Tiffany “T Barb” Barber has lived to tell of her challenges and triumphs that pushed her to a greater purpose that she knows comes with making others laugh.
Photo provided by Tiffany “T Barb” Barber
They grace the stages with their presence first, then their larger-than-life personalities grab you next when they take the mic and do their thing.
These local comediennes are gifted at their ability to make others smile, laugh, and feel good – all the while you’d never know that they’ve survived (and are surviving) their own hell.
But their pain has a purpose, which they use as a stepping stone to tell themselves, and others, that it’s gonna be more than OK — as long as there’s something to laugh about. And there always is.
On Borrowed Time
Talk to Detroit resident Tiffany “T Barb” Barber, 39, and you will come out the other end smiling and laughing with her. Barber’s infectious, bubbly personality, though, doesn’t match her story because she grew up in the unimaginable, which, by all
accounts, should have left her sad. Her parents faced drug-related troubles, mental health issues, and more, which resulted in neglect for Barber and her siblings. Through those experiences, Barber found her voice through the darkness, etched a unique career path for herself, and is living out her purpose – giving others a chuckle along the way, too.
“Comedy is so subjective and there are so many different lanes of comedy that when you’re a stand-up comedian you don’t see it that way,” Barber said, adding that she had to expand her brand during the pandemic to include virtual shows, upping her social media presence and more. “We’re apart but still together. now the kids at home every day and the stuff I used to sneak and do my sons looking through crack of the door.”
She added that she now incorporates her family and sons into her acts and still fosters the relationships she builds with her audiences regardless of the size.
Inspired by her mother’s rough upbringing, Barber chose to initially work in adult protective services to help other children and adults with their hurts. She later switched to comedy after her friend inspired her to do an act during an open mic, which she naturally rocked.
“This month is my five-year anniversary,” she said, adding that her well-known mentor, Coolaide showed her the ropes and gave her constructive feedback.
Barber, who owns a hot dog stand, Delicious Dogs, among other ventures, said that what inspires her is wanting to see people happy.
What’s up next for her is gaining a bigger reach by being featured on television with her show, “Gettin Off,” with seasons one and two available on Amazon Prime. It is also available on the brand-new Black-owned streaming service, Rugo, which will premiere in the fall.
Did we mention she got books? This busy entrepreneur is doing things and inspiring others through her stories, “Faith Over Fear: Tales of a Retired Hoodrat” and “The Hoodrat Kitchen Vegan Cookbook.” They are all available on Amazon, Kindle, and her website tbarbisfunny.com.
She added that no matter what type of comedienne you want to be in Detroit, the first step is to start hanging around comediennes.
“First off, Black girl magic itself is a whole vibe,” she said, adding that despite how gifted Black comediennes are, they are still the “lowest on the totem pole.”
“But because we’re so talented you never think so,” she said, adding that regardless of if you’re on the stage or in regular life, Black people have to show up and do more with what’s perceived by others as less.
But don’t worry, boo, they got you and they bring the funny each time.
“When you a Black woman already fighting through adversity, it makes it super special,” she said of the rawness that comes out in comedy where the pain is turned into relatable and sometimes hilarious experiences. “We’re probably the funniest out of all the comedians because we have no choice but to be.”
What keeps her going is looking at life like everyone is on borrowed time, and it’s important to make the most out of things regardless of the circumstances.
“I think if we choose to dwell on it versus using it as a teachable moment to get better, we’re really being disrespectful to God at that point,” she said. “I don’t want to waste my time …so my son doesn’t have to go through the same things I did.”
A Minister and Empress of Comedy Collide
Shanie D. That’s it.
Her name is a sentence in and of itself because more than likely you know her, have watched her shows or maybe she made you laugh without even trying to. That’s how it goes for Shanie D. — a vibrant, quick-witted woman (self-described as the empress of comedy) and you better put some respect on her name because she will gladly do it for you.
“I am the empress, which is like somebody that’s been in the game for a minute,” Shanie D. said, adding that there are a lot of awesome comics in the Detroit area. “And comedy wasn’t something that I ever believed in, something I would be involved in.”
Shanie D., who was always an entertainer, said that she knew how to take the stuff God gave her and “mold it and sell it the way it should be sold.”
“I think one of the most important things in life is to be able to laugh at what the devil sends to kill you,” Shanie D. said, adding that she is a minister, too, where she helps people laugh even during their worst times. “Comedy is a ministry to me — that’s what it is. I’ve been good at it from day one.”
Shanie D. said that her first time doing comedy she received a “standing O” or a standing ovation, which was during a funeral.
“That is how I know God chose me to do something great,” she said, adding that she’s just trying to figure out what, when and how to use it with “so many distractions in the world.”
Shanie D. who pulls no punches, says it like it is with no filter when she discussed her thoughts on everything from the pandemic (which she called a plandemic) to how we’re living in the book of Revelation today.
“I think it’s population control,” she said, adding that her deep thoughts could get her in trouble but she walks to the beat of her own drum. “I’m saying some powerful stuff – I’m saying some stuff (that) could compromise who I am. The powers that be they don’t want us to know the truth. I am a truth-teller. When they hear me telling the truth it wakes them up.”
What she told the Michigan Chronicle she also tells on stage.
“I’m an open book; my life is an open book,” she said, adding that the storm she is in right now is the COVID-19 pandemic, but she doesn’t fret. “I was a daughter of a king and my father is named Jesus Christ.”
Shanie D. has a book coming out soon (the title is in the works), which she narrates.
“It is more powerful when I tell my story when people hear me tell my story,” she said.
Her story involves having people close to her die including her brother and father.
“People couldn’t believe I was … taking care of him (my dad) going to do shows and coming home,” she said, adding that everyone is going to leave the earth one day. “I’ve seen a lot of people die without living, and a lot of people take without giving.”
Shanie D. said that she’s living and all comedians have been through some stuff.
“Not nobody that took the title as a comedian that has not been through some stuff,” she said. “But we tell our story (it is) medicine for us.”
Shanie D. said that during the pandemic she got sick, lost some loved ones, and lost opportunities to be on stage.
“This is when I realized how important the stage was to me when I couldn’t get on the stage anymore,” she said, adding that one day she got frustrated and shaved her hair off with some clippers. “I was cleansing; I was removing everything old what the plandemic did.”
Her cleansing got her off to the right foot professionally because in late April she went to Los Angeles for the first time and had another standing ovation. When she came back to Detroit she received calls and offers to write for comedienne Kym Whitley and more from people who want to know when she is coming back.
The 50-year-old got some plans up her sleeves, though, to keep people laughing, whether that is routinely in Los Angeles, or in Atlanta where she is thinking about laying down roots.
“I think I’m at right now where God wants me to be,” she said adding that she might travel cross country on show tours in an RV. The future, suffice it to say, looks as bright for Shanie D.
“2020 was a year of vision for me — tomorrow is not promised. Laugh hard,” she said, adding that she now hugs people tighter than ever – but if your breath stank, please feel free to keep your mask on, she said chuckling.