Comic draws from Roseanne, real life for stand-up routine


Zachary Strain

After an acting stint in Los Angeles, comic Katie Pengra is now a regular performer at The Velveeta Room on Friday nights.

Kelly Eisenbarger

A recent stand-up show at the Velveeta Room included all sorts of funny, but Katie Pengra’s funny stood out amongst the other locals. Whether it was waxing about the shape of her moles or detailing the intricacies of scraping Cheetos dust off her fingers with her teeth, Pengra’s comedy felt more human than most other comics’ overly-rehearsed spiel.

Local comic Bob Khosravi feels that Pengra’s connective human element comes from “a sweet welcoming charm that enables her to explore darker premises without losing her audience.”

When it was mentioned that Pengra’s fourth Google image result was a picture of Roseanne Barr holding a machine gun, her face cracked a wide smile. It seems Pengra has quite the affinity for Miss Barr.

“I love Roseanne so much mainly because my dad forbade me from watching [‘Roseanne’] growing up for it being so trashy,” Pengra said. “As an adult, I appreciate that it showed the parents constantly struggling with employment and kids being fuck-ups. But Roseanne Barr herself is just a loud-mouth and one of the first female comics to come out of the ‘80s comedy boom and be super successful.”

Pengra loved the show was about Middle America and how it was one of the first shows that encapsulated what it meant to be a blue-collar working family. Her love for the show runs skin deep as she inked the crossroad signs of 3rd Avenue and Delaware Street from the opening credits on her rib cage with the words proletariat underneath.

Pengra said she did not like the term “comedienne.” She said that most comedians refer to themselves as being comics and the term “comedienne” sounds like you might just have a speech impediment. She feels that the gendered terms for artists, i.e. actor and actress, seem antiquated as most go by comic and actor nowadays.

Pengra started comedy in 2011, yet it feels like old hat when she is on stage. According to Pengra, a performance background is what brings that natural feeling to her stand up.

“Yeah, comedy was always something I wanted to try,” Pengra said. “I had performed with either debate or theatre since high school and after college I went to LA to be an actor and joined a comedy group.”

After tiring of Los Angeles, Pengra moved to Austin in 2010. She explained that she and her roommate in Austin decided one night, the night she broke up with a boyfriend, to hit up an open mic night at Kick Butt Coffee. “You know you always take out a friend when they break up with someone, well, I wanted my break-up dinner to be stand-up,” Pengra explained.

Friend and fellow comic Roxy Castillo has seen Pengra since the very beginning of her comedic career.

“She’s personable, like your best friend from middle school just shooting the shit and telling a story on stage,” Castillo said. “She’s grown leaps and bounds since she first started in the Austin comedy scene. She has developed her voice and confidence beautifully in the last year and what I respect about her is that she’s a go-getter.”

Pengra imparted that getting to know people and building rapport is a huge part of doing comedy in this town. Trying the Funniest Person in Austin competition is also a huge step to getting recognition as Comedy Central and other networks show up to take a look at the comics’ sets. Pengra’s second attempt at the competition won her best joke of the night and a shout out from Cap City Comedy Club’s owner in an email mentioning how funny she was and offering her a spot hosting at the legendary venue.

Pengra had a couple of words of advice for anyone looking to get into comedy.

“If you get good at your own shit there’s plenty of places to move up,” Pengra said. “A lot of new kids think they deserve a lot without having to work for it. There are like ‘Hey, I’m here! Put me on your show!’ but don’t put the effort in and pay their dues.”

There are a lot of avenues to try to get your art out in the public around Austin, and Pengra has tried a lot of them and guaranteed she has made everyone laugh while she was there.

Pengra hosts The Late Slots, which is billed as Austin’s most outrageous comics do their nastiest, most offensive jokes at 11:30 p.m. every Friday night at The Velveeta Room.