Debra DiGiovanni is a late bloomer.
After 13 years on the stand-up circuit doing everything from small clubs to Much Music's Video On Trial and NBC's Last Comic Standing, she's made the move to L.A. and landed a headlining Canadian tour sponsored by Just For Laughs.
"I have a twin sister who's married and has children," says DiGiovanni over the phone. "She's like an adult woman, and I'm over here in my 40s still living like a teenager. I go to bed too late, spend most of my time in bars, I never know where I am. But I'm not a weirdo; I'm just a late bloomer."
The title of her tour reflects the fact that many people approaching middle age are resisting the life pattern (car, career, marriage, house, kids) promoted by their baby boomer parents, and like DiGiovanni are crafting new definitions of success in their own time.
For example, last Feburary she decided to move to L.A., where she's been sharing an apartment with her first roommate in years while trying to break into the American comedy scene.
The shift was scary, she admits, but necessary to keep from getting complacent here.
"It was like completely starting over, because in the States they pretend that Canada just doesn't exist," she says. "I began going to stand-up shows to make connections, and people asked me, ‘So, did you just start doing comedy?' It was kinda cute."
Comedy didn't become DiGiovanni's passion until she was well into her 20s. Out of high school, her dream was to be a fashion illustrator, and if she hadn't started stand-up, she says she probably would have become an art teacher.
"I didn't start comedy until I was 28. But unlike ballet or sports, you can start doing comedy later in life, and it's okay. Growing old isn't a detriment to being funny."
Her story about finding her calling and the culture shock of her recent move south provides most of the material for her show, which she's been fine-tuning this fall during a string of Canadian university dates. ("I'll never say no to schools, because it keeps you fresh. If the kids don't get your references, you know it's time to update.")
Still, with the tour fast approaching, she admits to being nervous.
"I'm overwhelmed and terrified - it's scary! We spend so much time as nameless, faceless comics, but this time it's my name on the ticket; people will be coming to see me. It's like planning a party - I'm scared no one will show up."
While VOT has secured DiGiovanni a younger audience than most comics her age, she says her approach to comedy is always evolving.
"When I started, my act was very up and very happy, but the bitterness of the world has snuck in along the way," she says. "I'm definitely dirtier now. That comes with confidence and age. There's resentment and anger in there, too. I've still got my happy persona, but if people think I'm still talking about my cat, they're wrong."