Just before sunset, comedian Lisa Corrao loads up a backpack full of snacks and libations for the night ahead. She throws in a sweater in case it gets chilly. "And an umbrella," she says via phone from New York. "You can never forget an umbrella."
It's just another night on the laugh-track trail for Corrao, a Miami native who's been busy bouncing from stage to stage on New York's lively comedy scene since she moved there earlier this year. Tonight she's in the lineup at a show in the East Village, alongside big-name comedians Janeane Garofalo, Rachel Feinstein, and Michelle Collins.
Though her zip code might be in NYC these days, Corrao is still a powerful part of Miami's rising comedy crowd — traveling back for shows in her beloved hometown and its balmy climes whenever possible.
"I hate it," she says of Northeastern weather. "I prefer to get cold indoors in Florida in the air conditioning."
Just a decade ago, Corrao was a sixth-grade teacher at Silver Lakes Middle School in Pompano Beach. "I was a hilarious teacher," she says. "I'd be teaching lessons and making my students laugh and thinking, Hey, I'm killin' over here."
She felt like she was always "bursting" with funny material, so in 2005 she enrolled in a comedy class at the recently opened Fort Lauderdale Improv and prepared to take the stage. A few months later, during her first set, she knew she was destined to be a comedian.
"I was two jokes in, and I was like, I guess I'm quitting my job," she says.
Performing from South Miami to Fort Lauderdale, she dove into the South Florida comedy scene in earnest, quickly becoming a mainstay and a mentor to other up-and-coming comics. And she began to get noticed beyond the underground circuit. She was scouted by Nickelodeon's Funniest Mom in America competition (yes, she's a mom too) and flown to New York to perform at the Laugh Factory. She had been a comedian for only a few months then, but she ended up a finalist.
Recently, she's performed at shows including Comedy Central's South Beach Comedy Festival, the Women in Comedy Festival, and the Boston Comedy Festival. She played a witch in eight episodes of another Nickelodeon show, Every Witch Way. And she's working with the Miami Heat to film short sketches to be played during games.
A self-described nerd, Corrao loves performing at Comic Con events and talking about videogames, collecting toys, and "nerdy weird shows," including SiriusXM's It's Erik Nagel, hosted by the former producer of Opie & Anthony, where she's a regular guest.
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This year, Patton Oswalt approached her at the South Beach Comedy Festival and asked her to be one of his opening acts. "I was floored," she says. "He thinks I'm really funny... I'm like, What?"
Her next goals include a coveted spot on Conan or The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and launching into more TV work, including writing for shows.
But for now, she's having fun sharing the stage with comics like Louis CK, Chris Rock, and Ray Romano at hole-in-the-wall New York clubs.
"This is the coolest I've ever been," she says.