DiGiovanni’s mix of big-hearted charm and blunt self-revelation endears her to audiences of every description; she’s everyone’s big sister or best gal pal. It’s no wonder DiGiovanni is a three-time winner of the Canadian Comedy Award for Best Female Comic. Along with a runner-up spot on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, she has starred in two Comedy Now Specials and won a Gemini Award for her appearance on CBC’s The Debaters. Four years ago, DiGiovanni relocated from Toronto to Los Angeles, where she has established herself as one of Hollywood’s top comics.
Mobtreal was delighted to chat with DiGiovanni, who’s just as warm and bubbly by phone, as she is on stage:
Mobtreal: Thanks so much for taking the time, Debra—I’m such a fan!
DiGiovanni: It’s my pleasure!
Mobtreal: We’re so happy you’ll be returning to Just for Laughs Montreal this summer!
DiGiovanni: Me too! It’s always a thrill to be at the festival. It is one of those things that has never left me—I’m excited every year!
Mobtreal: This year is JFL’s 35th anniversary. Do you have a favorite JFL memory to share?
DiGiovanni: Sure! A few years ago—I was already an established comedian—and I was appearing at a Gala, hosted by Jim Gaffigan. Now, I’m a big Jim Gaffigan fan! When it came time for him to introduce me, he just couldn’t get my name out. God bless him, he kept trying, but it just wouldn’t come out. (laughing) The producer said, “Never mind, we’ll fix it in editing.” Gaffigan made a whole production out of saying my name, and when he finally did, he got the audience to chant it with him, over and over!
Mobtreal: It was a Learning Moment for him, I guess.
DiGiovanni: It was! (laughs) You know, when you get to meet your idol… I know I’m at that level now— we’re both comedians—but it’s still exciting.
DiGiovanni: I was. My parents were born and raised in Quebec—my whole family was. When my parents were in their early thirties and had all their kids, they moved to Tillsonburg, a small town in Ontario. I spent my first five years in Quebec.
Mobtreal: So, then technically, you’re one of ours.
DiGiovanni: That’s right. I’m back!
Mobtreal: With a lot of comedians, their fans say “I love your work!” Your fans love you. We feel like we know you, especially through social media.
DiGiovanni: I know—I’ve been very lucky! I have a really special relationship with my fans. They tell me, “You remind me of my teacher.” Or “You’re exactly like my friend.” From the beginning, back when I was on Much Music, I was always so much myself; I was just Debra being Debra. I’ve always been honest, maybe too honest sometimes. (laughs) I think it’s been really important to my fans, especially to young women.
Mobtreal: It’s your genuine warmth.
DiGiovanni: Well yeah, there’s got to be sincerity, it comes from the heart. I’m just so lucky; I don’t know how it happened!
Mobtreal: Other comics say you’re so powerful on stage, you’re ‘unfollowable’. And they weren’t talking about you as a Canadian comic or as a woman comic either.
DiGiovanni: Thank you! You know, you hear about Hollywood… I’ve been there for four years now, and I’m just so amazed at how the comedy community has accepted me! I was like the new girl, moving to L.A. It was like starting over, but not really. I think it was one of the best things I’ve done for my career—just shaking things up! In L.A., the comics are not afraid to say how much they like another comic. “Debra’s amazing, Debra’s a beast!” I’m constantly shocked at how I’ve been embraced by my fellow comedians there… I’m grateful and lucky and having a great time!
Mobtreal: There are a lot of amazing Canadian comics in L.A.
DiGiovanni: It’s true! When we arrive, we’re like the new kids, but with years of experience and this arsenal of comedy. The L.A. comedians joke that Trump wants to build a wall, but they’d like to build a wall to keep all the Canadian comedians out. (laughs) I think it’s tougher here; when we go to the States, it’s easier.
Mobtreal: In interviews, you’ve said that your comedy has matured, maybe darkened a little. What can we look forward to in this JFL show?
DiGiovanni: In L.A., we only do short 10 minute sets; everything’s a so-called Showcase. Once in a while, I headline and I do 15 minutes. It changes the way I now do comedy. There’s a lot of material in those 10 minute sessions, like a barrage of jokes. I’ll be doing some of my older material that’s been added to, along with the new. My show will be a mix.
Mobtreal: Looking forward to it! Thanks so much and have a wonderful festival!
DiGiovanni: DiGiovanni: You too!
July 24 to 29
Salle Claude-Léveillée, Place-des-Arts
Tickets: $23.87- $26.48