Oh, Tiffany. I wanted to love this. And I did love a lot of it. But the parts I didn’t love, I actually loathed.
Tiffany Haddish has exploded in the last year. Gaining fame for her hilarious, scene-stealing turn in the film Girls Trip, she’s become a social media starlet for click-worthy bits like her appearance on Ellen and the number of times she’s worn this white gown. She’s got a rags-to-riches story that Hollywood couldn’t have written better if it tried. She’s adorable, likeable, and hilarious. I became an instant fan of hers and couldn’t wait to read this when it came out.
I ended up listening to this as an audiobook because I assumed it would be even more enjoyable if Haddish herself read it. Strangely, she made a terrible narrator for her own book. Her cadence was awkward, like when a public speaker is clearly reading their index cards. The likeability that’s made her so famous simply wasn’t there.
And that’s not the worst of it. I’m getting tired of folks not realizing that, in 2018, it’s not okay to make fun of disabled people. It’s never been okay, really, but now we live in an era of empathy and awareness in which stories like the one with “Roscoe” shouldn’t be funny anymore. He’s described as a mentally neurodivergent and physically disabled man, which is the punchline for all the jokes told in this chapter. It was particularly cringeworthy to hear Haddish imitate his voice, exaggerating the speech impediment of a mentally challenged person for laughs.
There’s another chapter in which she tells the story of the time she did a standup performance for a group of lesbians, and it’s uncomfortably homophobic. We’ve been through this, comedians! Do better at being funny.
The Last Black Unicorn is at its best when Haddish recounts the horrors of her childhood through the lens of her own adolescence, the innocence of youth protecting her from understanding too much. In Haddish’s case, the extent of poverty and abuse she endured isn’t fully realized until her adulthood. I always enjoy seeing another side of comedic artists and glimpsing the serious side of their stage self, and Haddish endears herself to her audience by allowing us into such a personal space.
Her funniest anecdotes are the one with the ex-boyfriend and the shoe (you’ll know it when you get there), and the one with Jada Pinkett-Smith and the Groupon deal.
I’m going to continue to be a Tiffany Haddish fan and watch her career blossom in the hopes that she’ll hear some of this criticism and let it change her. My verdict on The Last Black Unicorn is a mixed one: Come for the background story, leave for the intolerant bits.