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Comedy, Life and Health Insurance: A Talk with the Legendary Recovery Comic Karin Babbitt
Recovery Comedians, Comics Anonymous, Recovery Comedy, Recovery Comic, Clean and Sober Comedy

In 1976, Karin Babbitt was a 21-year-old emerging from juvenile delinquency and chronic substance abuse. After a series of miracles she found herself clean and finally free to pursue her dream - to be a stand-up comic.

Karin became a fixture at the Comedy Store in Hollywood throughout the 80's, working the Main Room with Robin Williams, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Roseanne. Karin went on to play Vegas and do spots for MTV, VH-1, A&E and many network talk shows. She also had the opportunity to write for a number of television sitcoms and pilots and was a guest on numerous radio shows.

By 1992, Karin had two children and a struggling marriage so she decided to mentor young artists as a high school teacher. Stand-up comedy continues to be the guiding force in her life - here she is free to reveal the raw truth about being a woman in recovery trying to function in a clean world.

Recovery Comedy:  What were you like as a kid?

Karin Babbitt:  According to my mother, I was, “one of those kids who was always testing you.”

I remember being androgynous.  I loved Barbies and mud pies. I also needed to be Paul McCartney when we played Beatles, rather than a screaming groupie.  I skipped two grades.  I was five in the Second grade and graduated at sixteen…barely.  I say “barely” because my grades were passable, but I had too many unsatisfactory marks in behavior to legally graduate according to county rules.  They graduated me anyway to get rid of me.  I was suspended a myriad of times, usually for disrespect. They never caught on to the substance abuse or the vandalism.  They never found out about the fire in the bathroom either.  I mean, they had to evacuate, but they didn’t know it was me.  I didn’t want to go to class and didn’t want to get caught cutting, so I committed arson instead.  You can decide things like that if you are high enough.  After graduation I moved into a tent.

Recovery Comedy:  What made you decide to become a stand-up comedian and how long have you been performing?

Karin Babbitt:  It was never a decision.  I was watching Ed Sullivan when I was a kid, and I saw Stiller and Meara, Rodney Dangerfield, Richard Pryor, Joan Rivers, and I knew I had found my fit. The rest of my life was just mandatory shit I had to get out of the way so that I could be left alone to become a stand-up.  

I started stand up in 1979.  I have taken an extensive mostly-break from 1992 until 2012 because I had to be a high school teacher, finishing raising my kids and earn health insurance.  I have been performing on stage in plays and musicals since I was eight, so nearly 100 years.

Recovery Comedy:  Were you performing stand-up comedy before you got into recovery?

Karin Babbitt:  No.  I was sneaking into the Comedy Store before I got clean, but I didn’t try to work there until I got two years under my belt.  I was miserable not going for it, but back then being a clean comic was non-existent.   Everyone said I’d get loaded. Then they started asking for passes to shows.

Recovery Comedy:  Does your comedy have a message and if so what is it?

Karin Babbitt:  The message is that I am insane and uninhibited.  I am told that I have “the kind of act anyone can steal” as it is largely non-gender specific.  It is the rant of a lunatic and I feel a whole lot better when I am done.  Also, I have a lot of characters and voices that come out because people are ridiculous and I enjoy mocking them.  It’s cathartic and a good way to purge my resentments.

Recovery Comedy:  Who are your comedy idols?

Karin Babbitt:  George Carlin and Fundamentalist Anythings.

Recovery Comedy:  Where does your inspiration for material come from?

Karin Babbitt:  Watching stupid people trying to function in a stupid world, including myself.

Recovery Comedy:  What is your joke writing process?

Karin Babbitt:  I make lists and categories of things I know, and then look for exaggerations, reverses and characters to tell the tale.

Recovery Comedy:  What is your kryptonite?

Karin Babbitt:  People who are manipulative and those who are not plain-spoken. (i.e. Devious motherfuckers)

Recovery Comedy:  Is your family supportive of your comedy career?

Karin Babbitt:  What family? Oh, yeah. My dog hates it when he has to go to the kennel, but he seems to enjoy his dog food. It’s a trade off.

Recovery Comedy:  Is comedy part of your healing process?

Karin Babbitt:  Absolutely.  If you can’t capitalize on your resentments, you will surely get loaded.  Truly, I have to laugh at the nightmare I call being alive or I’ll quit.

Recovery Comedy:  What was your worst experience performing comedy?

Karin Babbitt:  Bombing hugely pregnant and trying to run away to my car afterwards.

Then there was the time I returned a heckle to a Middle Eastern club patron who didn’t feel women should be onstage.  I asked him who his wife likes to pretend he is when they are having sex.  He went to kill me afterwards.  I hid, literally, behind the bar in between the legs of the bartender.  It was wet down there.  (That’s what she said. I hate me.)

Recovery Comedy:  What was your best experience performing comedy?

Karin Babbitt:  NA had a 50th Anniversary of NA show in Monterey a number of years ago. Huge house, the riffing just poured out of me from I don’t know where. I killed in front of my people.  It was heaven on earth.  Killing at the Punchline and in the Mainroom at the Comedy Store was wonderful too.

Recovery Comedy:  What is your favorite joke?

Karin Babbitt:  My ex.

Recovery Comedy:  What is your comedy dream?

Karin Babbitt:  I write a brand new hour that kills and I am on a major stage, packed house…and then I get health insurance.

Recovery Comedy:  Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions Karin.  We wish you lots of success and health insurance!  Looking forward to working with you again.

To find out more information about Karin Babbitt or to book her for your next Recovery Event just click here!

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