Lisa Corrao is a stand-up on the rise. The Miami-based teacher turned stand-up comic hit the comedy scene 8 years ago and is now a headliner. She will be at The Laughing Devil Comedy Club in Long Island City tomorrow night and we caught up with Lisa to discuss her career transition.
YS) What was your journey like going from teaching to stand-up?
LC) I’ve always wanted to do something creative and at first I thought I wanted to be a script writer, which I still do, and I write scripts, but I figured I should be responsible and get a real job and have a salary where I can still be a writer and have summers off – I figured that would be perfect. So that’s what I did – I taught for 5 years, 6th grade public school system in South Florida, and I taught kids in the ghetto, so it was really rough and they were all bigger than me and scary and I had students who were on house arrest so they had ankle bracelets on which is weird because I never knew they could still go to school. If they were on house arrest I thought there was some home school set up, but no, they come to school and they’re proud that they’re on house arrest to show it off. Those were the kinds of kids that I had, so I guess I kind of got burned out because I had to break up fights and it was really hard core.
YS) So you felt a bit like Michelle Pfeiffer?
LC) Yeah, but I was way funnier. I was the funny version, because that’s like, there’s something interesting about teaching – school is just so boring inherently and I would make my lessons very funny and the worst kids would pay attention to you if you’re making them laugh, so that was my strategy with teaching. I would tell my students all the time, you’re gonna see, I’m going to be a stand-up comedian one day, and I really meant that – they thought I was kidding, but I was like no, I really wanna do that. So one day I went to an open mic and I just started going to open mics and I loved it secretly, so much. I was like, man, I really wanna quit teaching and just do this, so here I am now, it’s about 8 years later.
YS) Are there similar elements between teaching and stand-up comedy?
LC) There’s a lot of elements that are kind of the same. You’re trying to get a room full of people to pay attention to you and they don’t necessarily want to, and especially when you first start comedy, audiences are almost against you when you’re doing a lot of open mics. In bars people aren’t usually paying attention. It’s that fight to get their attention, so it’s really kind of the same thing. What’s funny about teaching and telling my kids that I was gonna be a comedian – you’re supposed to be 11th in 6th grade, but a lot of my kids were like 15 because they had been kept back so many times, so I have a lot of former students who are fans now, it’s really cool.
I really came with a small following of an odd collection of people, but they really love me. I really loved my students and there was a lot that I loved about teaching, but it burns you out. If you’re really a teacher who legitimately cares and puts in the effort it will drain your energy and it’s emotionally draining and so challenging in every way. It’s hard to be a good teacher. It’s easy to be a teacher, but if you want to be a teacher that’s hands on and really tries to help every single kid, it’ll just drain the life out of you.
It gives you street cred in a lot of things I find. There are definitely people who hear I’m a stand-up comic and they’re like ‘whoa, it takes a lot of balls to do that,’ and I’m like ‘not really.’
YS) What’s your experience been like working with Steve Hofstetter of the Laughing Devil?
LC) He’s a really funny comic and he’s also this great businessman which is a combination you don’t often see. He’s just such a Type A personality that his club is run like a well-oiled machine and I love it. I’m excited that I got to meet him and he saw my comedy and thinks I’m funny because I think he’s a tough guy to impress.