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Tiffany Haddish opens up to David Letterman about her mom in a new episode of Netflix talk show “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction” Netflix

Tiffany Haddish doesn’t have kids of her own, but she’s always been around them. 

The comedian and actress ignores the Hollywood warning about never working with animals or children: She’s  hosting ABC’s revival of “Kids Say the Darndest Things” (premiering Sunday, 8 EDT/PDT), adding her brand of comedy to the pronouncements by adorable children who don’t know how funny they are. The series began as a segment on  “Art Linkletter’s House Party,”and later became a CBS series from 1998 to 2000, hosted by Bill Cosby.  

Haddish, 39, needed no advice or training to take on the task 

“I’ve been working with kids a majority of my life,” she says. “I (worked at) bar mitzvahs for 11 years. I worked at a youth center where I coordinated activities, and took the kids on field trips. Kids are my everything. I don’t have any of my own, but I feel like that’s because I raised my brothers and sisters. I’ve always been around them.”

Combining Haddish with cute and funny children is a winning formula, and the series is a sweet and delightful hour of TV. In addition to asking kids questions onstage, Haddish performs stand-up comedy and has taped bits, including one where she convinces skeptical kids to eat desserts covered in ketchup and rewards others a dream trip to meet Taylor Swift. 

USA TODAY caught up with Haddish to discuss her version of the classic TV series, white privilege, her forthcoming bat mitzvah and why she might show up to the MLB playoffs with a sign hoping to catch the eye of a certain New York Yankee.

Question: There are all sorts of digital homes for cute kids now on YouTube and social media. What does “Kids Say” bring that’s different from what we see online?

Tiffany Haddish: We put the kids sometimes in situations that they would not normally be in. Like getting them to do commercials, but those commercials have twists to them. Or there are some hidden-camera reactions where you see their raw reaction to meeting me and how kind the kids are naturally and how helpful they can be.

More: Kevin Hart is ‘already walking’ after his car accident, Tiffany Haddish says

Q: How do most of the kids know you?

Haddish: I feel like a lot of the kids know me from Groupon (commercials). They’re like, “You’re the Groupon Lady!” And I’m like, “Do you use Groupon?” and they’re like, “No.” Like what? 

Q: You appear in the “Hello, Privilege. It’s Me, Chelsea” documentary on Netflix with Chelsea Handler, and got really emotional talking about white privilege and also your ancestry. What were you feeling in that moment? 

Haddish: I was feeling hurt. First off, I didn’t know the intensity of the conversation we were going to have. When she asked, “What do you want white people to know,” it’s like, “Where do I start?” That’s a heavy question for anybody. So when I thought about it for a moment, I really wish people would understand the power of knowing who you are or where you come from, and owning that and being able to know.

I think about (black entrepreneur) Madam C. J. Walker’s family. She became a self-made millionaire and all of her grandchildren, anyone descended from her knows that there is a possibility to become a self-made millionaire. Just like the son of a blacksmith knows that there’s a possibility that he could be the best blacksmith ever. … I know that I come from foster care and I own that. (I went from) feeling like nobody wanted me to feeling like I’m needed everywhere. We know how America started and what America went through. If I can know how my family started, what my family went through, wow. 

Q: What can you tell us about your upcoming Netflix comedy special, “Black Mitzvah”?

Haddish: My “Black Mitzvah” is about my journey and my discovery of who I am as a woman. I call it “Black Mitzvah” not just because I’ve done so many bar and bat mitzvahs, but because I got to meet my father not too long ago and found out that he’s an Eritrean Jew. I’ve explored that and I’m connected even more to the Jewish culture.

That’s why on the day that my special comes out (Netflix has not yet announced a release date), I’m also going to have my own bat mitzvah. So I’m learning Hebrew now. It’s a lot. I’m going to read from the Torah and everything. The hardest part is reading another language. Oh my goodness. I’m (working on a) movie at the same time. I like to expand my brain, I like to learn. 

Q: The children on “Kids Say” are always talking about celebrities they have crushes on. You once said you had a crush on Steve Urkel (Jaleel White) from “Family Matters” when you were little. What was it about him?

Haddish: It was that he was so smart and so persistent and he made me laugh. And now he’s one of my friends. He’s so cool. Hopefully, one day we get to work on a project together. 

Q: Is there any celebrity you have a crush on right now?

Haddish: I’m still trying to work on Number 27 on the New York Yankees (Giancarlo Stanton). I think he’s so handsome! 

Q: Are you going to go to any of the playoff games and hold up a sign for him?

Haddish: Girl, that is one of my goals! I’m trying to get a day off so I can go. … And I’ll make a big sign that says, “It’s me, Giancarlo, Tiffany Haddish!” Maybe I shouldn’t do that, because everyone might start talking to me and I won’t enjoy the game. That might not be a good idea.

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