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Finding the Humor Inside of Tragedy with Comedian Kellye Howard

Erin: [00:00:00] Welcome to Hotter Than Ever, where we uncover the unconscious rules we've been following. We break those rules and we write a new code for being freer, happier, sexier, and more self expressed. I'm your host, Erin Keating. Today's conversation is with actor and comedian, Kellye Howard. Kellye has gone through some really intense things in her life.

Trauma, loss, some stuff that might be unthinkable to a lot of us. And in this conversation, what you're going to hear... It's a lot of real talk and a lot of laughs. And that is so remarkable to me. What Kellye does is she really helps to transform her [00:01:00] pain and her trauma into a pressure release valve for her audiences and also into a unique form of healing through telling stories.

This conversation really celebrates the human ability to live through hard things, and recover from hard things, and even laugh about our hardships. Here's my conversation with Kellye. Kellye Howard is an Air Force veteran turned stand up comedian, actress, Writer and speaker. She can be seen on the Starz series Power Book 4 Force and her stand up comedy has been featured pretty much everywhere from Comedy Central to TBS to NBC.

She hosts a podcast called Be Less Petty, great title, which she co hosts with a licensed therapist. She also writes and performs one woman shows in her most recent. Show, Crazy or Nah, had a sold out run at the famous Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, and it's all about mental illness, trauma, grief, [00:02:00] resilience, healing.

I'm so excited to talk about all these things today. Welcome to Hotter Than Ever, Kellye.

Kellye: Thank you. Oh, my God. That was such an amazing introduction. Thank you so much.

Erin: Kellye, it seems like you've lived a lot of different lives.

Kellye: I do feel like that, especially when someone reads my bio. I'm like, Oh, oh, right.

Oh, I was--

Erin: In the Air Force.

Kellye: I forgot about that. I should be using discounts. Note to self.

Erin: And it also seems like you've been through a lot of really intense stuff. But you've somehow always find a way to sort of laugh and, and make others laugh through it and maybe not always laugh, but feel and communicate what you've been through in a way that helps facilitate other people's healing and, and maybe your own.

Can you tell us a little bit about your personal story and then we can dig into the ways that. You've worked to heal yourself and heal others through your work.

Kellye: So for starts, [00:03:00] when I graduated high school, I didn't really know exactly what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be an actress, but this kind of comedy, this standup comedy thing kind of just tripped into my lap accidentally.

And when I started to do stand up comedy, I found so much of my traumas starting to surface in my art. And when I say traumas, I mean, I was raised under my paternal grandmother for the first ten years of my life, at which time I faced some molestation and just some, you know... Just drama within the house.

Like I lived in a hood. I remember my aunt patching up my cousin's a shot wound in our kitchen when I was like eight, you know what I mean? My dad killed someone in that same kitchen when I was 11. I had moved out by that time, but it's not. Rumors that I didn't hear about that went on at that house, you know, and so I just became kind of like this wild child.

Like I, I really didn't have any direction. My grandmother took me on my first audition when I [00:04:00] was eight. And so in the back of my head, I knew I kind of always wanted to be an actress or an artist of some sort, but I didn't really know. How to articulate that in any way. I was probably trying to heal from, you know, that house.

I always call it that house. Cause that house was, it was a lot. I was the youngest. It was like 15 to 17 people in the house at any given time. Yeah. And it was a four bedroom house. Uncles, cousins, aunts, friends of cousins, baby mamas. Like it was a ton of people and I was the youngest, I was the baby. Yeah.

And so I saw a lot, I was like a fly on the wall. In a lot of it and then sometimes I was part of the shenanigans that was going on within it and then when I moved my mom, I just didn't really have any direction and so I was a wild child. I got kicked out of two high schools. I was always fighting. I was always like, I was bullying people because that's what I had seen in that house.

It was a lot of fights in the house, a lot of arguing. And so I kind of, uh, Was that person once I left that house too and I had a child when I was [00:05:00] 16 who Ended up dying two months later Just a lot of traumas that I was trying to deal with But not knowing that that's what they were, you know I mean because I had not seen anyone else that what that was not going through Similar things around me. So to me, it felt very normal, right?

Erin: That's just life and the language of trauma came later.

Kellye: Came way later like therapy later, you know, like like like a therapist was like, uh, yeah No, none of that's normal and I'm like really. It wasn't really until I started doing stand up though that I realized I had a voice That I didn't know how to use And that's when it kind of all started to slowly kind of like the little meatball at the top of the hill and it keeps rolling and rolling and rolling it gets or a snowball. I don't know why I said meatball.

I was thinking spaghetti. Could be a meatball. Could be a meatball. But a snowball. I like a kid's book with a meatball.

Erin: Not a [00:06:00] rolling meatball. It's just a dirty meatball, but whatever.

Kellye: It's a disgusting meatball that a kid would eat. So it gets bigger and bigger and bigger, you know? And so it was like. I realized I started to see in so many areas of my life where I was unable to say what I was feeling or express that something wasn't right.

Once I found standup, I would do it on the stage. That's where I would take it. Right. So much so that I got this tattoo that says laughter takes the pain away, which is a smiling bandaid. And in 2006, I remember this being like my, my slogan. I would have it on pins. It said, laughter takes the pain away. Do yourself a favor and book me today.

And I really lived by that idea that laughter took the pain away. And so at that point I had almost started to welcome the adversity. I was like, ha, this is stage material. Right. And so I honestly went out into the world looking for fights to pick because I could use it on stage, not consciously. But definitely it was happening.[00:07:00]

And so then I ended up having a daughter at age 30, and this is where everything kind of took a real shift to me for me. Other traumas were happening throughout, like my brother committed suicide during that time span. Just a lot of little things was still going on in our family. My grandmother, the matriarch of my mother's side has really bad dementia and Alzheimer's.

My mom takes care of her full time. It's just a lot of life just continues to happen. Right. And so as life continued to show up, I. Then got pregnant at age 29 and The whole pregnancy in and of itself was like the fuck Kellye like you 29 Y'all not even in a real relationship like Y'all basically fucked on a bathroom floor, if we're being honest, like what are you doing with your life?

Like what is happening? I didn't want to have the baby, I couldn't believe I was pregnant, as if not wearing condoms. [00:08:00] Don't have babies, right? I was like, Oh my God, there is a correlation there.

Erin: Yeah

Kellye: So I should have known that it's like I don't track my period you don't know when you're ovulating What did you expect?

And so I'm pregnant. I'm pissed and I tell him I don't have this baby I'm like, look, I don't want to do this. I finally gotten on comedy central I have been doing stand up for four years and I was like really starting to make waves if you will Um, in the standup world and I had done comedy central and I was excited about like where my career was going.

And then I found out I was pregnant. And I was like, yo, bro, I don't want to do this. I already have a baby. I can't take on another one. I'm trying to focus on my career. And he was like, how dare you?

Erin: So you had a child in between the child that you lost and the second time you got pregnant?

Kellye: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. It's so interesting that you say that because everybody is so hyper focused within my story on like the losses I've had. I tend to just cross right over that kid that made it, you know what I mean? I just cross right over her like, yeah. And then one came out [00:09:00] and was good. And then...

Erin: Oh my God.Is that a metaphor though, for like how we focus on the negative in our lives?

Kellye: Oh my God. Isn't it?

Erin: Yeah. Because the, the hard things that the traumas, the injuries, the pain, that stuff is so heavy and big and dramatic and looms so large. And then it's like, Oh yeah. And then I had a beautiful child. Like that. Forget about that. It's just amazing.

Kellye: That's healthy and smart at 23 right now and doing so well in her life, but She kind of don't exist really, because that's not who we're talking about. Cause she's okay. She's fine. She has to create her own existence. Okay.

Erin: Does she show up in your standup?

Kellye: Oh, absolutely. Cause she's so type A. She's everything I would have been had I had a healthy life.

Erin:I used to say that about my daughter and then I decided to get divorced and everything got all fucked up. I'm like, Oh, she's more like me than I thought. [00:10:00]

Kellye: But truthfully though, I have two things about her. She's everything I would have been had I had two healthy, loving, you know, I don't want to call them not loving.

That was their version of love, but two healthy parents in a communicative way. But I also, the best thing I could have done for her. Like, that's the best thing I could have done for her because she's so creative. Like, she's the most creative person. She figures shit out. You know what I mean? She'd be like, well, I don't know what to do, but I'm gonna figure it out.

And I'd be like, that's my child.

Erin: Yes, but to reframe that, she also saw a mom who was finding her voice and going for her dreams and all these things in those years that you skipped over.

Kellye: Sure. In the words of my therapist, sure. The words of me.

Erin: I am a completely unlicensed therapist.

Kellye: Uh, yeah, so I did have a child in between that. I was 16 when I had my son, Deontay, that passed away at two months. And then I was 19 when I had Faith, the daughter that is living in well. In fact, [00:11:00] Faith is the trigger that led me to the military because I was like, Oh, I don't know. What I'm going to do now, I have a kid, so I can't just be out here trying to figure out how to be an actress or trying to chase these random whimsical dreams that I think I have.

I need to really hone in and raise this kid. And so I joined the Air Force Reserves. And when I got back, I started at Columbia, which was very helpful because the GI Bill helps me pay for a lot of that. Um, and. Yeah. And then I just went to Columbia and started doing acting. And while I was at Columbia is actually when I was working at Foot Locker and the Department of Homeland Security at the time.

And while at Foot Locker, a promoter was in the store and I had just got through roasting some customers that had just left. The front of the store, it was speaking perfectly. I'm talking crisp. Ah, you know what I mean? Crisp English, right? And just like, yo, I'm running over [00:12:00] here real quick. You going over there? Oh, for sure. I'll meet you upstairs. I'm talking perfect. And so of course I went ham, right? I'm just roasting them. That's, that's also hilarious.

Erin: Why were they pretending not to speak English?

Kellye: Because they didn't want to be helped. I got that a lot. When people don't want to buy stuff, they just want to look around.

I'm in Footlocker. People just want to look around and they don't want to be helped. So they'll say, Oh, I mean, don't speak no English. Right. And that'll shut me up because now I can't speak English with you. So what I started doing though, is I found out how to say, may I help you? And then I started saying that. And then that's when it was like, no, no, no. And then they just walk out like, Oh, we can't lie to her.

Erin: So there was a promoter.

Kellye: Who heard the promoter overheard me roasting these guys and he was like, yo, you are hilarious. He's like, have you ever tried standup comedy? And I was like, no, I was like, I'm the funny friend. Like I'm the one people bring if they want a good time, but nah, I don't, I don't do standup.

And then he was like, [00:13:00] have you ever thought about it? Do you want to try? And I was like, Nah, I ain't never thought about it. He was like, well, I'll give you five minutes. Will you take it? And I was like, yeah, sure. And so, went back to my other job at the Department of Homeland Security and was trying to figure out my stage name.

I was talking to my buddies, right? And I was like, yo, you know, I got this opportunity to do stand up. What my stage name gonna be? And this guy was like, your ass looks like a grapefruit. You should call yourself grapefruit. And because I was very insecure at the time, I was like, sure. And so that was my first stage name. Great.

Erin: Oh my God. Kellye.

Kellye: I know. And then I did stand up my first five minutes. People from both jobs came out and supported me. I did relatively good. I mean. People laughed. I enjoyed myself. I guess that was good. And I really didn't even know what to talk about. I was just up there talking about like, older people trying to step in clubs where they twerking, essentially.

That's basically, in, in, [00:14:00] in... 2006 or 2004 is version of twerk, whatever word we were using right then. Right. So that's what I talked about. Two weeks later, Damon Williams, the promoter of that show, asked me to do another show and he was paying 30 and that was unheard of for comedians really--

Erin: Do not get paid in the beginning of their careers.

Kellye: Especially on a second time on stage, like you need to be on stage several times to get out of the open mic phase first. Then you go to the showcase phase, which is still unpaid. I was in the, Oh, this is fun phase of my career. And I got paid 30 and I took that 30 and I immediately went back to the department of Homeland security. I quit school and I transferred to LAX and I moved to LA. Wait, this is irrational.

Erin: You did stand up twice and you're like, I'm going to [00:15:00] be a success at this. Cause I get paid 30. I'm going to quit college. Then you got transferred to LA. Right. Well, good. Um, and then you came to LA with stars in your eyes?

Kellye: Stars all in my eyes. Like, I'm gonna be famous. Got off the plane, realized I was in 70 degree weather, forgot all about standup. I was like, what the fuck is standup? I'm out here in 70 degree weather with a 40, 000 a year job. I'm living my best life and did not stand up for another two years. I didn't do stand up again until 2006.

Erin: Yeah. You just use it as a catalyst to make a big change in your life.

Kellye: To make a big change in my life in 2006. Pauly Shore was having this cattle call for his show, Minding the Store. Uh, and it was called the Hot Girls of Comedy. And, uh,

Erin: Yeah, that would go really well today.

Kellye: Yeah, Hot Girls of Comedy. And it was all women and me. In fact, that's where I [00:16:00] met Gabrielle Dennis. We were in line together and here I am. She's all nervous about her set, right? And I'm like, don't worry about it. You got this. It's easy. Just go up there and do blah, blah, blah. My two times ever on stage, I'm giving you advice, right? Right. We both get booked. We both landed. We both get paid for five minutes of standup, like 800. Cause it was on TBS.

Right. And then when they edited it and it aired, my set was completely edited out. All you saw was me at the end, waving as people like, cause we all got on stage and waved. And so that's all you saw. Did you have material? No, I was trash. And that's what I realized after I got edited completely out of the episode that I was trash.

I was like, Oh God, Kellye, what do you think you're doing? You're just going to jump into this profession and be like, pick me at the top. As though you've been doing it forever? Like, no. And that's when I moved [00:17:00] back to Chicago in 2006. That's when I realized that I didn't know what I was doing and that I needed support with my daughter if I was gonna actively do stand up comedy because I can't be out at night in L.

A. without someone to watch her. And so I was like, what do I do? And I felt that Chicago was a great market for that comic that's trying to find their footing. And so I moved back home. And 2006 is when I fully started stand up comedy. Like for real for real hit the ground running and so I was four years in I was really doing well had done comedy central Got pregnant told him I didn't want to have the baby and then he told me that I wasn't a Christian I called myself a Christian, but yet I don't want to keep this child and I didn't know what to do with that because I had been very, um, into the church and very prayerful, you know, church had been a huge part of my life from getting my mom off of drugs to like, just every time we needed anything, we went to the church, right?

So that's what I knew [00:18:00] and I didn't know how to handle that. I didn't know how to handle that. And so I was like, I guess I'm keeping the baby. And so I started looking up all these celebrities that had babies and that were doing well, that were single parents. I'm like, Oh, I could be Taraji. I could do this.

Right. And I started just looking up possibilities. And then fun fact, I was six months pregnant and he text messaged me. You know what? I thought about it and you should have an abortion. Yes, I instantly blocked him. I was like done.

Erin: I mean if there is some more cosmic way of blocking him like Isn't that the reality of women's lives though? It's like we get left holding the bag in so many ways So unfair so unkind and so unfair.

Kellye: It's so unkind and and so I'm like, okay, blocked. And at that point, I just really got serious about like, okay, Kellye, you're going to have to do this and you're probably going to be doing it alone. So what does that look like?[00:19:00]

And I just kept moving forward. And then I had the baby. She was a little bit early. She was eight months, 36 weeks. She was eight months and she just had all these health conditions. You know, non compaction of the left ventricle cardiomyopathy. She had hypertension. She had just all of these things, white matter loss in her brain.

And I'm just like. Okay, what's really going on, God? Like, first I didn't want to have this baby. Then I decide to keep this baby. Then you make me do it alone. And then you give me a list of things to have to also think about while doing it. Not just, cause being a parent in and of itself. Is enough with nothing wrong with the child, but then to have layers of medical issues, it makes you feel as though there is no life outside of that child, you know, and, and she came home on full life support, 21 different medications [00:20:00] and home nursing, as much as we would want them to be.

You know as good as nursing in the hospital, they're just not I mean, I remember letting a nurse leave early and she said, okay I laid out her medicines for you and I was like great Thank you, and I always check before I put anything in my daughter's syringe. And so I checked the medicine count. She gave her six ml--well, she was about to give her, thankfully she hadn't--6ml of Sidenafil. The dosage was 0. 6.

Erin: Oh, so the person that was supposed to support you was undermining you and didn't care.

Kellye: So here I am trying to be in school, trying to like still get some normalcy in my life. And then I have this child with full life support at home and my other child. It's just all these layers and. And then you don't have, like you said, the support of the people that are getting paid to support you.

Erin: And you're still nursing this dream of being a stand u---

Kellye: Of being a stand up [00:21:00] comic. Like, with all this going on in my life, I feel like everything happens for a reason. I know people like, ugh, at people that say that term, but I really do believe that everything happens for a reason.

Even me, I kind of put out into the universe that adversity is what lends to my creativity. I was constantly reinforcing that and encouraging that. And so the universe will give you exactly what you ask for every single time, which is why we have to be mindful what we're asking for. And I was asking it to give me reasons to have more material.

I need more things to talk about or more.

Erin: How do you go on stage and joke about a baby on life support?

Kellye: You don't joke about the baby on life support. You joke about the people who's taking care of the baby. Okay. You joke about those that should be putting 0. 6 milliliters into her syringe that's putting six milliliters.

You know what I mean? You joke about anything because you have a dying child. So it doesn't matter. And if I'm being honest, it doesn't matter. Like, I was my funniest [00:22:00] during that period. I have never been funnier in my life. And I don't know if I'll ever be that funny again because I didn't give a fuck.

Erin: Well, and also, it was your own survival. Performing, that was the space where you lived. That was just for you. And that was you sort of saying, I'm alive. I'm alive. Listen to me. I'm a person. I have a voice. I'm alive.

Kellye: And it was so much going on in the background that I didn't have, I didn't have the filter. I didn't have enough energy to filter what that aliveness looked like. So it just came out as is, which made it so raw, so authentic. I don't shun anything that has ever happened to me, even the losses of my children, like all of it has led me to this point right here, where I am with you having this conversation, being able to openly talk about that, that time period.

And in a way that hopefully can allow other people to see their stuff from a [00:23:00] different perspective. And sometimes we take our own stuff a little too personal, I think when. It's so many of us losing children and so many of us being left behind and taking care of the children alone. It's so many of us that are being molested in our childhood.

It's so many of us that are being ignored in our marriages. I'm not alone in this. Collectively, there's so many of us going through this. Honestly, to not take it personal is where we're doing ourselves the best favors.

Erin: That's so hard though.

Kellye: It is very hard. I take everything personally.

Erin: How do you not take...Right. I mean, I aspire to not, and as I've gotten older, I've gotten better at not taking everything personally. When I was young, everything was personal. Now it's like, wow, never know what other people are going through, why they're acting that way. It's probably not me. It could be me, willing to look at that, but yeah.

Kellye: That's what it is right there. That's the human element that makes it all okay. It could be me, right? And how do you look at that? How do you open yourself up to that? Empathy, [00:24:00] right? That compassion, you know, it could be me. How do you do that? I also put Sticky notes everywhere. I have a sticky note on my dashboard in my car that says nothing is personal.

Erin: So what what happened with your daughter who was on life support?

Kellye: So Heaven eventually passed away at 15 months old, but she did come home from the hospital and she had her first birthday at home. She had her first Christmas at home, her first New Year's. I mean, if we were being her only, but her first, and they said she would never, they said she'd never come home. They said she'd never smile.

And one of my favorite pictures of her is a big smile. It's in our living room upstairs. It's like these things that medical professionals tell you based on their professional expertise. I get it. What? There's so much wonder out here in the world. There's so much, but what if, and I kind of live in that space of what if.

And so, you know, they said [00:25:00] she died, she wouldn't make it to past three months and she lived to 15 months, you know? So I never really gave up on heaven. It was hard for me to take her off life support, but what I think had happened, and I think this is very important. So I'm going to take my time when I say this.

I had reached my capacity in handling her care in a healthy way. Mm hmm. And I felt that. And I was surrounded by babies that you could see. The amount of strength or power it took for these mothers to continue on you can see it in them You can see the child's health Ultimately killing the parent, you know, and I don't want to say that that's all I saw at that hospital But I [00:26:00] did see that a lot and and that scared me

Erin: That's not something that anyone ever talks about.

Kellye: No, and I also thought about like what do I do? Heaven was there for the first 10 months of her life. So I stayed at the Ronald McDonald house in Indianapolis, 300 miles from Chicago, with her for 10 months, for the first 10 months of her life. So there was no way in hell I thought that I would be in a hospital for an additional 10 months. With her, but I was you start thinking about things like what happens if this baby never finds their own footing, right?

What happens if they never get healthy enough to do it on their own? What what happens if something happens to me? You know, and there's just a lot of questions that doesn't get talked about that are asked constantly in a parent's mind That's going through that and so yeah, I chose to take her off life support and that decision I think is what spiraled me into all the other things that happened [00:27:00] in the next few years, but in a good way I think it woke me up and opened my heart up in ways that had never been opened before.

Erin: So tell me what you did to start to try to heal from all of this, because I know you've tried a lot of different kinds of therapy, a lot of different kinds of modalities and found success with some things and have been really open minded about the things that you've tried and have reflected all of that stuff in your art.

Kellye: So what's interesting is, I didn't do anything in particular to try to heal from heaven. That was her name, Heaven, and my other daughter, Faith, was her name. I named Heaven, Heaven, cause I figured that would be an easy way to get people to babysit both my kids. Cause you need a little bit of faith to get to heaven.

You know what I'm saying? That was my thought process behind that. I mean, very savvy, very savvy. I was trying to get babysitters [00:28:00] under my wing here. So with Heaven, I think that I never really tried to Heal with her. I honestly had just it's weird to say this But I had believed so much that she would live like I had I had so much faith faith I had so much faith literally and figuratively because I was like There's no way God would take another child from me.

And so then when she died, I was in shock. And that shock became the catalyst to just performance. That's it. Like, I just kept it moving. Shit had to get done. You know what I mean? And so much so that I was auditioning and performing and doing things. I had cut my hair completely off. I went to this little black fro.

Then I dyed it blonde, then I did a TV show called My Life is a Joke and it was [00:29:00] talking about how The pains of, of trauma or, or hardship turns up in our standup and our material and how we joke about life and her Equipment was still in the background of this shot like they had I hadn't even turned in like all of her stuff yet And that's how soon it was like after her death that I was just like keep it moving and then That very next year I got married and I just kept it moving.

And when I got married is when. All of the healing things started to surface because I had health insurance. And so I was like, Oh, I'm really sad a lot of the times, but I be keeping it moving. What does this mean? Right. And so then I went to a psychiatrist and was like, yo, I'm really sad a lot of the times and I'm trying to keep it moving.

But sometimes it's hard to keep it moving. And then I give her all of my life history. You know, my brother's death and my, [00:30:00] my first child's death and then Heaven and just everything I was going through. And she diagnosed me with bipolar mania. And at that point, that was even shocking because I'm like what I just gave you a list of things that I'm going through, there has to be something else in there that that matches me more than bipolar mania. My shock with that diagnosis is because when I was a child my cousin's baby mama was diagnosed with Bipolar mania and I remember the entire house calling her crazy The entire house. I knew that bitch was crazy. I knew she was crazy too, girl. And so that's all that came to my mind when I heard those words was crazy. You know, and so I had that kind of emotion carried with me for the next six months of I'm crazy. I'm crazy What do I do about being crazy every interaction? I mean somebody could run over my toe with a tractor and me snapping out is crazy, right?

Like that's how right it had gotten so intense when I could do nothing without [00:31:00] thinking I was crazy Now mind you the hits keep coming Kellye heaven passed away February of 2012, okay I got diagnosed with bipolar mania in August of 2013. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in February of 2014. So yeah, so bam, bam, bam.

How the healing journey came about is after those diagnoses. I was trying to figure out a way one to manage the crazy and to handle the potential immobility that could come with having multiple sclerosis. I was terrified that I will lose mobility. So I started to look into what helps with multiple sclerosis and inflammation and things and stress was a huge.

Thing that [00:32:00] causes inflammation is stress levels and I was like, oh, okay So, how do I manage my stress levels and then that's when I started to meditate So I downloaded the calm app and then I started to meditate on my own and I would do like two minutes and five minutes and I slowly built up to like 10 15 20 and Then I just got curious about a lot of other things like that Therapy, I started to see therapists and that's when I realized that not every therapist is the therapist for you.

And it's okay to switch therapists if it's not working. And so I went through a bunch of therapists trying to find a therapist that I felt could understand me. And sadly, you know, representation was not a big thing 10 years ago in that space. And I had a lot of white therapists because I couldn't find a black therapist.

And if I did find a black therapist, it was more like, Oh my God, girl, he did what? And it's like. Bitch, I can't have this conversation with you. So it was just constantly trying to like, finagle that space of like, people that don't understand me at all, and the people that understand me a little too much.

So, [00:33:00] I started trying different types of therapy, from hypnotherapy to a Mexican witch, a bruja, right? She cracked brown eggs all over my Skin and face. It was wild. And then she put them in a jar and I had to pour bleach in it and like, take it way away from my house to disperse the energy, like I've tried.

I guess. I'm here, right? You know, here's the thing. I think it's all cumulative, right? I think it all builds up. It all lends to who you become inevitably until you die, right? I'm going to be trying new things and different modalities until I die. And you, and you tried ayahuasca too. I've done ayahuasca twice and I can't wait to do it again. I want to do it in Peru.

Erin: What makes you so open minded about trying all these different modalities? Because I feel like people get locked into this is going to work for me and this isn't going to work [00:34:00] for me.

Kellye: Childhood neglect. I'm super creative. I'm willing to try anything. I'm very curious. I'll try anything. One. I know we've all heard that before, right? But how many people actually live by that? I'm a, I'll try anything once kind of person, except beef and pork. Cause I don't eat beef or pork, but I'll try anything else. Well, not scorpions. I'm going to Thailand next month and I'm not eating scorpions. I've already put that off my list, but I will try anything else once.

And that's what lends to my searching for. Lasting joy in a multitude of different ways, because that's what I'm looking for. I'm looking for lasting joy, not happiness. Happiness is fleeting. Like that comes and goes based on the condition, the weather, whether or not your mate got an attitude, right? All of that, that can be wavering, but how does joy sit with you?

Can I be joyful and know that everything is always working out for me? I am okay. I trust my intuition. Can I feel that on a deep level and still be angry at my [00:35:00] husband right now? Or do I feel like less than, do I feel like not enough because I'm upset and that's really what my underlying goal for everything I do is to create that lasting joy.

And I want to infuse that out to other people and help them create that for them too. And it looks different. For everyone. And I think that's what I'm really starting to embrace in my forties is that it does look different from me than it looks for my husband. I'm trying, but I also have a very bullish mentality just because of how I was, that household I was raised in.

I can go from zero to a hundred real quick. And so I have to. Always be mindful of that. And when I skimp out on doing my daily work, whether it's my meditation or my writing or my yoga or whatever things is that I put in place to keep me at bay. When I started to slack on those things is when I noticed it's harder. I'm less kind. I'm more willing to cut somebody off and honk my horn and flick them off and call them all kinds of names because I didn't do my work today.

Erin: So you, [00:36:00] you fell in love and got married in the middle of all of this craziness and you, you talk about your husband a lot on stage. So God bless him for, for being a game.

Kellye: He does not deserve. He does not deserve it. It's my love language. I met him. I talked about him in the audience. He came up to me after the show was like, Oh my God, thank you so much for talking about me. Instantly. I knew we were supposed to be married. If I can have this at home as a lab, I can just talk about this all day and he enjoys it. Like, that's a comedian's dream.

Erin: So this guy came up to you after a show, you're pregnant, you're on stage, you're hilarious, you're making fun of him on stage.

Kellye: Him and the girl he was with.

Erin: And him and the girl he was with. And you said to yourself, we're meant to be married.

Kellye: Well, not in that moment, but you know what I mean? I do that as a joke on stage where I say, yeah, obviously we have to be married.

Erin: So it was indicative to you of like, this actually would be the perfect situation for me.

Kellye: This would be the perfect situation because if [00:37:00] you like being talked about, and I like talking about people, we're a match made in heaven.

Erin: Yeah. I mean, I wouldn't be so psyched. If I, if my partner was a standup and they were talking about our relationship on stage, I don't think I would like that very much.

Kellye: Yeah. And he doesn't. And so here's the thing. I've had to, I've had a lot, I've had a lot of therapy to unpack this part of my life with talking about him on stage because my husband is an amazing man.

He does all the cooking. All the cooking. I don't cook at all. Yeah. He does all the cooking. He's loving. He's an only child. So he always wants to spend time with me. Like in a, in a yucky kind of way, right? Always wants to spend time with me. And I'm like, that's enough. That's enough. Thank you. Okay. Can I get some space, bro?

Six feet. It's so bad. And so he's a perfect, like a woman that loves all of that. He's like the dream man. Right. And me, I'm over here like, ugh. He didn't choose that [00:38:00] woman. Yeah. He didn't. You know what I mean? He didn't choose that. He chose this woman. And so, but what I've noticed though, is there are lines that I need to be mindful not to cross.

In a rule that I now try to use in general in my standup, because now I teach standup. I teach solo performance for comedy levels one and two at DePaul University. And Now that I'm telling people how to do it, I've realized the importance of punching up, right? Everything that I try to do in my comedy, be less petty.

I'm literally trying to be a less petty person with my time, my space, and my energy. Being less petty with my energy means how am I showing up in my marriage? If I'm getting on stage and I'm shitting on my husband, and then I get off stage and I'm like, Love me. That's so confusing to a partner, you know what I mean?

And so I've had to really get clear about who my stage persona is and making sure that even within that persona, I am being mindful to punch up in the people that I'm talking to. And if I'm going to punch now, [00:39:00] make sure that it's. Within myself and if it's within myself making sure that I have worked through that with my therapist so that I'm not self deprecating. So there's so many layers here when you're talking about healthy stand up comedy Which is not something I think too many comedians actually think about because comedy is very petty.

Erin: Well, you want to have a happy marriage Right? You want to have a loving relationship and you, and you're willing to work at that, but you also want to have a career where you're fully self expressed. How do those things sort of mesh together without you being hurtful? Like that's a tightrope walk.

Kellye: That's a tightrope walk. It is so tight. And sometimes I just have to realize that like for one, he does understand that it's my love language, right? That you know, I don't mean any harm. You know, when I get on stage and I say these things, the only bad part about that is we're in a culture where I could not mean any harm, but the public can take it and turn it around and make it harmful for my husband.

Give an example [00:40:00] of that. So, like, I have a joke where I say my husband is always saying I'm looking down on him. Right. And it's not intentional. I mean, he's five, five, I'm five, seven. Like, that's just how height works. You know what I mean? And so. It's funny, because it's true, but it's also like talking about his height, and he's Asian.

And so the fact that he's Asian, and that I'm making fun of his height, people can get really finicky about certain things when it comes to that. And I don't want anybody trying to attack him, though he's very confident in his skin, which makes us work. That's truly what makes us work is that I have a husband that is just as creatively curious as I am.

And that means he's willing to explore things and be open minded to a multitude of perspectives. And so that's how he sees things very objectively in a lot of ways, you know, which makes us work because he knows that objectively, I'm not trying to hurt you. And I try to make that up with showing up in [00:41:00] other ways in my marriage, you can't really lack. On being a good partner, if you shitting on your husband on stage. So I have to be.

Erin: You got to really do something to compensate for that.

Kellye: Show up.

Erin: Kellye, we've talked about such intense things in this conversation and we've been laughing the whole time. And I feel like that is so profoundly what you do, right?

That, that you somehow figure out how to find the lightness, find the humor, find the life. inside of all of this stuff and you're looking at everything so dead on. I mean, I can understand the denial that you were in and the times that you were in denial, but it does not feel like you're in denial today.

Kellye: It really does. I've slowly started to creep out of the denial space. It's just not, it's actually not that fun there once you realize, she'd be like, Oh, that's a terrible place to actually sit in. Denial was killing me, essentially. It was killing me from all different forms. And so by facing stuff head on, I can face that I'm not well [00:42:00] in this way.

So how do I get well, I'm not strong in this way. So how do I get strong? I noticed that about like my body. So because mobility is a concern for people that's been diagnosed with MS, multiple sclerosis, I. Do like the Stairmaster a lot. I take the stairs whenever I can. I do more walking and running. I do more things with my legs and my lower body than I used to.

I used to only focus really on my upper body. Now I do a lot of stuff in my lower body just because I want to build that strength. You know, I started to look for preventative ways to care for myself because if I don't face it head on, it will eventually take over me. If I just stay relaxed in my habits, because we all have these habits from when we were kids that are literally running our adult lives.

You know what I mean? It is like, those habits are not the healthiest habits to keep us living a long, healthy, fruitful, connected life. They actually disconnect us and make us feel small and less than. And so how do we revisit those habits and question whether or [00:43:00] not they're for us? You know, like, these are the ones I wouldn't use.

Erin: When you're making conscious choices as an adult, the bipolar is probably very much helped by all the things you do for the MS. And all your self care routines that you have, even if you don't want to claim it.

Kellye: I have bipolar tendencies for sure. Right. I definitely got some yay in me all day. In fact, my name is spelled K E L L Y E. So like Kanye, but clearly related. It's in there. Right. We both from Chicago. Right. It's all in there. But. But I also did realize after multiple therapists explained to me that what was actually happening at that time was grief. I was grieving and that I was, I wasn't sure where to place that grief or how to allow that grief to process through my body because the body keeps the score.

And so if we don't allow it to process through, we just hold it in different places. And so, After realizing that, oh, [00:44:00] this is about processing what's happening with all of my grief. It was amazing for me to go through therapy and hear that grief is what I was really struggling with. And that's essentially what my one woman show is about, crazy or not, is about untangling the grief.

It's about introspection of the lasting effects of both childhood and early adulthood trauma. How does that show up? And I do that using storytelling, stand up comedy, and poetry. How do we make this creative and look at this shit for what it is?

Erin: When are you going to be touring that show?

Kellye: So we are in conversations with a theater in New York right now And hopefully that will be later this year.

Erin: Hopefully the Hotter Than Ever audience will show up and come and experience you firsthand.

So grateful to have you here today, Kellye. I love this conversation. I'm so blown away by your journey and, um, I'm looking forward to seeing you on stage.

Kellye: Yes. Thank you, Erin, for having me. Thank you so much. [00:45:00]

Erin: Thank you for listening to Hotter Than Ever. I want to hear from you. I want to know how you've overcome the hardest things in your life.

When have you been able to turn pain into joy and laughter? Please DM us on social media and share. Your reaction to this episode, or any other episode, share your own story @hotterthaneverpod on Instagram, Facebook, and every social media platform you can think of. We may even share your message on the show.

Hotter Than Ever is produced by Erica Gerard and PodKit Productions. Our associate producer is Lena Reibstein. Music is by Chris Keating with vocals by Issa Fernandez.

Come back next week and we'll get right back into it. Have a glorious week, hotties.[00:46:00]


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