It was practically on a dare that Karinda Dobbins first stepped onstage at an open mic in Oakland to do standup. “It was really because my friend asked me to do it,” Dobbins says. “I didn’t want to go back on my word when I said I would.”
And from that first night, she says, “like every comedian you’ve ever heard on planet Earth, the hook was in. It’s kind of like heroin, crack, all that stuff. It’s like one hit, that’s all it takes for you to be chasing that feeling of being onstage, making people laugh.”
At the time, the Detroit native was living in the Bay Area, doing well at a job in biotech, yet ready to commit to honing her comedy craft. “I did both of them for 10 years, so I was definitely doing that 9-to-5 life, and then that 8-to-12 life as a comic. And it was difficult.” Fortunately, coming up in the Oakland comedy scene, Dobbins was taken under wing by mentors who showed her the industry ropes. And Dobbins’ family had her back when she finally made the leap from her 9-to-5 into standup.
“I think people in my family already knew that I was funny, so me being funny on stage was not a jump for them at all,” she says. “They’re like, ‘Oh, that’s the logical conclusion to that.’ Me coming out as a lesbian? They were like, ‘What?! Like, you have a daughter with a guy. So what’s happening here?’”
In both coming out experiences, the dust settled just fine, eventually. “But I would say that the lesbian one was more rocky, for sure.”
On her debut comedy album Black & Blue, Dobbins jokes about coming out to her family as a sister who loves the great outdoors.
In a sharp yet laidback set, recorded live in fall 2021, the comic takes on everything from “hiking while Black” and code-switching in corporate America, to countering COVID crazies and auditioning for lesbian sidekick roles now that she’s made the move to L.A.
“I think casting directors think that that’s probably a natural transition, right?” she says. “If I’m a lesbian in my standup, I could be a lesbian in a pilot or a sitcom or whatever. It’s just that that’s not all that I can do.
“I think what happens with POCs, we kind of get pigeon-holed, whereas white people, they get a swath of things that people think that they can do. And I don’t even know if I’m talented enough to do it, but I was like, I see mediocre white dudes doing all kinds of stuff. So give me a chance. I would certainly love the opportunity to play a lesbian character, I’m not saying I wouldn’t, but I’m just saying I would like to try to be other things as well.”