All Hail Tiffany Haddish

I am proud, in general, of all of our picks for the 2017 NYFCC awards. Not all my picks won but I’m happy with the eclectic group AND the fact that so many “newcomers” are being honored. When you consider that people like Steven Spielberg and Paul Thomas Anderson have films coming out this year … Sean Baker winning for The Florida Project is pretty special. (Nothing against the two films coming out by SS and PTA. There’s an embargo on for both of them so I’m keeping it zipped until they open.) The same goes for cinematography. Rachel Morrison won for Mudbound (she was my #1 pick. We had to go through a couple of rounds of voting for this category.) Not only is she the first woman to win in that category in the history of these awards, but she’s also a (relative) newcomer. In a year also featuring the work of giants like Roger Deakins and Vittorio Storaro (beautiful work), Morrison winning feels very meaningful. We must make room for the future too. So all of this has made me collectively proud (not to mention the decision to honor the great critic Molly Haskell with a Lifetime Achievement Award.)

But having Tiffany Haddish win Best Supporting Actress for her truly MANIAC performance in Girls Trip … I’m really proud to be a part of that. She was my #1 by a long shot. Elizabeth Marvel in The Meyerowitz Stories was my second. Now listen, I’m not big on numerical rankings. This is art. It can’t really be ranked like that. But sometimes you have to submit to the rules and weigh your choices carefully.

This is a repeat of what I said on Facebook about Haddish: talent like hers comes along once in a generation, if that. The only person I could compare her to – and even there it’s not an exact comparison, because how could it be? – is Madeline Kahn … and I don’t compare anyone to Madeline Kahn. But Haddish’s work is as far “out there” as Kahn’s. Haddish is as out of her mind as Kahn was. You can’t LEARN to do that. You can’t LEARN to trust your instincts to that insane degree. You can learn to trust your instincts MORE, you can learn to be more fearless, to encourage yourself to “be bigger” … but you can’t learn how to do what Kahn did, what Haddish does. You have to just be able to do it, to give yourself the ultimate permission to go as “out there” as you see fit.

Where other actors stop, Haddish keeps going. Other actors – talented ones too – have lines they don’t cross. It may be an unconscious thing, but they limit themselves. Their conception of how big they can get in a performance has a limit. They aren’t aware of it. OR, to put it more plainly: they just don’t have as much IN them. There isn’t as MUCH to give. This is the aristocracy of talent and there is nothing anyone can do about it. The distribution of talent – or genius – is not a level playing field.

Madeline Kahn had more talent than other people. She had more IN there to get OUT. And so does Haddish.

Another reason this award for Haddish is such a triumph is it is that very rare thing, an award for a comedic performance! Comedy performances are so rarely honored, a fact which has always infuriated me because a truly funny person is in possession of something RARE. Comedy is more difficult than drama. The bar for entry is much higher. Drama is remedial math compared to the AP calculus of comedy. That’s just the way it is.

Shedding tears? Actors who can do that are a dime a dozen. If you breathe deeply from the diaphragm for 5 minutes, you too can produce tears. Same with any civilian non-actor off the streets.

But being funny? And being AS funny as Haddish is? While also being 100% real?

At this moment in time, Tiffany Haddish has few peers.

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1 Response to All Hail Tiffany Haddish

  1. Brooke A L says:

    Sheila, you weren’t kidding about her. I keep watching youtube videos of her doing standup, on late night/talk shows and she really goes deep and total crazy, even when it’s obvious that people watching/interviewing her are laughing but also looking at her like wtf (which can mean a lot of things… I can’t even start on that but you probably get what I mean anyway). It’s not that she doesn’t “care”, or any simple explanation. It’s like she needs to go there, she MUST. She just has to. And there’s soooooo much else to say, to dig through, so many connections to make between her and people like her – meaning other “unicorns” (for lack of a better word and to use her word). The point is, I’m just so happy I know about her now and she is getting the recognition she deserves.

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