Impossible Standards and a Spoonful of Nutella: Confessions from Comedian Kerri Pomarolli
She’s a national headlining standup comedian who has almost 30 appearances on The Tonight Show, she worked with funnymen ranging from Jim Carrey to Jerry Lewis, she currently writes for the Hallmark Channel and brings laughs rooted in truth in her book, Confessions of a Proverbs 32 Woman and devotional, She Rises Late and Her Kids Make Her Breakfast. The multi-talented Kerri Pomarolli is also an actress, TV host, speaker, mom… and did we mention she loves the Lord? Navigating Hollywood isn’t easy, navigating motherhood isn’t easy, and navigating perfectionism can be crippling, so Risen had the most refreshing conversation with Pomarolli where she shared quarantine fears, overcoming challenges, the power of prayer and the many blessings in her life.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: You came to Hollywood hoping to land a role that would bring fame but found compromising your faith was not worth a star on the Walk of Fame… how did you come to this conclusion?
Kerri Pomarolli: I was raised as a person of faith and I was always like, a good girl, not super-churchy. I would go to church on Sunday if there was a parking spot, but I felt like I couldn’t do something that my mother would get mad at me about. So it started off just being a good moral person and not taking a movie role with Charlie Sheen because there was a topless scene and my agent was like, “You should do it, Charlie Sheen’s awesome.” True story. So it was never hard. I mean my first movie role I got offered was a topless scene and I said, “No.” And the director was like, “I’m really impressed with you. I’m going to give you another role.” And I’m 22. I just got to Hollywood and I ended up playing a blue alien where they like put me in a very small dress and painted my entire body blue. I was like, “Mom, I have clothes on. So this is a good thing.”
But it wasn’t until my mid-twenties, when my faith became more important and more real to me, that’s how I took a left turn into stand-up comedy because it just got to be a smaller path. I loved improv comedy. I loved being in The Second City and I loved training at The Groundlings, but even working with a group, you’re always on guard about what they’re going to say or what they want you to say. I felt like my season was done with improv and basically being a control freak, God was like, “You could do stand-up comedy and be responsible for everything; all the material.” It was totally a God-idea. I never set out to say, “I want to be a standup comic.” But once I tried it, it was like a rocket ship that took off so fast. I was on stage for my very first time at the Hollywood Improv, and probably four months later on stage with Zachary Levi and Sherri Shepherd and really great people. Probably six months later, I quit my day job to do comedy full time.
It was crazy. And I just want your readers to know – this is so important – I worked three “day jobs” from the time I was 22 to the time I was maybe 30. Iwas always working, always grinding. I just kept saying, “God, I don’t know what to do. I’m trying to make it in Hollywood.” It’s small part, small part, small, small, small. And I just kept saying, “God, if you let me quit my day job, I will do anything you want. I will do anything. I will never complain.” And I worked really hard at those day jobs and night jobs and weekend jobs to give me an appreciation for the fact that I get to do what I do now.
I believe there’s power in doing that kind of work so you just really appreciate when God blesses you and you never take it for granted because it could go at any moment. I mean, I’m in COVID right now. And I was just praying about, “Lord, do you want me to sell fruit on the 405 Freeway, like where? Because all my shows are cancelled. And I realize that I don’t have any skills.” I mean, this was a real prayer, like, “God, I don’t have any job skills whatsoever except supermodel, which no one will hire me for. I really need you to come in clutch here.” That was my prayer like two hours ago.
RM: Speaking of COVID, so many people thought they were busy before, juggling kids and careers, but now with a world pandemic and quarantine, it’s a whole other level of stress…
KP: And try juggling it with no money, you know what I mean? Oh, and by the way, just to put my life in perspective – I bought a house and moved in on March 6th and I’m a single mom. I’m fully responsible for two daughters. I have full custody, full financial responsibility. So I bought this house and I’m like, “God, you are so good. I only had to give them one kidney.” And then we move in and like, it’s a worldwide pandemic. It was like being fired from all my jobs. I’ve never had that feeling. I’ve worked straight for 14 years.
And so that’s when you start to question, “God, is there something else that you want me to do?” And then it’s scary as an entertainer to go, “But what the heck would that be?” Do you know what I mean? I can go drive Uber, I guess. God’s provided for me in miraculous ways through COVID, but it’s a scary time that we live in. So talk about not taking this job for granted. When I get to make people laugh, I am overjoyed. If you just give me two seconds in a grocery store line, I’ll do a 10 minute act for you.
RM: On that thought, we’ve gotten the opportunity to interview other comedians and you’ve worked with some of the best from Jay Leno to Jim Carey, Jerry Lewis. Do you feel a pressure to be funny when you’re just with your friends, or when you’re in the grocery store line, or is it something that is actually within you and comes naturally?
KP: I don’t try to be funny. I just have a really awkward, dark sense of seeing the world. And as my friend, Carlos Oscar said, “People say funny things, but comedians say things funny.” So my head doesn’t work like yours. It’s a gift/curse because don’t put me in the back of a bad sermon… it’s bad, and I married a comedian. So you should just see us sitting in the pew. I mean, it was terrible. My mind is quirky so the things that I think of are like I’ll read a Bible story to my kids and I’ll be like, “Peter walked on water,” and then my brain will go, “You know what? I wonder if there was another disciple and he tried to walk on water, but he was too fat, like Jerome.”
So that’s how comedy comes it’s because our brain is always working. So definitely if you meet me in a grocery store, I’m not a gregarious person that pops into a party, the loudest one of them, not at all. And I would guess that’s true of 80% of comedians. I hate karaoke, I don’t want attention outside, I’m very insecure. After a show, I used to always ask Ron, my ex-husband, who I would tour with, “Did they like it?” And he would be like, “But they were standing up clapping.” And I’m like, “Oh, like I can’t gauge if they…” All comedians, we’re never content with ourselves. It’s always about trying to be better. So, I definitely wouldn’t walk into a party and try to be funny because that would just be too much rejection.
RM: You wrote a book, Confessions of a Proverbs 32 Woman: How I Went from Messed Up to Blessed Up Without Changing a Single Thing. I think most Christians are probably familiar with Proverbs 31, but what is a Proverbs 32 woman?
KP: Well, I have a joke in my act that says, I read Proverbs 31 and it didn’t speak to me at all because I don’t plow and I don’t rise early. And gathering food from afar is Uber eats. I have T-shirts, it’s always been a joke. So I wanted to write a letter to the Proverbs 31 woman and I called her Pearl and I got her email in heaven. So I wrote this letter in my book and I said, “Sister girl, with all due respect, you’ve been stressing out generations of women. Did you know you were being watched? I mean Solomon wrote the book and his dad liked to look at the ladies. So were you being stalked by him? And so were you real, was that one snippet of your life and can we be friends?” The book evolved into me talking to the reader about modern day depression, loneliness, should I get Botox? Am I going to hell? And having her sort of respond from her perspective, to my trials and tribulations as a modern day woman.
The first book I ever wrote was called, If I’m Waiting on God, Then What Am I Doing in the Christian Chatroom? Every book I’ve ever written has been from a lack of that book being on the shelf. So I’m a Christian, I’m not homeschooling and I didn’t breastfeed for six years, and I’m single and I’m just not in any box. Where’s that book? I don’t make crock-pot meals from Pinterest and my kids bathe on Tuesdays. So where are my people? And I thought that my people were Proverbs 32 women. She rises late and her kids make her breakfast. So, that’s sort of my take on the whole thing, it’s that there’s most likely more of us than the Proverbs 31 woman.
RM: Perfectionism is hard and for women. You work in an industry where image is important, where your platform is important, where your audience is crucial… all of course by secular definitions… how do you keep the Lord first and allow for His plan, not yours? Is that something that the devotional that goes along with your book can help us with?
KP: I really like to say that my books go where other books won’t and that’s why I had to get just the right publisher that would let me write about getting Botox. And I do a lot of crazy things in my life. And so my books are like diaries. They’re like grown woman diaries to my reader and I don’t hold anything back. So I think that my readers read this stuff and go, “I thought I was the only one looking at my ex-boyfriends on Facebook.” Or, “I thought I was the only one eating Nutella in the shower.” So all of these devotionals are like, “God, what do I do?” And then at the end there’s scripture and questions that say, “You are not alone.” That is the number one message of my book, you are not alone and here’s some coping mechanisms to get us through this and I talk about life hacks. I’m not uber-spiritual. I want to have quiet time with the Lord. Doesn’t always work out. So I get audio Bible so I can do laundry, multitask. I don’t think God’s mad at me for that. Just things to get us through. I feel like my books are survival guides for the women that read a lot of other Christian books and are completely overwhelmed.
RM: I think there is such power and vulnerability too. And you’re able to share that in a funny way, because there’s so much truth to it all. It’s universal because we are doing those things.
KP: I wrote a chapter called Diary, Dear Diary, because I found my old diaries and I’m not talking about just third grade. I was dumb enough to write stuff down in college, which is just really inappropriate. And so I wrote the whole chapter and then I said, “I really don’t want my mom to read this.” And when I was writing the book, I was at her house and she read the chapter and I swear I could be 35 or 40, I’m now five years old, she says, “I really didn’t think that was an appropriate chapter.” And I was like, “Well, that’s why it’s going in the book.” Because you’ve got to put that stuff out there because we are all not… I Kissed Dating Goodbye. We’re all not perfect. I’ve definitely had my ups and downs. And if God can love me and give success, not just worldly success, but success as a Christian, anybody can do this, just anybody, because if I compare myself to anybody in the Bible, it was the ones that complained. I hate it when Christians say you can’t complain, you always have to speak a positive word. I complain to God all the time, because I know David did it and He still liked David.
RM: Especially now, there are so many missed expectations and it’s so difficult to navigate that. You mentioned your ex-husband, who is a comedian as well, I’m sure your family looks different than you imagined it when you were writing in your diary when you were younger. So how do you navigate co-parenting?
KP: First of all, I thought my career was over when we got divorced, it was not my choice. I always have learned don’t judge anybody until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. We dealt with mental illness in my marriage. And until you’ve dealt with a spouse with bipolar, he had bipolar disorder, and still does… I just thought, It’s over. The Christian church is going to put a scarlet letter on me. Actually, it was just the opposite. I was very embraced and loved. We’ve managed to co-parent like a really quirky sitcom because we basically have been either under the same roof, living circumstantially during COVID or he’s been there even before COVID for the last five years constantly, the kids don’t move. They don’t go to another house. He wasn’t in a place to parent them at another house or there were times where he wasn’t working and it was God saying, “I’m going to change what this looks like, but it doesn’t mean that you don’t love him.” And, “I’m going to change the dynamics of this.” My divorce was heartbreaking.
I mean, yes, there was anger and all those things, but it was heartbreaking. “Why can’t bipolar be healed and why can’t it be managed to the point where we can live a functional life? And why is this falling apart?” Because I saw War Room, the Christian movie where the lady prayed for her husband and 43 minutes later, he walks back in the house with flowers. I did submit like all those pastors told me to, I did everything I could. I cried. He cried. So when it fell apart, it wasn’t functional to be married. I begged God to save my children. I said, “Please just save them from the divorce despair.” And I mean, right now he’s taking out my garbage and my kids are singing and they play… it’s not perfect and I now everybody can’t do that. I get it. It’s not the longterm plan, but he will always be someone that I truly can say that I love and that I care about. And I know that’s not a typical divorce scenario, but it’s what God gave me. No, we’re not getting back together until hell hosts the Winter Olympics, but I love him like a brother and he is a 50% parent when I travel and I have to do my job. I could not do that without him. I don’t care what other people think about it. It works today.
RM: We’re all in this time of forced slow down right now. A lot of reflection is happening, a lot of opportunity for new ventures… How do we face fears or challenges?
KP: I’ve faced a lot of fears. I faced a lot of challenges. I think being a frontline person of faith in Hollywood definitely puts a target on my back. I’ve had a lot of medical challenges, more in my life since I started doing comedy than I’ve ever faced. I mean kidney stones, and surgeries, and some crazy stuff. And when I’m in the biggest moments of pain, the one prayer that I can get out of my mouth or even think about it is, “I trust you.” It’s just, “God, I trust you.” Because I’ve learned after all these years that I’m going to get through it. Like Job got through it. In Isaiah 43, it says you will walk through the water and not drown. I’m going to get through. But I can’t predict how, and I can’t tell God how He’s going to do that. And there’s just that one prayer. “I trust you. I’m mad. I’m freaking out. I’m in pain, but I trust you.” And I text prayer requests to people all the time. The pipes burst in my house and I’m texting people, “Please pray right now.” Prayer is powerful. And don’t be afraid to ask. I’m not afraid to ask for anything. I’ll pray for whatever.
RM: Let’s talk a little bit about Hollywood. Whether we love it or hate it, the world is influenced by celebrity and the content produced. And now, there is even more bombarding us than before. How do you navigate it as a Christian?
KP: A couple of years ago, God blessed me with my dream job and I get to write movies for the Hallmark Channel. Talk about squeaky clean, it’s such a joy. I feel like Christians spend a lot of time trying to get in to the inner circles and the devil doesn’t want them there. And once they get there, he’ll do everything he can to get them off the path of being a Christian. Because I’ve seen it over and over and over. They [Christian actors] start out with the best of intentions… but it’s tempting. He’s [the devil] going to dangle the carrot. And especially if people are young in their faith, they will stumble. It breaks my heart when I see people that I know that are people of faith and then they go on TV, give an interview and during it talk about going to the strip club, even though they may even not go to the strip club, but they think that’s funny.
So the devil’s like, I just want you to compromise a little bit. So you lose all your credibility with your Christian fanbase… because you know Christians, they’re going to turn on you on a dime. I have stayed on that path. And several of my friends, I think Candace Cameron Bure is a great example of somebody who stayed on the path and not compromised. And I think it’s harder for us to work. I think it’s harder for us to get “in” because it’s a spiritual battle. If I’m on a set, you’re going to probably see me praying for people… I’m very passionate about wanting to be in secular environments, we can keep making movies for us [Christians] for our circles, and those are lovely. But we’re not going to dent society unless we can get outside of the bubble and make a difference outside of that. So I always continue to ask God, “If you’re going to make me live here and have passion for this community, give me more opportunity to be a light out in this town.” Like in sitcoms, or in movies, or in films, not because I want the fame and the fortune, but because I want to be somebody that some little girl can look to and say, “She’s a positive role model and she’s not over-sexualizing things. And she’s out of the closet about Jesus and she’s out of the closet about praising God.” But I think it’s interesting because I’m in my forties now. And I moved here in my twenties. I’ve had more influence in the past few years and it keeps growing. I think it’s because God had to train me up so that I’m strong enough to withstand this type of warfare that it truly takes to make a dent because so many people will get eaten up by the machine.
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