Comedy veteran Calise Hawkins is pulling out all the stops! Her premiere full-length album, “Calise Hawkins is 40 AF” debuted yesterday, August 14th, under Dominic Del Bene’s record label Blonde Medicine. This album debuts after spending over 15 years in the comedy industry, and appearing on shows such as Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Nick Mom’s Night Out. The 16-track album features hilarious stories of Hawkins’ past, from raising her daughter in Jersey City as a single mom with roommates, to finding her footing as a black woman in the entertainment industry. We had a chance to catch up with the comedian to find out about her inspiration, favorite tracks and more.
You just released the new album, “Calise Hawkins is 40 AF.” Tell us a little bit about that and where your inspiration came from.
I was inspired to tape my album after attending the “Black Women In Comedy Festival” booked by Joanna Briley at the Brooklyn House of Comedy. After seeing so many funny black women from all walks of life I realized I’ve never thought of myself as a complete representation of black women, but more importantly, that I should’ve never had that pressure in the first place. I’m sick of black women being defined by our blackness or our non whiteness and getting booked as the only black woman on the lineup (as if we are all the same). While watching the “Black Women In Comedy Festival” I saw that we could be defined by the fullness of each and every one of our individual experiences. I’m over being considered “the diversity” when black women are infinitely diverse within our own stories. My story is an incomplete representation of an entire group of people. Instead, my comedy album (story) is an entire representation of me.
What were the best parts of the production process? And the worst?
I really enjoyed the rush of taping my comedy album. Seeing friends, comedians, and comedy fans show up for me made me feel incredible. Every moment of that experience was joyful. Then after I performed and after that victorious feeling that “I DID IT” I had to do it again at the second show, lol. That was the worst part. Trying to recreate all those magical feelings and be authentic and enthusiastic all over again. Whoo! THAT was hard.
Do you have a favorite track on the album? Why?
I think my favorite track is “The Evolution of Man.” I love teasing people about their traditions. I like to see if I can highlight the silliest sentiments in regards to oppressive rituals in relationships. It’s like reverse Jenga. I look for the dumbest piece of the puzzle and tug it out because I’m TRYING to make that construct fall in hopes of showing people how flimsy some of their belief systems are.
You’ve been in comedy for over 15 years. How has the industry evolved and changed in that time?
Ugh. You know? Entirely. It’s unrecognizable from when I began. It has changed in countless ways. There are more platforms, but less glory. There are more entry points, but less graduations. Sometimes I feel that there are more comedians and less talent as well. But, as you know, I’ve been in comedy over 15 years. So maybe I’m more disillusioned and less starry-eyed.
Where do you think the industry is headed?
To me, the concept of the industry is loaded. You can’t give power to it as if it is a singular entity. It’s made up of a bunch of people functioning within an oppressive society. No one should follow industry standards, instead, people within the industry should be pushing the standards. Put it this way… the industry didn’t ask me for an album….I gifted it to myself.
Over the course of 15 years, do you have a performance or experience that you think really defined who you are as a comedian?
When I was backstage waiting to perform on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” I was very anxiety-ridden. It got so bad that I had to tell myself “you don’t have to do this.” I was so in fear of failing, that I was fantasizing NOT stepping through the curtain when they called my name. Of course I did step through that curtain. And when I did, I had the absolute best time. That pretty much defines me. I’m not the most confident person you’ll meet. But I’m brave enough to give myself the chance to fail. And sometimes… I don’t fail.
What’s next for you? What are your goals for the album and moving forward?
I want to start working on my next album as soon as the world is safer to be out and about.
What advice do you have for women looking to get into comedy?
Have honest, healthy relationships with your peers. Be supportive of other comedians, but remember to also be supportive of yourself. I’ve always said the biggest fan of comedy is comedians. So be a fan of your own work.
Wanna check out the album? “Calise Hawkins is 40 AF” is now streaming on Spotify, Apple Music and more!
Listen to the album: https://www.blondemedicine.com/bm042-calise-hawkins-is-40-af
Learn more about Calise Hawkins: http://www.calisehawkins.com/
Image: Shark Party Media