Katina Corrao’s big, bubbly personality—what she describes as the “girl next door” to the “girl next door”—is equal parts cheerful and self-deprecating. Really, she’s cheerful about being self-deprecating. On Hot Date, she’s nothing but the butt of her own jokes.
It’s immediately clear that Corrao’s style is a bit different than what you might expect from the stand-up comedy scene these days. She takes a light-hearted approach to an often darker art form, willing to examine all the subjects that make being a woman in the 21st century so challenging: dating, weight, career, but from a whimsical, “can-don’t” perspective.
The problem is that she rarely delves deeply into these topics. Where other comics spin a yarn, building upon a story in hilarious ways because of the depth they’re willing to invest into it, Corrao limits herself to what feel more like one-liners.
Relying heavily on comedic misdirection, a style Amy Schumer once used often during her early days and which comics like Anthony Jeselnik still use now (to far different effect), Corrao has fun playing with expectations. “I don’t want to brag, but I recently lost ten pounds,” she tells her audience, who excitedly hoot and holler for her achievement. Pause, wait for it. “Well, I say ten pounds, but it’s actually two five-pound weights.”
A few such jokes aren’t the end of the world, but when they comprise the majority of a 21st century stand-up comic’s album without diving below the surface to any extent, the laughs fall flat. Talking about her love life, she says, “Last night, this really, really handsome man made me dinner. I know, it was really sweet. It was at Benihana on Route 9.”
Corrao prides herself on being a comic who over shares and therefore gains laughs through shared commiseration. The issue, though, is that her jokes stick to the surface. Corrao doesn’t really exist in them besides the stereotypical single female she portrays: She loves to eat, hates working out and wonders why her friends are having kids. What makes her unique, besides her effervescent personality, doesn’t come across.
Corrao has all the power and energy to be the goofy aunt who shows up at Thanksgiving dinner with too many wild stories about things no one wants to hear. Instead, she relegates her comedy to well-trodden material that is clever in its wordplay, but doesn’t offer much otherwise. She feels like a comic out of time, like somebody who should be entertaining our grandparents at a dinner theater in the 1960s. Nostalgia works with a lot of art forms, but stand-up might not be one of them.
Amanda Wicks is a freelance writer specializing in comedy and music. Follow her on Twitter @aawicks.