The Last Black Unicorn(7)

Tiffany: “What’s the answer to number seven, Cracker?”

You know, because that was my imaginary bird’s name. But my teacher thought I was being racist against her.

Teacher: “You go straight to the principal’s office. You can’t be racist in here.”

This happened a few times, and everybody would laugh. I would just tell the principal the same thing each time.

Tiffany: “I was talking to my friend, my imaginary bird.”

Principal: “Oh, God, again with the imaginary friends?”

After like the fifth time, my social worker couldn’t take it anymore.

Social Worker: “Tiffany, you got two choices this summer coming up. You can go to the Laugh Factory Comedy Camp, or you can go to psychiatric therapy. Which one do you want to do, ’cause something is wrong with you.”

Tiffany: “Which one got drugs?”

Social Worker: “Therapy.”

I didn’t want no drugs, I had seen how those fuck people up. So I went to the comedy camp.

Laugh Factory Comedy Camp was kinda perfect, except how long it took to get there. I’d have to catch the bus up there from 54th and Western, and I would ride all the way up to the Laugh Factory camp. Riding that bus, you would see the demographics of the people change, as you went from South Central through Hollywood. I remember getting on the bus feeling poor. But as we would get to Hollywood, I would see a little bit higher class of people boarding the bus. I felt like I was literally moving up in the world.

I would go up there every week, and I got to meet a lot of different comedians. A lot of mentors would come in. Dane Cook showed up. Chris Spencer. All the Wayans brothers came one day. Harland Williams came by, and Quincy Jones.

I remember the day Quincy Jones came in there, I was like:

Tiffany: “What is he doing here? He ain’t funny.”

But he was saying how comedy is like music, and it’s about the rhythm of the words. Like if you really listen to a joke, it has a melody to the punchline. I got that, it really helped me.

Charles Fleischer was there. I was so excited about Charles Fleischer, ’cause he does the voice of Roger Rabbit. The character I’ve been emulating the most, just trying to be funny—and now, the guy who does this character’s voice is teaching me, talking to me.

I liked Charles Fleischer a lot, but he was all intent on telling me not to do bathroom humor, which I did not agree with. He was like:

Charles: “You’re a pretty girl. You shouldn’t do bathroom humor.”

I had a joke about going to a public bathroom, and then an old lady comes in the stall next to you, and she be making weird noises, and I imitated the lady’s noises and stuff. He said I shouldn’t do bathroom humor.

When he said I was too pretty to do bathroom humor, at first I was flattered. That was the first time a man told me I was pretty. Come to think of it later, that might have been a little creepy. But I think he was just trying to be nice, so it’s cool.

Being in that comedy camp was the first time I felt safe. I didn’t think anything bad was gonna happen. That was maybe my favorite part about Laugh Factory Comedy Camp.

By that point, I had lived in a few foster places and knew a few things. If a grown man tells you that you pretty, he’s gonna be trying to touch on you soon, and all kinds of terrible stuff is gonna happen.

But at comedy camp, that man told me I’m pretty, but I didn’t feel like it was dangerous. He cared about me and was saying a nice thing. He was trying to help me.

My biggest influence was probably Richard Pryor. He came in there, and I’m telling my jokes, and he stopped me in the middle of telling my jokes:

Richard: “Stop, stop, stop. What are you doing?”

Tiffany: “I’m telling a joke.”

Richard: “No, you’re not.”

Tiffany: “Yes, I am.”

Richard: “No, you’re not.”

Tiffany: “YES, I AM!”

Richard: “NO, YOU ARE NOT!”

Me and Richard Pryor. Squabbling back and forth right onstage.

Tiffany: “Well, what’chu you think I’m doing up here?”

Richard: “You’re getting on my goddam nerves, that’s what’chu doing! Look, people don’t come to comedy shows because they want to hear about your problems, or about politics, or what’s going on in the world, or celebrities. They don’t care. They come to comedy shows to have fun. So when you’re onstage, you need to be having fun. If you’re having fun, they’re having fun. If you not having fun, they looking at you like ‘what the hell did I spend my money on?’ So you need to have fun.”

Richard Pryor gave me that advice, at the Laugh Factory Comedy Camp, when I was fifteen.

I’d had a pretty rough life to that point, and I’d had some bad shit come my way, but I was pretty lucky for that experience. I try to take that philosophy and apply it to everything I do in life. That’s why I think my life turned out as good as it has. Because all the time, I’m just trying to have fun.

Wherever you are, thank you, Richard. That meant so much to me, and to this day I try to have fun every time I’m onstage, because of you.

? ? ?

When I was in Laugh Factory Comedy Camp, the Channel Two news came, and they did a story on me. But since I was a foster kid, I had to go to the courthouse to get permission to be on television. Since foster kids are technically state property, I couldn’t be on TV without the court’s permission. It’s just like you would have to have your parents’ permission to be on television, I had to have the court’s permission. That was my parents at the time—the state of California.

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