Debra DiGiovanni is on stage with fellow females comic in celebration of International Women’s Day Tuesday at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre.

Debra DiGiovanni is on stage with fellow females comic in celebration of International Women’s Day Tuesday at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre.

Comedienne stands and delivers

Debra DiGiovanni headlines seventh annual I am Woman! Hear me Laff!

It’s the day after the Oscars broadcast, and Toronto comedian Debra DiGiovanni is still laughing.

Known for skewering celebrities on popular MuchMusic shows, Video on Trial and Stars on Trial, DiGiovanni, who comes to Vernon Tuesday, says watching this year’s Academy Awards was like watching a train wreck.

“I had to look away,” she said. “I was flicking back and forth from the Oscars to Criminal Minds. It was like, do I watch a gruesome murder, or this fiasco?”

You can’t blame DiGiovanni, who was especially embarrassed for the show’s co-hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco, as she’s been on that stage herself.

“I am a little biased because I believe they should use comedians to host the show. Actors act, you tell ‘em what to say. It’s a shame because I like (Hathaway and Franco).”

DiGiovanni is sure to take on a few more celebrities, among other things, when she headlines the  Performing Arts Centre’s seventh annual celebration of International Women’s Day, I Am Woman! Hear Me Laff!

And if she drops a few F-bombs, like best supporting actress winner Melissa Leo did at the Oscars, well at least it won’t be on live television.

“We don’t censor our live shows as comics, but if we’re on TV, we have to think like we are talking to children,” she said. “The funny thing is I think Canadians react better to the advanced, edgy stuff. Canadians are still conservative, and they react to anything filthy, but they are usually looking at each other to make sure it’s OK that they are laughing at the subject matter.”

DiGiovanni knows a little something about hosting award shows in her own country. The Toronto native, known for her deep, booming voice and raucous laugh, co-hosted the 2008 Genie Awards with Canadian actress Sandra Oh (of Grey’s Anatomy fame), and in 2007, she hosted the Canadian Comedy Awards, where she also picked up an award for best female comedian.

She can still usually be heard facing off with other comics on CBC’s The Debaters.

DiGiovanni has also had to dodge occasional hate mail from Bieberheads and other fans who have been offended by her potshots at celebrity musicians on Video on Trial.

The show, which is now in its fifth season, basically features comedians watching and then judging music videos, and DiGiovanni’s admits it’s one of her favourite gigs.

“It really is fun, and I’ll keep doing it as long as they continue to make stupid music videos,” she said. “Most of the show’s detractors who are offended by what we say hide behind the shroud of Facebook. We usually get a message, like ‘who do you think you are making fun of so and so?’ And I say, as long as no one is getting hurt.

“I’ve met bands that I’ve mocked that say they’ve loved what I’ve said. And as they say, no press is bad press. It’s all part of the industry and once the hormones kick in, they’ll understand that.”

Standing on stage in front of a live audience is where DiGiovanni excels.

Born to an Italian-Canadian father and British mother in Quebec and later raised in Tillsonberg, Ont., DiGiovanni says her comic timing came early, although her name, at times, caused confusion.

“I once was booked at this Italian-Canadian event, and it was awkward as all the other comedians spoke Italian. I only speak English, so I was up there explaining that the English translation of my name is Johnson.”

A known ad libber, who says her material comes as soon as she walks outside her door, DiGiovanni still performs at open mics around Toronto when she isn’t playing comedy clubs and festivals across the country, the U.S. and overseas. About to head to Glasgow, Scotland to perform, DiGiovanni is first looking forward to sharing the stage with fellow Laff Riot girls, Lee Ann Keple, Marlene Swidzinski and Lauren McGibbon, at Vernon’s signature International Women’s Day celebration.

“It’s true Canada produces most of the comedians. We also have a strong female population, and it seems to have doubled the past 10 years,” she said. “This is going to sound cheesy, but as a community we are supportive of each other. I have a nice gang of friends and we celebrate each other’s birthdays.

“This country is so supportive. Sure we all have our awkward moments, but most of time, we’re not getting booed off the stage. And believe me, it takes chutzpah to get up there.”

I am Woman! Hear me Laff! starts at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the PAC. Tickets are $30/adult, $27/senior and $25/student at the Ticket Seller, 549-7469,


Vernon Morning Star