The Irrepressible Positivity of Katina Corrao

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When listening to Katina Corrao’s recent debut album, Hot Date, adjectives like bubbly and cheerful come to mind, despite the fact that her material focuses heavily on self-deprecation and her perceived flaws. But it’s her ability to power through said flaws that makes up her onstage persona, a persona that parallels her real-life outlook. The NYC-based comedian and actress credits her early career naiveté as one of the factors that brought her to where she is now, a working performer who hosts Lasers in the Jungle — a weekly standup show at UCB East — and has made appearances on shows like Broad City and the Pete Holmes Show. I talked to the unceasingly positive Corrao about her album, her hilarious (but totally sincere) early headshots, and the business of good vibes.

You’ve been doing this for about ten years, right?

Consistently, standup for about ten years, yeah. I hear people say that they’ve been doing standup for a year and that feels like yesterday for me. It’s human nature for all of us to want to be somewhere greater than where we are, but — and it really sounds cliché and lot of the things I say are — it really is about focusing on being the best performer that you can be. If that means that you are where you are for two years and it doesn’t seem that you’ve made any movement, know that you really are. Every little thing, every show, every joke you write is getting you to that next step. It’s hard not to compare yourself to other people. But you have to stay focused and stay true to who you are.

You just released your debut album.

Yeah! It’s really exciting for me. I don’t think I’ll ever be the “too cool for school” person, so things like this really get me excited. I’m really proud of it. I’m so giddy about it.

Did you decide that it was time for you to do this and proceeded with it as a DIY project or did someone approach you about doing it?

It was very much a DIY project. I will say that a huge amount of credit goes to my friend and collaborator Shonali Bhowmik. She was a member of Variety Shac, which was a really successful sketch group. She’s a friend that I met doing comedy. We met at an audition. She really encouraged me to get this album off the ground. It felt like time to me too, but she had a huge hand in being like, “Come on, let’s do this.” It was her recording company that produced the album. It’s really nice to meet a person who is a fellow comedian who is encouraging you to get it off the ground. On the other hand, I really did feel that it was time to do it. Especially in the past three years, I’ve felt that I’ve really honed who I am onstage. I still have a long way to go, but I felt like, “This is a good place. I like where I’m at. I like what I’m doing. Let’s start.” It’s always hard to start. It’s hard to make that decision to do it.

You said that in the last three years you feel like you’ve honed your persona, but that you still have a ways to go. Where do you think you’ll be in three more years? Or, because it’s hard to predict, where would you like to be?

I would really just like to be working. I love performing standup. My passion is comedic acting, so I feel that my standup has allowed me to create and come alive onstage. I hope to be performing or acting in something. I want to be involved in the community. New York has such a great performing community. To me, when someone thinks of you for something, that’s the greatest compliment. “They saw me do standup and want me to be in their web series?” I love that. I want to be a part of this community for a long time.

So often in entertainment people see potential projects come and go. You get your hopes up about a script or a pilot, only to have it not get picked up. It happens a lot and it can be hard to deal with that rejection and disappointment. But it seems like your outlook could help you get through those periods. You’re happy to just get noticed or invited.

I hope so. I mean this when I say it: attitude really is a lot of it. I think that when you’re confident in what you do and who you are as a performer, it’s easy to maintain that positive attitude because you attract people who have the same positivity. I know some of the greatest, hardworking people who are out there and they’re the most generous people when it comes to including other comedians and helping somebody. I think it’s a testament to how confident you are. People think, “Oh, the entertainment business is so cutthroat.” I get it. I’m not Pollyanna. But there really are good people who want to see you succeed and I feel the same way about the people I surround myself with. I’m happy for my friends. I think if you look at in a way where you’re inspiring people and it’s not about competition… we’re all working for the same goal. Let’s do it harmoniously.

That’s refreshing. Ideally, I would like to subscribe to that as well. However, sometimes things happen where you feel like, “If I was a little more forward, a little more aggressive, threw a couple of elbows, maybe I would have gotten that opportunity.” Do you ever have moments where you look back and wish that you had been a little more competitive?

I’m sure I’ve done that, but I really do try to… we’ve all had those moments, especially for me in booking commercials. I’ll watch TV and be like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe…” But then you bring it back to yourself and it’s like, “Okay. My time is going to come. Everybody has their time.” Friendly competition is always good because it keeps you motivated, but I don’t think you should allow it to get you so down in the dumps and so angry. Just get rejected and let it pass.

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I wanted to ask about these old headshots of yours. If you Google your name a Huffington Post article comes up with a bunch of hilarious pictures you had done. Where you trying to showcase characters you could do, or were some of these actual fashion choices you made?

The great thing about the headshots and why they make me laugh so much is that it was true sincerity. I wasn’t trying to be like, “I’m going to have this cheerleading picture and be crazy kooky.” It was, “I want to show these casting directors my range.” The one where I had the bleach blonde hair, in my head I was a model. That’s what’s so funny about them. I had such conviction. If you can go past the dead in my eyes you can see the conviction of, “This is a business that I can tackle and once they see me, they’re going to be blown away.” I remember my mom took me to all the sessions and afterward we high-fived each other like, “I nailed it!” It wasn’t until years later that I was like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe that I actually sent these out.”

Has your family always been supportive of your goals even when you might have been doing something misguided?

They were. It is such a testament to my parent’s passion for wanting me to be happy and wanting me to have whatever career I wanted. I remember after college I said, “This is what I want to do.” They were totally on board and wanted to help as much as they could. For many years my mom would bake cookies for me to bring to my auditions because I thought that was a good idea. Why not? She would ship the cookies to New York. They were always so supportive. I’m not going to say that you have to have that, because everyone has their own story. But for me it was awesome to, at the end of the day, have a family that really backed me. They didn’t know any better either. They saw those pictures and said, “You’re going to do it!” Nobody could get as green as I was when it came to this business. I didn’t know left from right, up from down when it came to auditioning, standup, anything. It was so eye opening. I look back now and think, “Wow. I’m so happy that I didn’t know anything.” I just went in full force. I went into it like, “I’m going to go to this audition in my pajamas and they’re going to laugh and they’re going to love it.” Of course they didn’t love it. But to me, I only gave 110%. Even though it’s embarrassing now to think of the things I did, I feel like I can always say, “Well, you definitely tried your hardest.”

Photo by Mindy Tucker.

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