Touring during a pandemic is tough, but it’s better than no gigs at all.
Just ask Debra DiGiovanni, one of four “Snowed In” comedians travelling across B.C. with plans to perform at Surrey Arts Centre next Thursday night, Jan. 27.
COVID be damned, the tour’s first leg got going again Monday (Jan. 17) in Port Alberni, following the postponement of shows in Prince Rupert, Smithers and Terrace.
“There was a pipe burst in Smithers, and then a flight got cancelled,” DiGiovanni explained in a phone call Tuesday morning.
“I’m in Courtenay – just arrived yesterday,” DiGiovanni added. “The first two shows for me last night, and here we go.”
Raised in the Toronto area and now living in Los Angeles, DiGiovanni had to back out of the first two weeks of the tour, which also features Pete Zedlacher, Dan Quinn and Paul Myrehaug on the B.C. leg.
“It kind of worked out because they had to cancel a few shows last week, and I was the smart one sitting at home,” she said with a laugh. “Luckily, our health is fine, for everyone, and two of the three of them live in Vancouver, so they went home, and the third (Zedlacher) went home to Calgary. We’re starting up again here.”
Now in its 13th year, the Snowed In tour features a rotating lineup of four Canadian stand-up comedians in dozens of cities, from the dead of winter until spring thaw.
Back in March 2020, when the pandemic first hit, the comedic quartet took to the stage in Calgary. None of them figured it’d be another two years before they hit the road again.
Here in the first month of 2022, the tour has motored forth once again, with some changes due to B.C.’s current theatre-capacity rules.
“This is my fourth year with them on the tour,” DiGiovanni noted. “With nothing in 2021, that felt weird because it’s something I’ve looked forward to and enjoy doing during the winter months. It just felt off, and it’s nice to be back, back with them, and performing again.
“The two shows last night,” she continued, “we still have capacity issues, a 50-per-cent cap, and so we’ve had to split some of the nights into two, with an early show and a late show. This week we’re doing that, but it’s back to normal when we hit the Mainland after Saturday (including the Surrey date), with just one show a night. Doing two shows a night – I mean, listen to my voice. I feel like I’ve been hit by a car. It’s nice to get back to work but it feels like the muscle needs to be re-stimulated, kind of thing.”
DiGiovanni has lived and worked in L.A. for eight years now, and comedy frequently brings her home to Toronto, so she’s lucky that way.
She’s managed to keep a sense of humour during COVID-y times.
“When the pandemic really hit, live performance completely stopped, and it was strange, very surreal for a bit,” DiGiovanni recalled. “So then the online stuff started and I gotta tell you, I was so grateful and kept busy enough, you know. I did a series of commercials for the Oprah network for a menopause drug – whatever, we’ll talk about that later, those stories come up on stage. I set myself up with a home voice studio and did some voice-records there in my closet, you know. People made the best of it like that.
“But the latter half of 2021 felt really hard,” she continued. “It was great being home and getting regular sleep – a bit of a break, you know. But then it didn’t seem fun anymore, you know. I wanted to get back to my life. Without being too dramatic, I felt purposeless for awhile, because most of my life is stand-up, rather than acting or writing. You forget who you are.”
Asked if she ever seriously considered changing her last name for career reasons, DiGiovanni said no, not really.
“DiGiovanni is a common Italian last name, and it actually translates to Johnson, so I could’ve been Deb Johnson, a whole new person, who knows,” she said. “I thought of changing it at the beginning but, no, that’s silly, don’t do that, and I’m glad that I didn’t. I like my name, and I do know quite a few comics who don’t perform under their real last name, or it’s tweaked a little or they use their middle name, something like that.
“This lineup, I don’t think any of us changed our last names, and if anybody should, it’s Pete and Paul,” she added with a laugh. “I just learned how to pronounce Myrehaug last year, after three years of this.”
For tour details, visit snowedincomedytour.com. Tickets for the Surrey show are $45 on tickets.surrey.ca, or call 604-501-5566.
Elsewhere in Surrey, a Just For Laughs-produced show featuring American comedian Maz Jobrani has been rescheduled at Bell Performing Arts Centre, from Jan. 15 to March 24.
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