Ask anyone in show business, and they’ll tell you that the path to success is lined with delusion, hope, and hard work. It’s a combination that NYC-based comedian/actor/writer Katina Corrao knows rather well.
After 10 years of putting herself out there through standup comedy—a passion she didn’t know she had until she started doing it—Corrao recently released her first comedy album, Hot Date. She asks obvious questions about dating, pokes fun at her showbiz aspirations, experiences rejection, and explores the ridiculousness of naming a store Dress Barn. Her high-energy on-stage persona is relatable and self-deprecating while remaining emotionally honest.
“Quite a bit of my comedy is about looking at life from the outside,” says Corrao. “It’s like when people say, ‘Oh, I had a hot date!’ and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, did you get to stay in and watch Dateline in your pajamas?’ I want to go on more ‘hot dates,’ but the essence of me is pajama-wearing and watching murder shows.”
Such is Corrao’s sensibility. It’s less acquired taste and more required taste, probably because everyone needs pajamas and TV in their lives. With such a strong comedic character and point of view, it’s surprising to learn that she didn’t even mean to become a standup comedian. In fact, she originally moved to New York City to become an actress. Upon arrival, she immediately got involved with the UCB Theatre, where she started doing one-person shows. Though she thought being an actor and improviser were her main performance gifts, she ended up in standup through a pretty natural progression.
“When you do a one-person show, you have to get the theater and fill it,” she says. “Standup for me was a way to perform a little more frequently, and hone who I am on stage.”
Even though standup’s popularity has increased since the alternative comedy scene characterized in the 2005 documentary The Comedians of Comedy, it still has a reputation for being a mean-spirited, dude-dominated world. This is one of the stereotypes that Corrao found to be completely untrue, especially as she became more immersed in the standup world.
“I got feedback from fellow comedians that helped me figure out who I was on stage and what I wanted to talk about,” she explains. “The community was so welcoming. It sort of was the complete opposite of what I thought it would be, which is this crazy, dark club room where I didn’t think I was gonna fit in because I didn’t talk about things that even I thought would be interesting.”
As a comedic actress, she’s landed roles on Broad City and Unforgettable, and also worked as a warm-up comic on The Jenny McCarthy Show. Her very funny webseries The Good Neighbor Minute stars her as the really annoying neighbor who doesn’t take exit cues. The concept for that series was inspired by her mom’s stories about showing up at neighbors’ houses unannounced, and the Mrs. Poole character from the sitcom The Hogan Family.
In one episode, she ends up at the apartment of Eliot and Ilana Glazer (Broad City), and isn’t quite able to see herself out.
“She’s that person who you invite over and then they’re like, ‘Can I just stay over?’” says Corrao. “It’s just the worst thing. I’m a pretty open, friendly person, but I’m like, ‘Please do not come to my house unannounced.’ If someone came to your house, it would be like, ‘Do you need something?’”
She’s inspired by comedians like Ellen DeGeneres, Jim Gaffigan, Judy Gold, Louis C.K., and Chris Rock. For Corrao, it’s less about the material and more about the energy and passion they bring to their on-stage persona.
“When I see comedians up on stage, no matter what their thought process is or what they’re talking about, I see that passion and feel attracted to that,” she says. “I get up on stage and I get excited. I don’t care if I have three minutes or 45 minutes—I feel so happy and excited when I’m on stage. When I see that in another comedian, I could watch them forever.”
There’s a down-to-earth, reality-based side to Corrao’s personality, however, and that comes from knowing about show business. No one goes into this business without a goal of anything less than becoming famous, yet as time passes the reality of working sets in. Corrao says that, for her, the main goal is really just to continue working and using her gifts.
“I know some people say, ‘I wanna star in a movie!’ But for me, it could just be a freakin’ Windex commercial,” she says. “Voiceover, movie parts, doesn’t even have to be anything huge, so long as I’m able to use whatever it is to the best of my ability.”
That seems so modest for a comedian like Corrao, who has loud feelings and a big personality. She’s obviously holding back.
“Well, my short-term goal is, I am dying to work with Louis C.K. in something,” she admits. “I love him so much. Anytime you watch or hear something he does, you are moved emotionally, you have a reaction, and I think that’s such a brilliant characteristic.”