She attended George Ellery Hale Middle School in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles and graduated from El Camino Real High School, also in Woodland Hills, where she was the school mascot. Haddish said she could not read very well until high school, but improved when she received tutoring from a teacher. She also got in a lot of trouble at school, despite her award-winning participation in drama competition featuring Shakespearean monologues. In 1997, after her social worker gave her an ultimatum to either attend psychiatric therapy or go to the Laugh Factory Comedy Camp, then seventeen-year-old Haddish opted for comedy as outlet for her pain. She has said that the mentorship from many notable comedians—including Richard Pryor, Dane Cook, Charles Fleischer, the Wayans brothers—helped her discover her passion for comedy and it "literally saved her life. " She incorporates her past real life experiences in her sets, finding that doing so functions as a sort of "safe space" for her.