Fast Talkin’ Funny Girl

By Christine Séguin — Fri, 21/11/2014 - 10:28

Sometimes, life is damn hard.  Jobs are lost, relationships crumble and debt rises as snow falls.  We can get wound up tight by our work, responsibilities and shortcomings while never giving ourselves a break.  Thank goodness for comedians.  They point out the absurdities in this world and rearrange them in a way that allows some distance for observation, connection and a cathartic laugh.  They say laughter is the best medicine, (though as Norm MacDonald points out: “unless you’re diabetic, in which case insulin is the best medicine”) so if you’re feeling a little low, a great remedy is a visit to your local comedy club and have a good laugh.

Debra DiGiovanni will be passing through Ottawa as part of the Just for Laughs tour on Monday, November 24th at Absolute Comedy.  We spoke on the phone in our PJs (full disclosure: it was 9AM for her, noon for me) and rapped about comedy and her writing process.

Those of us from the MuchMusic generation might remember Debra from “Video on Trial” and its spinoff “Stars on Trial”.  She’s hosted the Genie and Gemini awards and had won many awards herself.  She is a regular on the Comedy Network remake of Match Game.  Her most notable credit is her appearance on the fifth season of NBC’s Last Comic Standing, which also featured Amy Schumer and Doug Benson.  She described the experience as “the most surreal thing I have ever done” but she is surprised and grateful for how long that credit has lasted. Though she came in eighth place, she has been able to work in the US since 2007 with the Visa that was provided to work on the show.  “For the Canadian, that is winning,” she added.

One may not consider the words “great comedy town” when thinking of Ottawa, but Debra begs to differ. “Ask any comedian who’s passed through there.  We actually don’t know what it is about Ottawa. There is clearly something in the water but it is one of the best places for comedy.  I don’t know if it’s because it’s a government town and you desperately need a laugh but it’s one of those cities that you are excited to go to because you really know you’re going to have a good time and it’s going to be a good show.”  The jewel of the Ottawa comedy scene according to Debra is Absolute Comedy.  The club started in Ottawa and it’s now three clubs strong. “It’s just wonderful to see that. I’d say it’s one of the best clubs in Canada.  I am definitely not alone in that one. People record their CDs there because they know it’s going to be a good show.”

Debra’s comedy style is very personal and relatable.  She has a finely tuned sense of self that didn’t appear overnight but was developed over fourteen years of honing her craft. Starting out as a graduate fresh out of the inaugural year of Humber College’s Comedy Writing and Performance program, Debra would write her set out in long form, like a monologue. “That worked for me for the first 3 or 4 years of my career until one very important show. I was up doing my rehearsed monologue and I got thrown off.  Something happened in the room and I wasn’t prepared to go with it.”  The following night, one of her idols advised her to lose the script, actually taking it from her and throwing it away. That’s the night everything changed. “I just started to let it happen. I think a lot of comedians have gone through the same thing, where at first it is scripted until you get your footing in and you know who you are. It takes a long time, but now it all happens on stage.”

When it comes to her material, she likes to mix it up.  Making sure she keeps it fresh by always having new bits while crowd pleasing with the greatest hits. “I liken comedy at this level to listening to a band.  You go out and listen to the new album but they are always going to play some of their hits.  That’s what comedy is.” Debra’s stand-up is so dynamic and personal that you would never hear the same joke told in the same way twice.

Whether the joke is old or new, it is certain that it stems from the truth. “What I look like and who I am now is what I talk about on stage. I think a lot of people start in comedy because there is a slight deficiency somewhere in their life, be it emotional or physical. If your whole life, you’ve felt less than, it becomes easier to make jokes about something.  Pain is funny and it relates us.”

This is why I think it’s important to bundle up, trek through this new November snow and laugh at the absurdity of life with this fast-talking, truth-telling comic.

Debra DiGiovanni Performs Live in Ottawa
Monday, November 24, 2014 @ 8:30pm
Absolute Comedy
Tickets $25
Reserve by phone 613-233-8000

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