars.

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Tiffany Haddish, left, and Maya Rudolph present the award for best documentary short subject at the Oscars on March 4 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Chris Pizzello Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

And if you saw her present at this year’s Academy Awards, you may have noticed her wearing the same $4,000 Alexander McQueen dress she purchased and has worn to every awards ceremony she attended, much to her stylist’s chagrin.

Haddish’s seemingly overnight success came to fruition through a uniquely hard upbringing and plenty of hard work. Growing up the the daughter of an Eritrean Jewish refugee father and a black, Jehovah’s Witness mother, Haddish spent her childhood in South Central Los Angeles. After her mother suffered brain damage from a car accident, Haddish became the primary caregiver of her siblings at age 9 before Haddish was placed in foster care at age 12. During all of these struggles, Haddish would always turn to comedy to push toward a brighter day.

“Comedy is the instrument and the key to keep me positive and alive,” Haddish said during an appearance on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.” “I don’t know about you guys, but it feels so good for me to laugh and it feels better to see other people laugh.”

For much of her career, Haddish did just that through hitting comedy clubs and making numerous guest starring appearances on multiple TV shows, stand-up comedy showcases and film projects before landing a regular role on the debut season of Tyler Perry soap opera “If Loving You Is Wrong” on the OWN network in 2014.

She left that show when she landed a lead role on the NBC sitcom “The Carmichael Show” for three seasons and later went on to star opposite Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele (“Key and Peele”) in the 2016 action-comedy “Keanu.”

While those roles put Haddish on people’s radar, her star-turn as wild and brash girlfriend Dina opposite co-stars Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Regina Hall in “Girl’s Trip” was something else entirely. Not since Melissa McCarthy in the 2011 comedy “Bridesmaids” has a comedic actress completely stolen a movie from its more famous and notable co-stars.

Fans of Haddish from the Bluegrass State will get what might be a rare chance to see Haddish up close and personal when she comes to the University of Kentucky to perform stand-up on March 26 at the Singletary Center for the Arts. The reason it might be “rare” is because Haddish has been busy . . . and getting even busier.

Haddish is currently starring opposite Tracy Morgan and Cedric The Entertainer on the TBS sitcom “The Last O.G.,” which debuts next month. She has multiple film projects on the horizon set to be released this year, including the Kevin Hart comedy “Night School,” the Tyler Perry drama “The List” and the crime flick “The Kitchen” opposite Elizabeth Moss and Melissa McCarthy, just to name a few.

In the past, Tiffany Haddish may have used comedy to cope. But it seems more likely now that she will be using it to conquer.

Blake Hannon: blake.hannon81@gmail.com.

If you go

Tiffany Haddish

When: 8 p.m., March 26

Cost: $25

Where: Singletary Center for the Arts, 405 Rose St.

Tickets: Call 859-257-1706 or visit https://finearts.uky.edu/singletary-center

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