Keelah Rose Calloway: The Cynical Hopeless Romantic. Viewer Discretion Advised.
Updated: May 2, 2020
I am a huge fan of standup comedy, so when I found out that comedian Keelah Rose Calloway was doing a final show in Bangkok, I was over the moon…
...until I read on Sunday morning that the show was Saturday night. In an effort to satiate my comedy jones by proxy, I searched for her on YouTube. What began as a quest for chuckles quickly escalated into an obsession. I discovered an audiobook she had published entitled Pray for the Hunter, which follows the tragic herstory of a misunderstood descendant of Lilith.
Lilith is a little known character in the Bible’s creation story, as her mentioning was censored by the Christian church. However, biblical historians agree that before there was Adam and Eve, there was Adam and someone else. According to Genesis 1:27, God created male and female together in His own image. However, later in Genesis 2:20, God created woman from the rib of man. In order to reconcile this contradiction of woman's origin in humanity, the character of "Lilith" emerged. The origin of the name Lilith is unknown, but the idea that Adam had an original wife who displeased him and was therefore banished from the Garden of Eden for insubordination is accepted in the Hebrew tradition and has become popularized and explored by secular and religious scholars alike. As a result of Lilith's noncompliance, she is forced into marriage with Satan and her descendants are relegated to the fringes of society, branded as the evil ones who feed chocolate to puppies, hunt during the off season, and wear white after Labor Day.
Pray for the Hunter follows up generations later with the story of one of Lilith’s descendants, an enchantress whose very existence is a threat to the lineage of Eve. Sounds like an awesome concept, right? I certainly thought so, which is why I was so sad when I couldn’t listen to the audiobook past chapter 2 nor find the book anywhere online. But I’m not one to give up on a good story, so I snapped back into reality, pulled Keelah Rose Calloway out of the snares of my creepy mental labyrinth, psycho-actualized her humanity, and then, contacted her on facebook. It's always a little awkward contacting a new person on facebook, but what is life but awkward?
Keelah Rose Calloway is a comedian, writer, actress, and singer/songwriter from Southern California, currently based out of Vietnam. A Cornell University graduate, she travels the world teaching and performing standup. #blackexpats #weouthere
This was our conversation (actual words used in the conversation may have been embellished for effect and my own entertainment):
Blue: Hi! I’m writing to let you know that I discovered your work online and I think you’re the bee’s knees.
Keelah Rose Calloway: Hey there! Thanks for appreciating my work.
B: I’d love to appreciate it more, but alas, your audiobook, Pray for the Hunter was discontinued after chapter 2. What’s up with that?
KRC: Ah, well, see, what had happened was: I was in the process of publishing chapter 3 when a misplaced pterodactyl flew through my bathroom window and knocked my laptop into the bathtub.
B: Why was your laptop that close to the bathtub?
KRC: After a long night of standup comedy, I like to run a hot bath with lots of bubbles and sit in it with my laptop while I record audiobooks. I find the whole process to be quite cathartic.
B: Oh, ok. Well, will you ever finish uploading the rest of the chapters?
KRC: Who knows?
B: New topic: I’ve been brought on as a blogger for kahnma.com. If you’re down, I’d love to ask you some questions about your process.
KRC: l'm down! I’m always flattered when anyone takes interest in what I do.
B: Great! Well, let’s dive right into it! You’re an international school teacher who doesn’t just travel, but serial monogamizes obscure locations throughout the globe. From Vietnam and South Korea to Poland and Albania, you seem to hit up places where the meat is definitely organic. Why do you choose to live and work in these places?
KRC: Each time I travel to a new country for a job, I choose it because the job seems like a good opportunity for long term potential growth, but I’ve been wrong each time.
B: You wrote a book: Pray for the Hunter. It follows a protagonist who hails from the lineage of Lilith. What inspires your personal interest in the legend of Lilith?
KRC: I’m interested in Lilith because I love the idea that a woman was once equal to man and had the nerve to defy her own creator. What such a woman must have been like fascinates me. I think she can teach the world that women everywhere should never fear standing up to anyone, no matter how powerful the person is…and that even paradise can be a prison.
B: You think of yourself as a “cynical hopeless romantic.” How do you alchemize these seemingly contradictory traits into the cocktail of your personality?
KRC: I do think of myself as a cynical hopeless romantic. But goodness, how do you know that?
B: I didn’t know until you just admitted it. Mwahahahaha!
KRC: Has anyone ever told you that you’re a special little snowflake?
B: Yes. One other time.
KRC: I’m cynical because I know the world’s a fucked up place full of fucked up people who keep making things rapidly worse instead of better and that for me personally, there is really no hope of things improving.
B: Couldn’t agree with you more. Hope is for suckas.
KRC: But I’m a hopeless romantic because I’ve read too many books not to also have a tiny part of me that would love to be wrong about all of that. A tiny part of me still thinks there might be real magic in the world somewhere, so I always knock on the back of wardrobes and look to see if there’s anything over the rainbow, just in case.
B: Wow. In a couple sentences, you just gave me hope. I must be a sucka…or a cynic…I don’t know who I am anymore. What is this? Where am I?
B: Does this limbo of hopeless hopefulness inform your comedy?
KRC: I have a dark sense of humor. So generally, things that are funny to me are not that funny to other people, or strike others as cruel.
B: Oooh. That sounds like my kind of funny! Only whenever I try it, people frown and snatch my plate away. How do you calibrate how far you can go with people?
KRC: In my own standup, I pretty much stop myself at the point where I think the audience won’t feel comfortable laughing anymore. It’s a delicate judgment call, and I don’t always make the right one, but you live and you learn.
B: That makes sense. Being an entertainer is a delicate balance altogether. Part of you is always questioning and part of you has to be like, “hell yeah, I’m the shit. Who gon’ check me boo?” How do you handle the balance of arrogance and humility required to succeed as an entertainer?
KRC: I don’t really have to think about handling the balance. I’m arrogant enough to know I’m talented and funny and confident enough to use that talent and get onstage with it night after night. But I’m also humble enough to know I can improve and I try to always keep doing that. I don’t think I have a huge ego. I did when I was younger, but it’s been punctured enough by experience that now, I can be honest about both my own strengths and my own weaknesses. I rely on the former and try not to get bogged down by the latter. I know that I won’t always succeed, but I also know I’m strong enough to carry on when I don’t.
B: That’s dope, yo. Having such acute sensibilities in this reality that can sometimes be an assault on the senses, how do you keep your sense of humor and playfulness?
KRC: Rough reality is exactly what has shaped my humor. I find comedy in dark places, so when things get dark, it’s fodder for material. I don’t keep my playfulness, though that quality does come out when I feel comfortable enough to let it come out. I don’t worry about keeping my humor because I don’t feel that I have to be happy and in good humor all the time. It comes when it comes, it leaves when it leaves. If need be, I can go onstage, perform my set, then get offstage and lapse right back into darkness.
B: Speaking of darkness, what’s left on your list of things to do before you die?
KRC: I do have a long bucket list that still includes seeing the pyramids of Egypt, visiting South America, and riding in a hot air balloon. Hopefully, one day I’ll accomplish all of my goals.
B: This has been a very fascinating discussion. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. If I want to follow you or find where you'll be performing next, where should I go?
KRC: Just go to https://www.facebook.com/KeelahRoseCalloway.
After our discussion, I had a lot to think about. I thought about how we all live a little bit in the light and a little bit in the dark. When we embrace our whole beings and all of life, the balance kind of finds itself. And I’d bet twenty baht that if Lilith and Eve met for coffee, they’d spend the entire time commiserating about Adam being a narcissistic snitch.
Listen to the first two chapters of Pray for the Hunter on youtube:
© Cathryn D. Blue, 2019. All Rights Reserved
Top Photo courtesy of Heather Carlsen-Maijer and Herbert Przychodny
All subsequent photos courtesy of Nodar Kontselidze