Interview: Comedian Carolyn Castiglia
Sex & Relationships When You're a Grown-Ass Woman
Carolyn Castiglia has been a dependable fixture in the NYC comedy scene for over a decade. Her quick wit and approachable openness about her life’s journey have helped her to build up an impressive and loyal following over the years. Whether she’s winning a rap battle, doing a tight set, or hosting her monthly show “Right NOW! with Carolyn Castiglia” over at Union Hall, it’s a pretty solid guarantee that she’s going to be the one in the room who’s bringing the house down! Between picking up her daughter from school before having to run off to perform somewhere, BanterGirl got to sit down with Carolyn to talk about her life in comedy, raising children, and what the future holds for her!
You are a mom, a comic, a writer, talk show host, and so much more. How do you have time for it all?
I don't! Haha. I am often buried in mounds of laundry and have to choose which things get done and which things get put on the back burner, like the pot of water I forgot about a few weeks ago that boiled until the bottom turned black. (Note: Stoves are a tool of the patriarchy and should be avoided at all costs.)
The way I sort of do it all, though, is by doing one thing every day. My therapist taught me this years ago and I share this all the time. She said, "You can't do every thing every day, Carolyn. So one day you write, and one day you clean, and one day you do something for your kid, and one day you do comedy, and one day you rest." And that's how life works for me. I mean of course I do multiple things every day—kid stuff, build my comedy career, whatever else I'm doing for money—but each day kind of has one main area of focus. Today is laundry day. Wish me luck.
When did you first know you wanted to be a comedian? What drew you to it?
I used to say I knew right away—my mother has the funniest vagina I've ever seen. But the truth is much more boring. (Though I'm sure my mother's vagina is hilarious.) I came up as a theatre kid, I have a BFA in musical theatre. I started doing cabaret after I moved to New York, and I loved writing funny patter and riffing with the audience. I had always loved stand-up from childhood, but I never knew there was a way to do it ‘til I saw this comedy class being advertised. I took it, and then from there I met a bunch of people and we all started producing bar shows in the heyday of the East Village. I started at Rififi, Mo Pitkins, and all those spots. I like to think of that time as the neo-vaudeville era. There were even more naked people and fake moustaches back then, if you can believe it.
As a grown ass woman, if you could travel back in time and give your 20 year old self one piece of advice what would it be?
Oh God. Uhhhhhh... one day this hell will all make sense to you, so just keep going? I don't know. I'm not a person who really has regrets, so I don't know that I'd do anything differently given the chance, but maybe I'd tell myself to stay in Chicago longer and see what happens there. I lived in Chicago for six months right after college, and I moved back to New York to be with the guy I eventually married. I believe in the "Sliding Doors" multiple universes thing, and I think the version of me that stayed in Chicago is out there somewhere, happy. I don't know if she's more successful, but she's at least eaten more hot dogs than I have.
You have an 11 year old daughter, how has this changed your career or your goals as a woman in comedy?
So much! Having a child has helped me focus in ways I couldn't have without her, both personally and professionally. Because I don't have another parent in the house (or the same city), it also limits the types of work I can take. I can't really work the road, for example. Though, I do get out a few times a year. I bring my daughter with me sometimes, both on road gig trips, and to shows in New York where I know the content/environment is safe. She's completely hilarious in a way that's much different than me, and she understands the business in a way I feel like I never will. For example, she's always asking me how much I'm getting paid. I'm like, uh, I don't know, 16 ounces? Depends on how generous the bartender is.
You are the host of Right NOW! with Carolyn Castiglia, a live talk show at Union Hall in Brooklyn, where you get some pretty amazing guests. Who has been your favorite person to interview?
I love my show, and I love talking to people, so every interview is my favorite. But, I think one of the most fascinating and important interviews I've done was with Karen Fratti, a writer who "came out" this summer as HIV positive. She's trying to erase the stigma around the disease. She's really honest and funny, and she had a whole crew of gals in the audience she pals with at their local bar. They shouted the name of it, but all I heard was Al-Anon. Shout-out to the HIV-positive ladies of Al-Anon!
Has being a recognizable staple of the New York comedy scene complicated your day to day life in the city?
Haha. Yes. I am mobbed all the time! By crazy people who can tell I'm a little off and think I'm one of them. No, I mean sometimes people do recognize me and it is very flattering. And it has also forced me to shower more.
What is next for you? Are there any upcoming projects that we should be watching out for?
I'm starting a podcast in 2017 with my kid. It's gonna be called Daughter Knows Best. She's smarter than me, but I'm more experienced, so I think we'll have a nice balance. We're going to tackle current events, pop culture, and interview other parents and kids. Plus we'll have a weekly cat report, because cats are a huge demographic. And I'll be asking her for career and life advice. She loves to stand over me while I'm swiping on dating apps and go, "No. no. NO WAY. No. Uh-huh. Nope. NEXT!" We're kind of like The Gilmore Girls meets Grey Gardens: a young mother and daughter exchanging snappy dialogue, surrounded by the inherent sadness of empty cat food tins.