“I’m here to teach” becomes a mantra of sorts for Tiffany Haddish in her latest special for Netflix, Black Mitzvah. Newly forty, Haddish took the opportunity to release a special that spans the length of her career and life, sharing wisdom and reflecting on the experiences that have brought her to where she is today.
After producing Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready and ABC’s reboot of Kids Say the Darndest Things earlier this year, Black Mitzvah is a relatively rare showcase of the comic on her own after so much movie and TV work over the last several years. But she makes this solo outing – filmed in her homebase, South Central LA – a celebration in so many ways, and it’s a celebration she has undoubtedly earned.
Celebration takes center stage in a reflective moment early in the special, one that recounts the true (and turned funny) story behind Haddish’s storied 2019 Miami New Year’s Eve show. At the time, she was torn apart in the press for appearing unprepared and drunk on stage. Here, she transforms the rare public misstep into fodder for jokes. She was goaded into going out by a friend who asked her “did you celebrate?” while listing the many achievements that defined the year prior: an Emmy for hosting SNL, a box-office busting movie with Kevin Hart, and writing a book after not learning to read until she was 16. Haddish works hard and knows she’s come a long way from her challenging beginnings, and she brings that acknowledgement into her assessment of the highly criticized moment. She puts it simply, in a spin on her now-ever present catchphrase: “SHE WASN’T READY!”
Black Mitzvah also reveals a Haddish who clearly lives in two worlds at once: a world that lets her tell a story early on about Beyoncé gifting her a suit that fit perfectly despite the fact that Haddish has never had kids, or where one of the calls that she got after the Miami New Year’s show was from Oprah Winfrey; but also a world where a strategically timed trip to Six Flags was paid for with Coke cans, and how she needs her grandmother to move out of her house so her sex life can improve. If the comic struggles to move between the two realities, the fractures don’t show on stage. She’s ever-confident the whole way through, even when talking about moments of depression when she was young, and how she knows that moments of sadness or emotion now aren’t the same as those feelings once were.
Netflix bills Black Mitzvah as an evening of “raunchy reflections on [Haddish’s] long road to womanhood. And yes, the material does turn raunchy at times. But it’s no more than any male comic of any degree would easily get away with…to say nothing of what we’ve come to expect from her. A – dare I say it? – beautiful interpretive dance about male genitalia has an odd beauty to it, and an extended act-out demonstrating the work of the laziest stripper in any strip club shows her commitment to an art form that elevated her into stardom in the last several years.
The special is a celebration, and an increasingly rare solo showcase of Haddish’s talent. With a continually booked filming schedule, including additional forays into drama, we may have to cherish this latest offering of her stand-up side for quite some time…so, like Tiffany, celebrate it while you can.