Already nervous about her first-ever cross-Canada headlining tour, comic Debra DiGiovanni made it extra dramatic by landing at her St. John’s, N.L., launch just ahead of the polar vortex.
“Our flight (from Toronto) was supposed to be 2, we got on the plane at 7, and at some point they started announcing cancellations and named London… Windsor… Winnipeg... every city in the country except for St. John’s,” DiGiovanni said by phone with hours to go before kicking off her tour.
“Everyone else, they just said, ‘Okay, bye.’”
So it was already a stroke of luck that her tour started at all.
One of those 10-year overnight-successes comedy is famous for, DiGiovanni has earned her luck. After years of snarking on MuchMusic’s Video On Trial, she’s seen these days as part of the panel on the Comedy Network’s reboot of the old ‘70s celebrity game show Match Game. And she’s been spinning the showbiz wheel, living in L.A. for 10 months now.
It’s a challenge, living in the most body-image-conscious city in the world, the brassy, plus-sized DiGiovanni admits. But then it was supposed to be a challenge, a shake-up to creeping complacency. “God bless Canada, they’re so supportive of me. But I needed a little fear in my life,” she says.
“One week, I walked around, drove around, looked around and honestly saw one other person my size in a week,” DiGiovanni says. “But bless Rebel Wilson and Melissa McCarthy. They’ve set it up for me, because now auditions are always like, ‘Melissa McCarthy type’: Enter Debra.”
The comedy clubs are also a different experience, every night holding the prospect of a “scout” in the audience. “Female comics, they wear tight dresses and high heeled shoes. It’s an audition. That’s very different from New York, where it’s very casual. In L.A., they’re dressed for date number two.”
Her cross-country Late Bloomer Tour is well-named, given that she remembers the original Match Game, with Gene Rayburn and panelists like the late Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly. “It really is the only thing I remember Charles Nelson Reilly for.”
The new version has its guest celebrities, the likes of Ice-T, the Daily Show’s John Hodgman and Norm Macdonald. And it retains the format of matching word-plus-blank between the contestants and panelists (with cheekiness encouraged).
As it happens, DiGiovanni came up with one of the few answers the series has ever censored.
“First season, final round, the clue was ‘whiskey.’ I don’t drink, the only thing that came to my head was ‘whiskey d---.’ Apparently, that’s when a guy drinks so much he can’t, um, perform. “There’s that sweet spot when they’ve been drinking where you’ve got to grab them before it’s too late. It’s between drinks five and six.”
The show, oddly, has skewed both young and old.
“I get ‘Me and my mom watch the show together’ and I feel like that’s the cutest thing I’ve ever heard.”
And it’s a vibe that’s followed her onstage. “There’s a lot of girls in my audience. I would say 80% women. The age is shocking though, young to old, 15 to 65. I go to my shows now and see women with white hair and kids that can’t drink.
“I also get a lot of gay men and what I like to call clever men.”