In the 49 times that Grammys have been awarded for comedy album or performance, the list of winners is all-male but for a few exceptions: Lily Tomlin, Whoopi Goldberg, Kathy Griffin and Elaine May, who shared the award with Mike Nichols.
Tiffany Haddish is hoping her name will be added to the list of female winners when the 63rd Grammys are handed out on Jan. 31. She’s nominated for “Black Mitzvah,” her Netflix stand-up special which details Haddish’s journey to becoming one of Hollywood’s hottest comedians and discovering her Jewish roots along the way (she’s the daughter of an Eritrean Jew from Ethiopia).
Not only is Haddish, 41, the lone woman in the category, but she’s also the only person of color. Her competition includes Jerry Seinfeld, Patton Oswalt, Jim Gaffigan and Bill Burr. This is Haddish’s second nomination following her first in 2018 in the spoken word category for “The Last Black Unicorn.”
Haddish may end up having the last laugh. As she tells Variety: “Just a year ago, people were like, ‘She’s not funny. She’s a one-hit wonder. It’s over. I don’t even know why she’s where she’s at.’ And then, for me, for this special to come out of my brain and allow it to be a part of my rite of passage, it’s huge. It’s a huge mitzvah for me. It’s all God. When I think about that, I get so emotional.”
What do you mean when you say, it’s all God?
I wanted to do something to honor God. I’ve never been baptized. My mother was a Jehovah’s Witness and that didn’t really resonate with me. When I met my father and he told me about his Judaism and experience in Eritrea — how it wasn’t allowed and how they had to hide it — it felt really good to be able to honor my father, my God and not having to hide my spirituality.
What are some of your spiritual practices?
Before I go to bed at night, I do my Shema. When I wake up, I meditate for five to 10 minutes. My favorite sound in the world is laughter and when I hear it, it’s also like meditation for me. It soothes my soul. Every time I hear it, I feel like I’m serving my purpose.
Do you think God was listening when you were telling that story on “Black Mitzvah” about putting mayonnaise on your cuckoo?
I’m pretty sure God was there. [Laughs] He was that voice in my head that was saying, “Don’t do this!” But I did it anyway, because I needed to learn.
What comedy albums did you listen to when you were growing up?
Moms Mabley, Red Foxx, Phyllis Diller. I did listen to Bill Cosby. My mom played it all the time.
Four out of the five nominations for comedy albums are from Netflix. Why are comics drawn to that streaming service?
I would say comics are going to Netflix because Netflix is allowing you to create and not putting censorship on you. They’re allowing you to have creative freedom and allowing me to share my platform with others. Also they listen. They allow you to be who you are as an artist and not try to stifle that in any way.
Do you remember times when you were told you shouldn’t do this or you shouldn’t do that?
All the time! They would be, like, “Oh, you’re too pretty to be talking about using the restroom.” I’m, like, “I’m a human being.”