What do they say about New York City: There are eight million stories, and sometimes it seems as though eight million of the people telling them think they’re comedians? No, that’s not it. It is a fact, though, that America’s biggest city is also its biggest comedy mecca. Hollywood may be Hollywood, but New York City is where comedians are born funny, become funny or arrive to thrust their funny upon us. I think we should meet some of these people. This is a recurring feature, a mini-profile of newcomers, up-and-comers and overcomers of New York’s vibrant comedy scene. It’s called Meet Me In New York.
You don’t have to live in one of the five boroughs to be a New York City comedian. At least that’s what they tell me…in New Jersey! Calise Hawkins (photographed above by Mindy Tucker) shows all of the single mothers out there that you can pursue a career in stand-up comedy, raise a daughter and do it all, even while living in Jersey City. I kid, I kid. She has a kid. I love New Jersey. Happiest years of my life. This isn’t about me, though. It’s about Hawkins. You’ll not only remember her hair, but also her smile and her onstage likability as she regales you with funny moments from her life. She has appeared on Comedy Central’s Russell Simmons Presents Stand Up at the El Rey, was a New Face this summer at Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival, and soon will appear on Mom’s Night Out on the new “Nick Mom” programming block. And last night, she made her late-night network TV debut on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Get to know more about her now!
Name: Calise Hawkins
Arrival date: December 1999
Arrived from: Springfield, Ill.
When and where did you start performing comedy? I started comedy in February 2004, after meeting Romey Rome on New Year’s and mentioning that I wanted to “try” comedy, he booked me on his singer/comic open mic at B’3’s.
What was your best credit before moving here? Before moving to New York, I was in college in ATL, and my best credit was playing the “Lady In Green” in a college play called “For Colored Girls Who Commited Suicide When The Rainbow was Enuf.”
Why did you pick NYC over LA or anywhere else? I picked NYC because I had a roommate in college (Clark Atlanta University) who told me that NYC was the place to be, and I believed her.
How long did it take to get your first paid gig in NYC after moving here? They pay you to do comedy? I think it took me about two years before someone gave me any money.
How is this scene better/same/worse than the scene you moved from? n/a
Do you already have an “only in New York City” moment yet? My “only in NY” moment was when a large suitcase toppled over in the middle of a subway car and nobody picked it up. Everybody on the car kept asking “Whose bag is that? That’s not my bag. Does anyone know whose bag that is”? Nobody claimed the bag and everyone started to get nervous. We were on an express train so it was a long wait ’til the next stop. Gradually everybody, EVERYBODY, in the train-car crept away from the suitcase to the doors furthest away. I kept imagining what it might feel like to blow up. Then when the train stopped, this really old man ambled over to the suitcase and picked it up and took it back to sit with his wife. Everyone laughed and it was beautiful. We thought we were gonna die, it was great!
What tip would you give to any comedian who moves here? To every comedian moving here I would say go to badslava.com and do all of the open mics. It’s the quickest way to get seen and recommended for other shows.
Where do you see yourself five years from now? Five years from now, I see myself writing/performing on a series and still hitting the stages to do standup regularly. I’ll be booked at all the important comedy clubs in the city and everyone will be my best friend!
If you’re in NYC, Hawkins hosts live stand-up comedy with Amanda Baramki on Friday nights at the Village Lantern. And if you missed seeing it on TV, here is Hawkins on Late Night. Roll it!