Atlanta comic joins Tiffany Haddish’s Netflix show

Barbara Carlyle appears in Season 2 of "Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready." GREG GAYNE/NETFLIX©
Barbara Carlyle appears in Season 2 of "Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready." GREG GAYNE/NETFLIX©

Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

Georgia native Barbara Carlyle featured on Season 2 of “They Ready.”

Barbara Carlyle watched Season 1 of “They Ready,” Tiffany Haddish’s comedy show, and wondered if Haddish’s word was truly her bond.

The two met about 14 years ago in South Korea as part of a comedy tour before Haddish’s breakout role in the movie “Girls Trip,” and her ascent in Hollywood. Carlyle and Haddish hit it off when they met, shopping in their off time, gabbing in between sets. They promised each other that if one hit it big, that person would reach back and pull the other along. So, Carlyle watched “They Ready” and wondered why her friend had broken her promise.

“I was like, I can’t believe Tiffany told me she was gonna do this, and she didn’t even call me,” Carlyle said. “And we had been talking back and forth, but this was before ‘Girls Trip’ came out.”

Well, within a year, Carlyle was happy to be proven wrong. Haddish called her, unexpectedly one day and soon offered Carlyle a spot on “They Ready,” Season 2. It was especially pleasing to Carlyle because at 62 years old, she knew how opportunities shrink for older women in entertainment. She’d performed years ago on HBO’s Def Comedy Jam and BET’s ComicView, but now, after 44 years in comedy, she was now about to enter the world of streaming. “They Ready” is something of a second act for Carlyle, but she says, it’s just a continuation of a career built on perseverance and laughs.

Carlyle talks to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about how she had made it happen for more than four decades. (This interview has been edited for clarity and length.)

Barbara Carlyle filmed Season 2 of "Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready 2" during the pandemic. GREG GAYNE/NETFLIX©
Barbara Carlyle filmed Season 2 of "Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready 2" during the pandemic. GREG GAYNE/NETFLIX©

Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

Q: You are originally from Twin City, Georgia. How did you get started?

A: I started out being an actress while I was at Savannah State (University). I’ve always had a quick wit, even growing up because I couldn’t fight. So, I had to be able to get people off me. When I went to college, I joined the drama club. Every comedy we did, I always got the leading role. But whenever we did a drama, I would get a very minute part, and I would get mad. I complained to my drama instructor, and he was like, “I know what I’m doing. You have more comedic timing.” Then they opened up a comedy club down on River Street (in Savannah), and I started going down there. I was known for shutting down hecklers and keeping the show going. You could not go toe-to-toe with me because you weren’t going to win.

Q: And you did comedy in Atlanta for a while?

A: I moved to Atlanta for about three years, then I moved back home for a little while. By that time my sister had gotten married and moved to New York, and she said, “If you want to pursue your career, you’re not gonna do anything down there. Why don’t you move to New York?” That was in the mid-1980s, and that’s when the Black comedy explosion had just erupted. (BET’s) ComicView had started. Before that, I had done Apollo Comedy Hour. Then came (HBO’s) Def Jam. It took me five years to get on Def Jam. I had just come back from Desert Storm.

Q: How did you wind up going to Desert Storm? You do mean the Persian Gulf War? When did you enlist?

A: I was 30 years old. I just happened to be walking around downtown Hempstead (Long Island) one day, and I looked at the recruiting station. I was always enamored of the Marine Corps uniform. And the recruiter was cute. I did a double take, and he motioned for me to come in. Next thing you know, I’m signing up to be in the Marine Corps.

Q: You’d been doing comedy until then?

A: I was working at an oil company and still doing comedy on the side. But I was like, OK, I’m just stagnant. But I insisted that I had to be a reservist because I didn’t want to go to active duty. I never expected a war in my lifetime.

Q: What did you do in the military?

A: I had told them I wanted to be in communications because that was my minor in college: mass communications. So they said, we can make you one of our radio operators. I’m thinking my mind, “Oh, I’ll be a DJ.” I didn’t know you had to tote the radio. We got there just before Christmas, so we spent Christmas in the foxhole. We had to dig our own hole, which was six-feet deep, four-feet wide. It was like being in your own grave.

Q: You make a joke about giving yourself a perm out in the desert. Did that really happen?

A: Yeah. I ain’t that bright. I didn’t even check to see if there was water. and when it was time for the perm to come out of my hair, I’m looking to go to the water thing, but the water truck did not come that morning, unbeknownst to me. So, I’m turning the knob; nothing happening. And this perm is burning my head. They had to bring their canteens and pour the water on my head. Apocalypse Now! I learned a lesson one that one. I almost lost some eyebrows, but they were smooth.

Q: Did you do comedy there?

A: They made me perform in boot camp. Yeah, I had to do a comedy show for my troops. Comedy has always been my mainstay. I knew if I couldn’t fall back on anything else, I could depend on comedy.

Q: How did you meet Tiffany?

A: We were booked on an all-woman tour in South Korea. And we were there for three weeks, going to different bases. We made a pact one night that if one of us made it, we will reach back and help the other out. And it was really in her to do it. She kept her word.

Q: So you filmed “They Ready” during the pandemic? Did you enjoy it?

A: Oh, yes. We filmed during COVID. They took care of us. It was filmed in Long Beach in the theater where Richard Pryor did his taping. But we filmed on the outside before 75 people each night. We were between two high-rise buildings, and the people came out of the buildings with their lawn chairs and actually sat on their balconies and watched the show.

Q: What do you say to women who may be in their 50s or 60s and who feel like they aren’t done yet?

A: If you love something, and it’s really your calling, you don’t even pay attention to time. It got to a point where I wasn’t gonna let anything come between me and comedy. There were times that I slipped, but I still kept doing comedy. This is what I do.

Godfrey Danchimah (from left), Dean Edwards, Erin Jackson, Tiffany Haddish, Kimberly Clark, Tony Woods and Barbara Carlyle appear in Season 2 of "Tiffany Haddish Presents They Ready." Greg Gayne/Netflix©
Godfrey Danchimah (from left), Dean Edwards, Erin Jackson, Tiffany Haddish, Kimberly Clark, Tony Woods and Barbara Carlyle appear in Season 2 of "Tiffany Haddish Presents They Ready." Greg Gayne/Netflix©

Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

ON TELEVISION

“Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready” Season 2

Streaming now on Netflix.

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