The newest tour features headliner Tom Papa, Debra DiGiovanni, Godfrey and will be hosted by John Heffron. There is undoubted strength in numbers, even though any one of these performers could easily be taking the stage solo.
Tom Papa is perhaps best known as the host of the NBC television program The Marriage Ref and is a longtime Just For Laughs favourite. He has a number of high-profile TV and film roles to his credit including The Informant, The New Adventures of Old Christine and was also a cowriter of the Jerry Seinfeld animated vehicle Bee Movie.
Host John Heffron is a former winner of the Last Comic Standing television program and has made appearances on numerous VH1 series including I Love The ’80sand My Coolest Years . John is a regular performer at both the HBO Comedy Festival in Aspen as well as the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal.
Godfrey is known for his high-energy performances, having earned stellar reviews for his performances at this past summer’s Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal. Among the many credits to his name, Godfrey can tout roles on Louie with fellow comedian Louis CK as well as 30 Rock and currently has an animated series in the developmental stages with Fox.
Despite being the lone female on the tour, Debra Digiovanni is not easily intimidated. Debra is a three-time Canadian Comedy Award winner for Best Female Comic, a former Last Comic Standing finalist and has become a staple of Canadian television in part thanks to her multiple comedy special and appearances on Video On Trial , a series seen on MuchMusic.
Perhaps ironically, Debra never set out to become a comedian. It was when she was enrolled in fashion illustration at Ryerson University in Toronto that she says that she knew she was in immediate trouble.
‘It was in one of my art classes as a part of fashion illustration that I had to complete a couple of presentations to the class. I had two different instructors say that I was heading in the wrong direction, that I should consider entertaining people instead,’ Debra says. ‘I subsequently ignored them and stayed in school for a couple of more years.’
Debra’s first comedic performances for an audience were not of a conventional nature. Shortly after finishing school, she became the tour guide host at the iconic MuchMusic/Citytv building in Downtown Toronto.
‘I was all about making that Citytv building tour as interesting and as fun as possible for those people. That is when the comedy bug really kind of bit me.’
Once she was fully immersed in comedy, Debra says that being on stage performing standup was like ‘coming home’ for her. Not only did she thrive upon the risks of being alone on stage, she says that there were many humbling occasions for her as well.
‘I started out doing improv for a couple of years and then when I started with standup, I was immediately feeling as though I had found my calling,’ she says. ‘The gratification of standup is immediate and I really like that.
‘The first years were humbling but good. Your skin really toughens up after those first three or four years. If you have someone on stage singing a song, it is typically a given that the audience will applaud at the end of the song. It is not like that with standup. You can build up to the best punch line in the world, but if people don’t think it’s funny, they are not going to laugh. Laughs are never a given with comedy.’
That might be true, but the laughs seemed to come fairly easily for Debra when she appeared on Last Comic Standing approximately five years ago. While she is quick to declare her love for Canada, she likens comedic success in the United States as being the holy grail of the entertainment business. Despite not winning the competition, Debra says the experience is one that she would not trade for anything.
‘ Last Comic Standing gave me my American working diapers,’ she says, laughing. ‘Despite it being reality television and all, here we are in 2012 and people are still talking to me and commenting to me about my time on the show. Doing the show was such a dooropening moment for me in so many ways; I am still seeing the benefits of having done the show.’
Debra likens the upcoming Just For Laughs shows and subsequent tour with Papa, Godfrey and Heffron as being a comedy camp of sorts. She says that standup is typically a solitary gig and even though the comedians on Friday will all be performing individually, the camaraderie of being on tour with other comedians is exciting.
Debra is very much looking forward to her return to Moncton and the Maritimes.
‘You know, I am not just saying this, but the East Coast is such a comedy hotspot. It might be easier to get a crowd and get laughs in the big cities, but there is something truly exciting about playing for a crowd of fans open to having a good time. On the East Coast, the energy tends to be ‘let’s laugh,’ instead of people sitting there with their arms folded waiting for you to make them laugh.’
Article published in the October 30, 2012 edition of the Times & Transcript