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Lesbian Comic to Appear at SF Comedy Day

by Sari Staver

Comedian Katherine Robinson
Comedian Katherine Robinson  

Los Angeles stand-up comic Katherine Robinson, aka Captain Katie, will make her first stage appearance in San Francisco Sunday, September 17 at the 37th annual Comedy Day in Golden Gate Park's Robin Williams Meadow (formerly Sharon Meadow).

Robinson, a lesbian, will appear in the event's first set of eight performers, each presenting a five-minute act, which will also be livestreamed at the Comedy Day website.

"I'm thrilled to be included in Comedy Day," Robinson said in a telephone interview with the Bay Area Reporter. After the show's lineup had already been finalized, the producers saw a video of Robinson performing in LA and "created an extra slot for me," she said.

Robinson, 31, is a seven-year U.S. Army veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. She was assigned to the 10th mountain division in Ft. Drum, New York, where she served in an aviation unit as a battle captain, responsible for her unit's helicopter missions during both of her combat deployments. She was awarded three Army commendation medals during her service and left the military honorably in June 2012.

Robinson began crafting her stand-up act during her Army career, writing and performing countless improvisational and sketch comedy acts she dubbed "Safety Briefs," which she said "brought humor to tedious and boring - but important - topics of military safety."

For Robinson, the urge to do stand-up had started many years before. Born and raised in Syracuse, New York, the third of four children, Robinson said she "grew up dreaming of making people laugh for a living."

As she recalled, "storytelling came easily," and she often came home with "elaborate stories" of what happened in a seemingly mundane day as well as "enthusiastic impersonations and full physical reenactments."

During Robinson's second year of college at Florida State University in Tallahassee, she joined Army Reserve Officer Training Corp, "the best decision of my life," she said.

A "natural athlete" her entire life, Robinson said she "excelled" in her military training and, within her first month in the program, was offered a full ROTC scholarship. So when she graduated from Florida State, Robinson was commissioned an officer in the Army, "one of the proudest moments of my life," she said. She spent the next seven years as a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear warfare officer.

When she left the service, she decided to focus on a career in acting and comedy. She moved to Los Angeles and has since been in film, on television, and in the theater. She has appeared on numerous occasions in LA at the World Famous Comedy Club and in New York City at the Greenwich Village Comedy Club. She has been featured on "The Queen Latifah Show" and on ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D," where she portrayed a female agent. Her most recent TV appearance was as a special guest interviewed on Pivot's "Take Part Live," hosted by Meghan McCain.

"People outside of Los Angeles are most likely to have seen me in the public service announcement 'Love Has No Labels,'" she said, "after it went viral on social media and had 35 million views in less than 48 hours." (Robinson is the woman on the right with short hair who comes out first at 0:46-1:04 in this link https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=967446766629515)

Homophobia

Robinson's stand-up act is based on retelling her "life experiences and observations," she said.

Some of those experiences reflect society's homophobia, she pointed out.

Robinson recalled an incident in April 2012 when she was "shoved across the dance floor to the ground" and called "an abomination" by her commanding officer, identified in military records as Command Sergeant Major Patrick McGuire, while she was slow dancing with her fiancee, another woman, at a military ball.

The incident with Robinson's commanding officer continued to reverberate after she left the military, she said. (McGuire could not be reached for comment.)

In 2015, after Robinson said a story about the incident was reported inaccurately, accusing Robinson of allegedly ruining the career of the officer involved in the earlier dustup, Robinson began receiving "hate mail" on her car. The threats escalated, she said, and after she received a note threatening to gang rape her, the police filed a report as a hate crime.

Soon after, Robinson said that a masked man who she believes targeted her for being a lesbian attacked her in her apartment building. She suffered a severe concussion, as well as cuts and contusions and had months of physical therapy.

Once she was back on the job acting and doing stand-up, Robinson saw that her story should be told to make people aware that "homophobia has not disappeared, to say the least," she said. "I don't think people realize that these type of hate crimes are still happening."

Despite the painful and long lasting effects of the assault, Robinson said that there was "one really amazing outcome: the outpouring of support from strangers and from veterans across the country from all backgrounds." She received emails from women in France and Great Britain, "telling me how I inspired them."

"I hope sharing my story can really make a difference in how the LGBT community is viewed and hopefully can also inspire change," she said.

As for her future goals, Robinson said she is "working on a screenplay that is based on my life."

Eventually, she said, "I'd love to headline my own shows and perhaps become a personality like Ellen (DeGeneres)."

Robinson thinks her own turnaround story will be inspiring to others, especially if she can make them laugh in the process.

"I want to make a difference in people's lives," she said. "If I can do that, I'll feel I have succeeded."


San Francisco Comedy Day runs from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.comedyday.org.

For more on Katherine Robinson, visit www.comedykatie.com

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