Early on in her series for Netflix, Tiffany Haddish mentioned a conversation she’d had with drag queen and comedian Flame Monroe when she went to see her, including the line: “I’ma come back and get you.” Now, Haddish’s six-part series Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready! makes good on that promise. In it, Monroe gets to take the stage for a half-hour set, along with other “divine, diverse, and damn funny” comedians including Tracey Ashley, Chaunté Wayans, April Macie, Aida Rodriguez, Flame Munroe and Marlo Williams. As the series continues to draw rave reviews, I got to chat with Monroe, Ashley, and Macie about what the experience felt like…and what it’s meant to their careers.
The series was an opportunity for Haddish, who had been working hard to reach these heights in her career for twenty years, to lift up some of the people she met and grew to love along the way. “We all came up together,” said Macie, who counts Tiffany among her closest friends and even had her in her wedding recently. “I’d known Tiffany for years, we’d worked together,” said Ashley, who got to know Haddish well when writing for The Last O.G. on TBS. And when the time came for the Netflix spotlight, Ashley knew she’d be ready given the touring she’d done the prior year with another Last O.G. star, Tracy Morgan. “We did 75 cities, so [my set came together] based on that.” Haddish mentions in Ashley’s intro that she’d done comedy everywhere it could be done: colleges, corporate events, and even bar mitzvahs. She was road tested, and ready when the call came to take the stage.
For Monroe, the story was a little different. An emotional moment in her set comes when she mentioned that prior to the call to be on They Ready, she was contemplating giving up comedy altogether. When I asked why, she cited a weariness with a comedy grind that refused to look past her persona and into the substance of her jokes:
“They’d just see my character or see what I looked like, as opposed to just listening to the stories in the jokes that I had. It was pushing up against the double rub of the heel. On one heel, you’re pushing toward acceptance from the audience, and I’m pushing up another heel to get some stage time or somebody to book me because of my appearance.”
After making such a high-profile debut on Netflix though, momentum is starting to pick up in a previously unheard-of way for her: “the men have jumped on board. I’ve never had the men riding with me, the men are actually riding with me now.” She’s hoping that her years of being held at arm’s length will open up doors for others who have felt similarly held back or judged; “I’m sure other gay or transgendered or even other types of people wanna do mainstream, but they’re afraid to come to the comedy clubs cause they’re afraid they’re gonna be prejudged. Well, I think I took all the beatings for all of them, so here we are.”
Macie was a little more measured in assessing the progress that women have made getting to do standup. As a fixture at clubs across the country, she’s keenly aware that six women on a slate is incredibly rare. In fact, when she called in from Tampa, she reported that the next headlining woman at the club was booked in February 2020, an announcement that earned an audible wow from the other women on the call. Given how regularly women show up for live comedy (“It’s rare to see groups of dudes rolling out, twenty people. But women come out in these lady packs”), she’s mystified by how few women have gotten the opportunity to not just headline, but also feature or even emcee in these spaces.
And lest bookers or promoters be worried that having more women means dealing with more drama or cattiness, Monroe said firmly, “nothing could be further from the truth.” All three reported a wonderfully supportive environment all throughout the taping. The sextet had known one another in passing as they honed their craft over the past two decades, but for many this was the first time they got to see one another’s acts and spend time together. Ashley calls it a defining moment in her career, not just for the exposure but for the camaraderie:
“To me, each of them has a very special place in my heart. They do. Everyone was so supportive, and that’s just something I hadn’t felt! I’ve been on the road all these years by myself, or I was the only woman. So it felt good to be with other women and we just bonded. I haven’t felt that in years. In YEARS! So for me, it’s extremely special and something I’ll never forget.”
Monroe was quick to add that the preciousness of the experience was heightened by the fact that this was one of Haddish’s first production credits, and she used it to assemble this sorority of funny women. “This was Tiffany’s first baby that she produced,” she said. “We wanted to do a good job for Tiffany. We all wanted to show Tiffany in a great light because of what she’s doing for us and hopefully paying it forward to some other comedians.” To put their collective presence in Tiffany’s words, “the world deserves to see y’all shine.” And Macie was sure to include: there’s no shortage of funny people, and certainly no shortage of funny women, to whom that opportunity could one day be extended. “You also realize that by all of us winning, women win in general,” she said. “It goes to prove, it just reinforces [that] women are funny. All of us are funny.”