Tiffany Haddish made “Saturday Night Live” history last night by becoming the first black female stand-up comic to host the show in its 43 seasons – unpack that statistic for a moment – and she grabbed the chance with the room-working skills and confidence of the star she knows she is. Anyone who didn’t see “Girls Trip” now knows, too.
After a disappointing cold open, Haddish pumped big energy into the show – and the season – that’d been short on it.
She got the introductions out of the way quickly and winningly, mentioning that blockbuster summer hit while wondering where her cut of the profit was. “I googled myself – it said I’m worth $2 million! What do I need to do to get this money? Fake my own death? Tupac this sh-t and move to Tyler Perry Island?”
Then she backtracked for some deep bio. “I grew up in foster care,” she said. “So I want to thank anyone who paid taxes between 1990 and 1999.” Living in group homes with mostly black and Hispanic kids wasn’t an easy thing come 11:30 on Saturday nights, she said.
“Trying to convince them that Dana Carvey was just as funny as Damon Wayans was a problem. I got stabbed twice, in a bunk bud.”
Haddish went topical twice – perfunctory on Trump’s hair, better on sexual harassment. Her “Tiff Tip” to men: “If you got your thing-thing out and she got all her clothes on YOU’RE WRONG.”
Haddish and her monologue were at their best though when her stage persona melded a new-to-this-glitz sense of wonder and am-who-I-am brashness. She recalled Kevin Hart(her costar in the upcoming “Night School”) being impressed by her Instagram photos from Thailand, China, Japan, Florida, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Or rather, by the fact she’d visited them all in one day, a false assumption made because she was wearing the same dress in all of the pictures.
The gorgeous, hugging white dress she had on last night – a $4,000 Alexander McQueen – had already walked a red carpet with her (“Taboo!”), and would be seen again, she warned, before show’s end. (It was, as Haddish glided through Weekend Update just to show it off).
She would, she promised, even wear it to church, then broke out in a joyous and well-earned praise and worship dance.
As always, the rest of the show was hit and miss, including the host’s sketches. Her most memorable character probably was Boo Boo Jeffries, a fighter in a Mortal Kombat-type game who’s all fierce bluster but no fists.
She played Cardi B in one of the show’s impression-filled faux-audition reels, this time around for Lion King, with Leslie Jones’ Oprah, Cecily Strong’s Lin-Manuel Miranda and Alex Moffat’s Kit Harington, among others. The show’s done this routine before, and better.
And then there were some later-in-the-show fillers with, as usual, more quirk than laughs. I liked the “The Last Black Unicorn” best, wouldn’t argue about it. Take a look and decide for yourself.