Corina Lucas hardly pauses to take a breath.
"I'm feeling a little concerned for my health, because I haven't had my period in 27 years," she opened a recent set with, launching quickly into a bit on feminism. "I'm such a bad feminist," she said, "that I was in a paternity."
The comedian's breakneck pacing leaves audiences feeling like dart boards, at which jokes are rapidly and forcefully flung—rarely missing their mark. That's not to say Lucas uses the audience as fodder. Her sets are instead packed with raw self-reflections. Her lived experiences as a transgender woman are the basis for many of her jokes.
"I was hanging out downtown the other day, and someone yelled at me, 'White-trash bitch!'" she said during a show at Helium Comedy Club. "And you know, it just felt good to get gendered properly."
Lucas' speed and energy exemplify her ownership of the craft. She's prone to yelling, "Settle down, settle down!" while transitioning between jokes, pushing crowds to laugh quickly or get left behind.
But the force with which Lucas commands stages softens rapidly in real life.
A recent Monday morning at the Gateway Shopping Center Starbucks found Lucas sipping quietly on an iced coffee, curls of thick red hair tucked behind one ear and a beaded choker fastened around her neck.
As a self-defined "spaz kid" growing up in Northern California with five siblings, Lucas says theater was the perfect outlet for her attention-seeking.
"When I was 5, I put on a wig and clown nose and told jokes at a talent show," she says. "I went overtime, and the sixth-graders had to come onstage to pull me off. I had to duck their arms so I could keep going on. It was ridiculous."
"I wasn't a class clown at all, though," she adds. "I just liked attention. I was an awkward kiddo, especially as I got older."
At around age 21, Lucas found standup. She'd been studying theater at the University of Southern California when she decided to drop out to focus on comedy. She spent three months "doing the circuit" in Los Angeles before moving home to Santa Rosa, where she says the city's minuscule standup scene forced her to drive often to San Francisco for sets.
"After like two years I stopped," she says.
Then three years ago, Lucas moved to Portland. She began performing standup again last April.
"It was hard to stretch out and grow. It was important for me to get away," she says of the relocation. "I have a huge family [in California], and I just felt sort of like defined by that big family."
Though still a relative newcomer to the city, Lucas has quickly carved out her space in the local standup scene.
In just a year and a half, Lucas has scooped up ownership of two weekly sets and one monthly showcase, the Alliance, at Alberta Street Pub. She says she books on average about 20 shows a month.
In July, her work at the Portland Queer Comedy Festival caught the attention of New York Times travel columnist Lucas Peterson, who wrote: "I was impressed by the caliber of comedians at the Portland Queer Comedy Festival…including Corina Lucas, Belinda Carroll and Rick Taylor. 'I'm a trans woman,' Ms. Lucas said. 'My boobs are real; I grew them myself. Which is a little weird to say, it makes me feel like a farmer.'"
Lucas' success could be partially attributed to her lack of interest in seeking validation—from audiences or other comedians.
"I hate telling jokes off the stage," she says. "When I'm in a group of comedians, I'll just sit in the back and smoke a cigarette and go, 'You guys got this conversation. You guys got this.'"
An introvert, the comedian prefers the company of her dachshund, Muggy, and Nintendo PlayStation to hanging around with others. Her tendency toward self-reflection is evident in her joke-writing process.
"I wind up pacing for hours in my room, saying the joke over and over and over to myself until it sounds right," she says. "Then I go to shows and workshop it and edit it if it doesn't work. It takes a while to get a joke where you want it to be."
Of her comedic style, Lucas compares herself to Dave Attell, host of Comedy Central's Insomniac. She describes his work as "high-energy, dumb, dirty, smart, sharp," and says she strives to emulate his silly, self-deprecating style.
"I make fun of myself a lot," she says, "but happily, you know?"
She also resists suggestions that her work is meant to send a message—political or otherwise.
"I don't have any big, grand strategies. I'm just trying to get the laughs out," she says. "There's no rhyme or reason, no logic behind it. I'm just yelling dick jokes."