Tiffany Haddish Said "What Had Happened Was" During Her Will And Jada Swamp Trip Story And Now I'm In Love

YouTube screenshot via Jimmy Kimmel Live
YouTube screenshot via Jimmy Kimmel Live

According to Clover Hope, Aisha Harris, and other people I trust, Girls Trip is apparently the raunchy and randy comedy we didn't know we were waiting for and wanted until it was here. (Basically, it's the iPad of comedies.) And this makes me happy and shit, as it apparently 1) proves (again) that Malcolm Lee is Hollywood's most underrated director, 2) gives Queen La, Jada, and Regina Hall the type of roles they deserve, 3) reintroduces the world to Larenz Tate (who apparently rode off on his bike with Nina at the end of Love Jones and said "fuck y'all, I'm never coming back"), and 4) establishes Tiffany Haddish as a star.


The Tiffany Haddish thing is the most crucial here, because if not for her star turn, she wouldn't be on a national press tour. And if not for her national press tour, she wouldn't have been able to tell her story about taking Will and Jada on a Groupon swamp tour. (And we wouldn't have learned that Jada didn't know this was a public tour, and thought "Groupon" meant that Tiffany rented a boat to take a private group on. Because Will and Jada are not like you and me.) And if not for the Groupon swamp tour story, she wouldn't have been able to introduce the world to the glory, beauty, utility, and majesty of "what had happened was" — which comes at the 28 second mark of the video.

Of course, those familiar with this hood-adjacent idiom know that when hearing those four words together, you're usually either 1) about to hear an elaborate story or 2) about to hear a lie. (And sometimes both.) You do not follow "what happened was" with mundanity. No one says "What had happened was, I ate the Snicker. And then I went to bed." Unless 1) you didn't actually eat the Snicker (or go to bed) or 2) that Snicker was a special-ass Snicker. Like, that Snicker was on fire or sitting on Rihanna's forehead or something. Then "what had happened was" would be appropriate.

But when you're Tiffany Haddish, and you manage to convince Will and Jada to go traipsing through swamps and shit with you, the story about that trip deserves a "what had happened was" to introduce it.

Also, it's not unimportant that what had happened was (a phrase that manages to be redundant twice in a four word span) exists in the same linguistic stratosphere as conversate (a popular word that's not actually a word); as both also serve as some sort of respectability Rorschach test for Black listeners. I'm sure there will be some of us who'll listen to Haddish's interview and cringe at her using a phrase like that on national TV in front of so many White people. And it's not because "what had happened was" is so terrible of a phrase. It (for some) just suggests that Haddish is a certain type of Black person from a certain type of background; in possession of a certain type of Blackness that certain types of Black people would rather not see on TV as representative of "us."

If you are one of those people — or if you're not one of those people, but you did feel an unease — you have to remind yourself that respectability is nothing but performative deodorant. Deodorant that doesn't even work. Deodorant whose only purpose for existing is to show White people you know how to apply it. Tiffany Haddish obviously does know how to. No one as smart and talented as her would have made it as far as she has without possessing that knowledge. But she just doesn't give a fuck about it, and chooses not to use it. And neither should you.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)


Michelle is my First Lady

Who is going to see Girl's Trip today? 4:40 today for me.