When Katie Cazorla and I connect by phone, she’s in great spirits, enjoying the lull that accompanies the aftermath of the holiday season in Los Angeles. She’s back home in the city for a brief stint before embarking on an upcoming a string of shows at the Tropicana Laugh Factory in Las Vegas with Bill Dawes February 17th through the 23rd.
What inspired you to move from New York to Los Angeles and pursue a career in comedy?
I went to college at The University of Kentucky and there was this club where you could win a pitcher of beer for your table if you got up on stage and told a joke. Whoever got the biggest crowd reaction would win. All my friends were like, “You’re funny, you should go up there and tell a joke.” So I got up there and told a joke about lesbians, an “anybody can be a lesbian” type of thing. Everybody laughed and I won the beer. The club owner then suggested I come back every week as “a ringer” to get the crowd going. So I was basically a fluffer.
Some agent ended up seeing me there—Janie Olmstead—from Images Model & Talent Agency. She was like, “You have something. I’m going to this competition in Los Angeles, you should come. I’ll take you and we’ll see what happens.” I ended up going and winning my division. I still have the trophies. Anyway, I got signed. It was February of 1999. I flew back to college, said fuck college, packed up my shit in Elmira that summer and drove cross-country to Los Angeles.
But it wasn’t easy. I lived in my car for two months. I was desperate for work but couldn’t get a job because I didn’t have a place to live. Every application I filled out people were like, “Where do you live?” And I was like, “In my car! Wherever the back parking lot is.” It was awful.
My first job was at Dimples, which was this karaoke bar in Burbank. Then I got a job at Barney’s Beanery in West Hollywood hosting karaoke. At the same time, I would do stand-up at Dublin’s, which was the go to [comedy] place back in the day.
Oh, when Dane Cook was coming up.
Dane was actually my neighbor on Crescent Heights. He would walk me home sometimes from Dublin’s, which was super nice of him. Then he got weird and famous. I don’t know what happened, I think some bad shit happened to him, but then he had his resurgence and actually ended up doing my birthday show at The Laugh Factory [this past] September. It was nice. Like full circle. It’s been a wild ride. I can’t believe I lived.
How did The Painted Nail start?
I had been doing stand-up for like ten years and the one thing I hated was seeing female comics holding microphones with busted nails. It’s like a really crazy type-A thing. I’d always get my nails done, but these places in Los Angeles were like gas stations: on every block, grody, quick and cheap. I was over it. So I decided to go to nail school, get my license and open my own place. Do it the way I’d want to do it, you know?
I found a space in Studio City, right on the cusp of Sherman Oaks off Ventura Boulevard. I was watching the movie “The Painted Veil” and my husband – who was my boyfriend at the time – was like, “You should call your shop ‘The Painted Nail,’” and I was like, “Great idea!” I took all these chairs out of my house [and brought them in] and we installed a bar so people could drink for free. You’d sit in these big comfy chairs, drink free cocktails and get your nails done. Within three months, we had all these celebrities coming in. I got offered a tv show. At my grand opening party, Kenny G played in the parking lot. It was the craziest thing.[The Painted Nail] turned into this reality show called “Nail Files,” which was produced by the people behind “Jersey Shore” and broke all these records. It was the highest rated show and the most watched show in the history of TV Guide Network. 1.2 million viewers on premiere night. It was absolutely insane and it sort of launched everything for me.
How has cannabis played a role in your success and the success of your businesses?
I was never a weed person until I went to Rose Day. They gave out these Beboe pens, which are supposed to be “happy” sativa based pens. I took a little puff and was like, “This is the best I’ve felt in fucking years.” I then got the dosist “bliss” pen, which I’m obsessed with. They’re low dose and great for someone who isn’t a “weed” person. ‘Cause, you know. California will fuck you up. There’s no more picking out seeds and stems. I’m from upstate New York where the weed was like oregano. People from upstate aren’t trained on drugs. Then you move to Los Angeles, and literally everyone here does some drug, if not all of them, at different points of the day.
I’ll never forget, I drove home one day and I look up at the recording studio on our property and Warren G is standing on the balcony. My husband’s a record producer and [Warren] came to collaborate on some project. Anyway, he’s out on the balcony smoking weed. I think he has his own brand. And he was like, “Have a hit.” And I’m like, I can’t say “no” to Warren G. I took the tiniest hit off this contraption and it fucked me up so bad. To the point where I was like, “I know all the words to all your songs.” I ended up rapping every single lyric of every Warren G song, singing all the Nate Dogg parts. And he was totally into it. We were laughing, going back and forth. When it was his part, I would look at him, and he would do his part. It was memorable, from what I can remember. But I was really fucked up.
And here’s the thing about people in Los Angeles who smoke weed. If you’re at a party and someone has a [weed] pen in really cool packaging, everyone wants to try it, and yet half the time, no one knows what’s in it. People are so quick to try. What if it was weed mixed with meth? But people just go for it. You don’t even know what’s in it. I think that’s the craziest thing, especially being out here with the strains being so strong. I feel like you’re asking for it when you decide, “Hey, I’m just going to put my mouth on this stranger’s pen and suck off of it.” Whatever comes out of that, whatever happens to you, you asked for it. So if you wake up and your sheets are bloody, with a scar on your back, that’s your problem. Know what you’re wrapping your mouth around.
I was up in Tahoe a couple months ago, and a friend of mine’s niece was like, “I have anxiety and [this pen] helps me calm down.” And I love those pens, so I took a hit. But it was one of those weird millennial “dragon” pens, where the tiniest little inhale produces this frightening “puff the magic dragon” cloud.” I was so fucked up, I thought I was going to die. My head was detaching from my neck. That’s how fucked up I was. My friend was like, “You need to chew black peppercorn.”
Is that really a thing?
It’s a thing. Oh my God, back in the seventies when everyone used to smoke weed, all the recording artists would chew black peppercorns when they’d get super fucked up recording their albums. It would bring their buzz back down so they could answer questions and be normal.
So I was chomping on these full black peppercorns and it worked! But it’s temporary. It gets rid of that edge, that feeling like the room is spinning and you’re going to die.
No one’s ever died from pot, but you’re about to be the first.
There’s a first for everything. And I thought I was going to be one of those people. But I lived. Never again. That’s what I’m saying. Don’t fucking take hits off random people’s pens. Trust the guy who works at the store and that’s it. Smoke what you know.
How has your comedic perspective evolved during your time in Los Angeles?
In the beginning, I was poor and was trying to find myself, so of course my comedy was based on that. Now, I’m married. I have step-kids. One of those children just had a baby. I mean she’s 28, but that makes me a step-grandma.
I’m more of an observationalist. I don’t really do dirty jokes. Good on female comics who do, but I don’t feel the need to talk about my asshole bleaching or vagina licking or anything to get laughs. I can bring jokes that are relatable and funny that don’t make the crowd feel like, “Oh my God.” [The jokes] aren’t a desperate reach to make people laugh.
Do you view the platform of being a stand-up as something other than just making people laugh?
My goal is to make people feel good, laugh, and have an impression of me that is always in the realm of, “Oh my God, she’s so fun.” One of those crazy funny people. A party starter. I always want people to be excited that I’m there. I don’t want people to be like, “Oh God, here she comes.” Or think I’m crazy in a bad way. There’s nothing wrong with being crazy if you’re fun and want to blow it out and have a good time. But don’t be crazy scary. Be crazy and fun. The people who are fucking crazy—not in a good way—are the people who need weed. They need weed and they need Jesus.
And it’s those two things they resist the most.
The ones who always need weed are the ones who are like, “Oh, I don’t do that type of drug.” And you’re like, “It’s a fucking plant.” Here’s something I don’t understand. So like, weed is legal. For the most part. Because it’s a plant and it has benefits. Did you that cocaine, like the coca leaf…those plants, if you pull a leaf off and you chew it, you get energy. So why can’t I grow coca leaves in my yard? And by the way, nobody dies from chewing a coca leaf and nobody dies from smoking weed, but people die everyday in the thousands from cigarettes and alcohol.
And from opiates.
I think pills are so dangerous. Seeing people that have literally gone from having back surgery to taking norcos, to ending up being heroin addicts and homeless…it can happen to anyone. But people don’t end up homeless on the streets when they take a hit off a Sunday Goods pen. No one is going to go suck a dick in a corner to microdose sativa off of a dosist pen. And if you’re going to, you need Jesus.
Check out and follow @officialkatiecazorla for tickets and tour dates.