Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong on Their Real-Life Friendship

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Something I learned while talking to the delightful stars of Tuca & Bertie is that it’s really hard to keep a straight face while Tiffany Haddish is playing around with her Zoom filters, adding long mustaches and fake eyelashes to her visage. But that only escalated the fun of getting to speak to her and co-star Ali Wong, who seemed thrilled to be reunited to discuss the second season of the animated series, making a semi-miraculous return to Adult Swim after Netflix declined to make a second season.

While Haddish and Wong rarely record their parts as the titular Tuca and Bertie together — as discussed here, they even auditioned separately — they have a friendship which stretches back to their early days doing comedy in San Francisco, when, as Haddish put it, “we both were skinny and hungry.” Now, of course, both of them have established careers as stand-up stars, actors, and producers, and also love making the animated series created by Lisa Hanawalt come to life. Below, the two demonstrated a synchronicity that comes with many years of familiarity, while discussing those early days, the original casting process for the show, their reaction to the show’s renewal, and why it’s maybe a good thing that they don’t record their roles together.

Collider: I’d love to start off by asking about the story of your initial casting — I know that it was a little while ago, but do you remember what it was like coming to the project originally?

TIFFANY HADDISH: It was pretty easy. They said that one of the artists from BoJack Horseman is coming up with this new concept called Tuca & Bertie, and asked me if I’d be interested in. I was like, “I’m interested, I like BoJack.” Then they were like, “Yeah, how do you feel about Ali Wong?” I was like, “I love that bitch, and let’s do it!”

ALI WONG: I mean, Tiffany was attached from the beginning, and they had auditioned a lot of people for Bertie.

HADDISH: Yeah, and I was like, “Hire Ali, stop playing.”

WONG: Yeah, and then they had me audition for it, and I knew that they were nervous about me because Bertie’s very anxious, and they felt like maybe I was too confident to play Bertie. But then I auditioned, and then they paired up my voice against what they recorded with Tiffany, and they were like, “Oh, the chemistry is really, really good.” So, then it was me and Tiffany, and then I remember Steven [Yeun] had sent me a text saying, “Oh, so Ali, so I guess I’m your boyfriend now.”

And I was so confused, because I thought that he was possibly accusing me of spreading rumors that he was my boyfriend, that we had hooked up, and I was like, “What are you talking about?” I had no idea that he had auditioned for Speckle. I knew that a lot of my friends had auditioned for Speckle, and they were so disappointed that they hadn’t gotten the role. But I was so excited that it was Steven. It was the first thing I ever got to work on with Steven — is it the first thing that you’ve worked on with Steven, Tiff?

HADDISH: Yeah, it’s the first thing I worked on with Steven. Besides our relationship, because I dated him back in 1997.

WONG: Oooooh!

HADDISH: He doesn’t know that though. We were dating.

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Image via Adult Swim

So your audition was paired up with Tiffany’s and that was the chemistry that they were looking for. Did you ever actually read together?

HADDISH: Yes, we did the table read together, the first initial table read and I pretty much was fumbling over the words, but it was because I was so excited to be with my friend.

WONG: We did the table read together, and then there was one song we did in the booth together.

HADDISH: Yes, we did that song.

WONG: Yeah, for the first season. I forgot what song it was, it was a really catchy song.

HADDISH: Yeah, it was about the… Was it about the potato chips?

WONG: I think-

HADDISH: It was something I played on the radio often, and we sang in the car.

WONG: Yes, it was really, really freaking fun, but-

HADDISH: I don’t know, but my favorite thing to sing on the show is “Bertie-ertie-ertie!”

WONG: When Tiffany and I get on the dance floor, that’s all we do, and then other people will participate, we’re like, “No.”

HADDISH: No, no, this is our thing. This is for us. This is what we do, it’s what we do.

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Image via Adult Swim

This is a beautiful friendship. I mean, how would it change things if you were able to record together more?

WONG: It doesn’t matter. I mean, we’re recording in our closets right now during the pandemic. So, I think it would just take more time if we had to record together.

HADDISH: Yeah, because we would play so much. We probably would get on Lisa’s nerves.

WONG: I don’t think it’d be good.

HADDISH: Because we’d be doing the scene and then we would be like, “Remember that time when we… What do you think that… I think that guy’s a…” We’d be having a full conversation about relationships, and guys, and other stuff, and we’re supposed to be recording a scene.

RELATED: ‘Tuca and Bertie’ Is Back! And a New Sneak Peek Confirms Release Date for Season 2 on Adult Swim

Do you have, even if just in your heads, the full backstory of Tuca and Bertie’s friendship?

HADDISH: I just imagine it’s our relationship. They met at a club one time when they were young, and been friends ever since.

WONG: I don’t think about their backstory too much. I mean, it’s all kind of there in the script.

HADDISH: Yeah, it is.

WONG: There are no stories I have to make up in my head about them.

For trivia’s sake, Tiffany, what was the club that you and Ali met at?

HADDISH: It was in San Francisco… Was it The Punchline?

WONG: Yeah, it was.

HADDISH: Wow. Yeah, we was some busted comics, man. We were poor, she was in her emo stage, I was in my ho stage. We both were skinny and hungry. We weren’t very funny yet, but we were on our way.

WONG: We didn’t even tempt ourselves, we wouldn’t even look at Loehmann’s. We were like, “Loehmann’s is too fancy.” We did not even look at that store when we’d drive by.

HADDISH: Yeah, I was big into the swap meet world, like thrift shops.

WONG: Still am. You get on Craigslist, Tiff?

HADDISH: Yes, I sold a dress on Craigslist.

WONG: Recently?

HADDISH: Yes.

WONG: And someone came to your door?

HADDISH: No, they didn’t come to my door. I had my assistant meet them somewhere.

WONG: Was it the Alexander McQueen dress?

HADDISH: No, I’m not selling that one.

WONG: A dress, wow, amazing. I love Craigslist. Yeah, that was Craigslist days.

HADDISH: Yeah, Craigslist days. Let me tell you something, on Craigslist you can get you a full back massage with a happy ending off of Craigslist.

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Image via Adult Swim

Well, now that you’re slightly past the Craigslist days — sorry, I’m struggling to find a segue here.

HADDISH: You know I’m just messing with you, right? I know you can get a back massage. I don’t know if you can get a happy ending, but I’m assuming you can.

Well, that’s why they shut down that part of Craigslist, because you could. But in any case–

HADDISH: I love it, you’re turning pink.

I’m doing my best here.

HADDISH: You’re smiling hard, I bet your cheeks are starting to hurt. because you’re smiling so hard. I love it, I love it. It’s my favorite thing about comedy right here, it’s priceless. I hope you laugh like that when you’re watching our show too.

I absolutely do so. I mean, it’s hard not to. But what’s the thing that keys you into the world of the show? When you’re in your closet recording lines for it, what’s the thing that kind of gets you in the right groove, so to speak?

WONG: For me, it’s Lisa.

HADDISH: Yeah, I was going to say, Lisa makes it happen.

WONG: Lisa’s a great director. She’s directing all the episodes, and she just sort of tells us what… I mean, for me, I always do three different takes and if Lisa wants something else, she’ll ask me to try something. So yeah, she’s an incredible showrunner, director, writer, and illustrator. Adult Swim is very, very lucky to have her.

HADDISH: She’s the best.

What was your reaction to the news that Tuca & Bertie got picked up by Adult Swim?

HADDISH: It was joyous, I was gardening when it happened… So, when I got the news, it was quite amazing, I was in my garden, pulling up rutabagas and beets. A bird landed on the compost pile right next to me, and I told that little bird, “I wish our show was back.” Then my phone rings, and it’s my representation, and they’re that telling me that Tuca & Bertie has been picked up at Adult Swim and the deal is done, signed, sealed, delivered. I rejoiced, I rejoiced with so much joy, I made a wonderful sauce. Then I dressed up in my mermaid costume and I started to garden in my mermaid costume, Adult Swim style, because I’m an adult that was swimming in my garden. I was so happy, that’s how I responded. It was joyous, and you could see those videos, mermaid in the garden, yes.

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Image via Adult Swim

I don’t want to say, “was it a surprise?” But after it got canceled so many people were hoping it would get picked up somewhere. But, we’re also, I think all very used to unhappy endings to stories like this.

WONG: Well, it’s also very rare that something that’s canceled at Netflix gets picked up at another network. Normally, Netflix will pick up shows that are canceled. So, I mean, everyone was right to be worried. But deep down in my gut, I knew that that it would happen. I was so excited, and relieved. Mostly because it meant that I got to keep working with Tiffany, and Lisa, and all these other wonderful people that are on the show. Tiffany and I have known each other for a very long time, and this is the only thing that we’ve actually… There’s been many talks over the years of projects for us to work on together, and this is the only thing that has managed to land. So, I’m very relieved, and excited, and honored.

HADDISH: Me too, I feel so honored too. I just want to make sure that you put in that article that you’re writing there, and make sure that you put in there that Ali and I really love what we do. We want everybody to watch the show, but do not have your kids sit down watching this because you see Tiffany Haddish’s name in it. If you want to watch something with your kids, you watch Kids Say the Darnedest Things. That’s what you watch with your kids, but this is for the grown ups.

This is what you watch with your girlfriends, you see? You get on the phone and be like, “Okay, we watching Tuca & Bertie, let’s watch,” and y’all talk mess, and enjoy each other. Be like, “Remember that time,” because I think every grown woman, every woman that’s over the age of 25 can relate to Tuca & Bertie. I think teenage girls too could relate as well, it may… Actually, I think you should let your teenagers watch it, so that they can maybe learn not to make the same mistakes. But do not have your little ones under the age of 13 watching this show. Well, whenever you tell people don’t do something, then they usually do it, and then it gets higher ratings. So let your little ones watch this show.

To wrap up, of your characters’ designs, what’s your favorite part of their look?

WONG: I like [Bertie’s] little white boots, I think they’re so cute.

HADDISH: I love Tuca’s beak, and her eyelashes. I love the lashes and the shorts, I love everything Tuca be wearing. I just love Tuca.

Tuca & Bertie Season 2 premieres Sunday, June 13 at 11:30 p.m. ET.

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