It’s no secret that there are profound tragedies at the root of many comedic success stories. As Tiffany Haddish revealed in her 2017 autobiography, The Last Black Unicorn, hers occurred in childhood when her mother suffered a traumatic brain injury.
“When I was 8, about to be 9, she had a car accident and her head went through a windshield,” Haddish explains to David Letterman on the teaser for the next episode of his Netflix show, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction (h/t Complex). “By the grace of God, she lived. But she had to learn how to walk, talk, eat, everything all over again....[It] changed everything about her.”
Suddenly, Haddish’s once loving mother was prone to sudden, uncontrollable fits of rage and vitriol. “She became very violent and verbally abusive, and you never knew who she was going to be,” Haddish said.
“I used to think she was demonized,” she said, choking back tears. “I thought maybe someone else jumped inside of her body. Like: ‘Where is my mommy? She’s gone.’”
It’s a timely discussion for the end of Mental Health Awareness Month, as outside of contact sports, the effects of brain injuries are rarely discussed among the myriad issues that can affect mental health. And as Haddish models by example, it’s a circumstance that deserves compassion, even in the face of abuse.
“As bad as she was to me, I still couldn’t help but love her,” she wrote in her memoir.
Haddish’s mother is currently institutionalized, but as Haddish has previously disclosed, her greatest hope is to be able to provide her mother with a home and private nurse for long-term outpatient care.
“Then I want to get her whatever medications she needs so she can be my mama again,” she wrote. “Honestly, that’s all I really want in life.”
David Letterman’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, featuring Tiffany Haddish will be released on Netflix on Friday, May 31.