Tiffany Haddish on Margie Haber: “Just Let Me Do My Thing!”

In an excerpt from Margie Haber’s new book, F*ck Your Comfort Zone, Tiffany Haddish writes about her first lesson with the famed acting coach..

I remember the first day I met Tiffany Haddish at my studio in Los Angeles. People would come to my class to learn how to audition for film and television. Tiffany had been referred to me by her agent, and she seemed apprehensive to try something new. The person who approached me that day was a streak of lightning – filled with energy, humor and warmth but I knew there was more there than met the eye.

Even the best of my students – Brad Pitt, Halle Berry, Mariska Hargitay – all had to learn the art of the audition process in order to book the job. It’s not easy to tell a stand-up comic, who gets paid to be funny, to let go of her humor and create the complications of a layered human being. That was my challenge with Tiffany.

Comedy actors know the rules – “reversals,” “climbing 3s” and “pace.” These are all technical approaches. That is not how I teach creating a life. I call it a “slice of life” because the word “scene” starts with the word “action,” and it ends with the word “cut.” But a slice of life is a continuum. There is no beginning and end. They are all pieces or slices of a life that brings the humanity to the character.

After a while, Tiffany started to let her guard down. With her vulnerability and openness, she was able to remove the armor and enjoy this new approach to creativity. After all, it’s all about trust, isn’t it? – Margie Haber

The day I walked into Margie’s class, I knew she wasn’t going to let me get away with anything. It was a vulnerable time. I didn’t want anyone to know that I had been living in my car — homeless. But I was determined to study and become a better actor. I only wanted to do comedy, but Margie had other ideas for me. She wanted me to dive into my core of pain and sadness. I said: “Why would I do that? I want to make people laugh. There’s too much pain in there to touch. I’m staying away from it.”

Margie explained that all human beings are layered. Comedy has drama, and drama has comedy. “Okay,” Margie said. “Here is a comedy slice. Spend some time creating it and look for what is underneath it.”

When I was finished, Margie created the same slice but as a drama. I was surprised to see how much more core Margie discovered under the mask of humor. Then, she asked me to stand up. With empathy, she asked me about my childhood. At first, I deflected the question with my usual “shtick” and tried to “tap dance” my way out of it.

But that girl just won’t let you get away with it! She wrapped her arms around me, repeating: “You are safe. No one is going to hurt you. You are safe. No one’s going to hurt you. You are safe.”

My armor cracked. My tears were like acid stripping away my walls. I trusted Margie. I shared my life in foster families and all the abuse. She hugged me and whispered, “You are loved. Do the slice again.” This time, I started out looking at the truth of my character’s life and then covered it with humor. After Margie filmed it, I watched the tape. I had to admit it was damn good.

I learned from Margie that there are different types of comedy — some have more reality than others. But there are “slices” where I could be more vulnerable and survive. That began a new path of openness.

When the walls came down, I had a revelation. Everything that I have been through, everything that I have suffered, all the adversity could actually serve me now as an artist. By tapping into it, I could enrich and expand my creativity. It’s so powerful!

Emmy® and GRAMMY® Award winner Tiffany Haddish has established herself as one of the most sought-after comedic actresses and performers worldwide. A prolific performer, she can currently be seen in Apple TV’s murder mystery series The Afterparty, opposite Dave Franco, Ben Schwartz and Ilana Glazer and the Nicolas Cage movie The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, opposite Pedro Pascal, Sharon Horgan and Ike Barinholtz. Other recent projects include starring opposite Oscar Isaac in Paul Schrader’s The Card Counter, hosting the talk show Friday Night Vibes and starring in Bad Trip, alongside Eric Andre and Lil Rel Howery. Haddish is perhaps best known for her breakout role in the comedy Girls Trip, where she played the scene-stealing Dina alongside Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, and Regina Hall. Haddish served as host and executive producer of the Emmy®-nominated stand-up comedy series Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready, and has had two comedy specials: her 2019 Emmy®-nominated and GRAMMY® -winning Tiffany Haddish: Black Mitzvah, and 2017’s Tiffany Haddish: She Ready! From the Hood to Hollywood. Haddish has written a best-selling memoir, The Last Black Unicorn (2018) – and was nominated for a Grammy for the audiobook version – a picture book, Layla, The Last Black Unicorn (the first of three children’s books) and collection of essays, I Curse You with Joy. Haddish’s journey and life experiences have inspired her comedy and sense of humor both on and off the stage. Haddish recently founded the She Ready Foundation to help and support foster kids in need. In 2021, the She Ready Foundation launched an Internship Program with Ready to Succeed for foster youth in the SoCal area. She currently lives in Los Angeles. (Photo via Lara Solanki / Netflix.)