Surprise, surprise—the six comedians featured on Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready are, indeed, ready to command the stage. Each of them stride on in their own distinctive way, but the women featured all carry themselves with the confidence of born performers (and let us not forget, they have been in the stand-up game for years, before the scene became marginally more accepting of women). You get the impression that we should know who they are, and what damn rock have we been collectively living under?
Tracey Ashley kicks off with the most solid set of all, riffing on her weight and interracial marriage. She mugs like nobody else and her physical affectations complement her jokes like buttercream icing on top of a sheet cake. Her half hour honestly feels like it could have come out at any time within the last couple decades, and not in a bad way. She has a classic stand-up air about her and, to be quite honest, anyone who nails an impression of a half-gargoyle nanny should be center stage.
Most every comedian’s performance, in fact, feels timeless in a sense, with the exceptions of Aida Rodriguez’s mention of the #MeToo movement and Flame Monroe’s gut-busting bits about Donald Trump and Jeff Bezos. The sets are firmly rooted in who these women are, whether it’s Chaunté Wayans’ stories about what it’s like to be one of the “poor Wayans” (yes, she is from that Wayans family) or April Macie’s tales about her tough—but, through her eyes, hilarious—childhood. In some of the special’s best physical comedy, Marlo Williams (a frequent tourmate of Haddish’s) reveals her not-so-subtle methods of making sure she’s not the stinky one at the club. Rodriguez shines most when she examines the inner workings of the Latinx community and her cinematic life, including being kidnapped twice by family members. Monroe quickly gains the audience’s trust by talking about passing as a transgender woman, acknowledging that she sees them eyeing her up. In fact, all of the comedians quickly build rapport with the crowd by fearlessly opening the door to who they are, and the catharsis of this quickly makes them appealing performers.
That’s not to say there aren’t moments when the comedians slip up. Rodriguez delves into how a gay man said her joke was homophobic and never quite sticks the landing because, well, the bit kind of was, and saying that a gay man should defend a harrassed woman by whipping his dick out at the perpetrator doesn’t exactly help matters. Monroe does an unnecessary impression of an Asian woman. It’s not just that these bits are offensive (which they are), but they aren’t even funny, to boot.
Nevertheless, They Ready opens up an important new chapter in Netflix’s endless churning out of comedy specials. Hopefully, for every grossly overpaid Eddie Murphy gig, there is a Tiffany Haddish ready to introduce us to comedians who, for one reason or another, have not found the recognition they so deserve.