Tiffany Haddish delivers heartfelt speech at JFL Awards Show

Pop Goes The News – Tiffany Haddish used her appearance at the Just For Laughs Awards Show to not only pay it forward but to pay it back.

On stage in a ballroom at the Hyatt in downtown Montreal, Haddish handed Kevin Hart a shoe with cash inside.

“I lent her money a long time ago,” Hart explained. “She’s been trying to give me this money back so she’s being a jerk and giving it to me in front of y’all because she knows I can’t give it back to her right now.”

Haddish cracked: “And when I give it to you in front of white people, it counts.”

Hart was at the JFL Awards Show to honour Haddish as Comedy Person of the Year.

“She’s a great person with a great heart,” he gushed. “This woman is one of the strongest people that I’ve ever seen keep a smile on her face for the amount of time she did while going through what she went through.”

Hart praised Haddish for remaining authentic while becoming a role model. “As a black woman, to do what you’re doing, you’re making a lot of comedians that are coming up behind you proud and you’re letting them see what can be,” he said. “It’s bigger than just you at this point.”

Tiffany Haddish (left) and Hannah Gadsby. (John R. Kennedy photo)

At the podium, Haddish delivered a 14-minute speech that was equal parts funny and emotional.

“I’ve been trying to pay a lot of comedians back,” she said. “There are a lot of comics that have helped me become who I am today. They guided me, gave me words of advice, encouraged me at times when I didn’t think I would live anymore.”

Haddish wore a sparkling red dress because, she said, one of her early influences was Jessica Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

“There’s a scene in the movie where the detective says to the rabbit, ‘Why are people doing these nice things for you?’” she explained. “And the rabbit says, ‘because I make them laugh, and if you make them laugh they’ll do anything for you!’ I was like, that’s the ticket. And here I am today because of that.”

The rising Hollywood star not only spoke from the heart about the support she received when she was coming up but about the empire she is building so she can help others.

Among those she wants to help are members of her family. She said in December she got her mother Leola out of a mental health facility. “I got her an apartment and I got her the best psychologist and the best everything,” said Haddish.

“People say money can’t buy happiness but it can buy a little bit of sanity … and a security guard to keep your momma from whooping your ass.”

Kevin Hart snaps a selfie with (from left) Lil Rel Howery, Jo Koy, Alonzo Bodden, Deon Cole, Tiffany Haddish and Howie Mandel. (John R. Kennedy photo)

Before going to the JFL Awards Show, Haddish said she got a call from her sister, who was with their mother. Haddish told them she was in Canada about to get an award for Comedy Person of the Year.

“My mom said, ‘Really? I’m so proud of you, Tiffany!’ I almost died,” she recalled. “All my life I feel like I’ve just been waiting for her to say she’s proud of me, you know.

“She’s the first person I ever loved and really the only person that I want to be proud of me.”

The JFL Awards Show also honoured comedian-actor Lil Rel Howery, Glow writers Carly Mensch and Liz Flahive, and comics Jo Koy and Hannah Gadsby.

Gadsby, whose acclaimed Netflix show Nanette was recognized as Comedy Special of the Year, told the audience – which included Dave Chappelle and dozens of other comedians – that she felt like an outsider until recently.

“I’ve never felt entirely helped by the comedy community. I’m very quiet and often I get lost. As a queer person I often get lost. As a woman, I often get lost,” she said.

“I’d just like to remind every comic in the room that we really are an industry built with outsiders so please don’t stop looking from the outside.”

Dave Chappelle and John Mayer. (John R. Kennedy photo)

The Awards Show had one political moment when presenter Maria Bamford urged the owners of the Just For Laughs festival – Bell Media and a group led by Howie Mandel – to start paying comedians in the New Faces program.

“Many comics are going into debt to come here,” she said, adding that it’s clear JFL is profitable.