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DiGiovanni Storming the Boys Club

Released earlier this year, Debra DiGiovanni’s comedy special Single, Awkward, Female (entertainmentone, 2012) brings together all of her best diet, cat lady, and cougar jokes.

“I found a much better way to lose weight. I am crossing my fingers and hoping to get a parasite. A tapeworm is like a metabolism buddy – you sit there and they do all the work.” – DiGiovanni

I have really enjoyed Digiovanni’s stand-up for awhile. I believe she is having a major impact upon a field that continues to be male-dominated. Here are my thoughts on how she is changing the game:

1) She is highly recognizable in the Canadian stand-up comedy market: DiGiovanni is everywhere, clubs, festivals, various television programs, the list goes on…. She is practically the popular media’s go-to-person for all things comic. As she once said on The Debaters (CBC Radio, 2009), “I’m on TV an annoying amount, I know it.” Now, for a field that includes relatively few women, this is a big deal. For me, she is already the current face of Canadian stand-up comedy, and I expect that she will continue on this recognizable, upward trajectory.

2) The kids know who she is: It is not that DiGiovanni is ever present in the media generally that is a major coup, but that she has been highly visible as a comic personality on MuchMusic. Highly impressionable youth know her as a very funny lady. As she jokes in her comedy special, even Justin Bieber is a fan. Apparently there are still huge swaths of the population that still have difficulty associating women with being funny, so DiGiovanni’s role in socializing youth to accept women as funny could have a big impact.

3) She’s got control of the audience: The comedy club remains a challenging and potentially hostile space for female performers. Like many female comics, DiGiovanni employs self-deprecating humour strategically. By presenting her own humorous self-criticisms, she protects herself from vocal, set-disrupting audience members. Her sets are disarming. In fact, while I am sure that it has happened in her career, I have never seen her heckled at a performance. Despite the self-deprecation, she still seems tough and in control when on the stage. This is a hard act to balance, and probably one of her most important skills.

4) She loves her cat: Unfortunately, creative work such as stand-up remains difficult to align with a family life. This is especially the case for women in their 30s who find the erratic hours and fluctuating wages interfere with child-rearing. This is embedded in the structuring of creative work which results in the exclusion of women (and family oriented men) from participation. The cat can be left alone for a couple of days, the baby can’t. The cat can hangout with you for a few hours at 3am when you get home from the comedy club, the baby really shouldn’t (though, with a little cola in the bottle, probably would). It’s not fair that having a cat and not a baby is the best way to ensure her continued success as a comedian, but it seems to be working and I’m inclined to hope that she sticks with the program.

5) She’s on the rise: DiGiovanni has achieved a lot in the just over 10 years that she has been working in stand-up. Importantly, she doesn’t appear to be slowing down. There aren’t that many female comedians that make it into headliner territory, so her continued presence on the scene is important. She has an international comedy career ahead of her. Get out of the way boys!

Check out Single, Awkard, Female available for purchase here.

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