Lin-Manuel Miranda, who appeared on the show, was also a frequent guest in her audience. “Catie was the ultimate New York comedy connector,” he said in a phone interview. “Once you did the show, you were in the alumni group.” He added: “It’s unbelievable the level of connections that came through there. People before they blew up. After they blew up.”
“It was,” Mr. Miranda said, “sort of a crime she didn’t have her own TV show.”
Catherine Simone Avnet Lazarus was born on April, 26, 1976, in Washington. Her father was a public policy lawyer who had been associate director of the White House domestic policy staff in the Carter administration. Her mother, Rosalind (Avnet) Lazarus, was a federal government lawyer. A great-great-great-grandfather was Simon Lazarus, founder of the Lazarus & Company department store chain, which later became Macy’s Inc.
A nursery report card from the Beauvoir School appeared to portend Ms. Lazarus’s future. “Katie is a great talker and will volunteer to sit in the ‘hot seat’ and speak on any topic whether she knows anything about her subject or not,” it read. “The class expects this now and, in fact, the resulting arguments are more lively due to Katie’s proddings.” (Ms. Lazarus delighted in this document as an adult and quoted from it frequently).
She attended the Maret School and Wesleyan University, where she received a B.A. and an M.A. in psychology. She eventually pursued a doctorate in clinical psychology at Wesleyan but dropped out after a semester to try comedy in New York. (Ms. Lazarus said that an encouraging chance encounter with Tina Fey, in which they discussed improv, helped galvanize her decision.)
Ms. Lazarus first took the stage at Stand Up NY on the Upper West Side, and she relished the nervous rush of trying to get people to laugh. She began performing on the comedy circuit at clubs like Carolines on Broadway and the Laugh Factory. And she took improv classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, where she started hosting her show. Early guests included Rachel Dratch, Reggie Watts and the Times journalist David Carr.
“I was keenly aware that people went on to achieve these great things,” Ms. Lazarus told The Times. “I just didn’t know the steps that were involved to get there. That is why I started my show, because there is somewhat of a science to success.”