In mid-July, comedian DeAnne Smith skyrocketed to virality with a bit she performed for CBC Comedy in which she encouraged heterosexual men to treat their girlfriends better. Shortly after gaining recognition on Facebook newsfeeds in Canada and beyond, Smith reached Montreal’s annual Just For Laughs comedy festival—an event that she has made part of her ritual every summer since 2008. During her time at the festival, she performed a week-long run of her own show, Post-Joke Era, and performed in Montreal: An Intervention gala on Monday, July 31.
Smith wrote her set Post-Joke Era before beginning her rounds at comedy festivals internationally this summer. Though the set was initially written for a comedy festival she performed at in Australia in March, the title of the show is an obvious reference to the current political climate in North America and beyond.
“It’s hard to stay positive in a world filled with misogyny, racism, and rising nationalism,” the description of the show reads online. “But gosh darn it if we ain't gonna try!”
Smith frequently weaves politicized messages through many of her witty, self-deprecating quips. She is not afraid to explore her liberalism onstage, discussing her gender identity, mocking her own appearance as a stereotypical lesbian feminist, and laughing at herself accidentally chanting pro-life messages at the Women’s March on Washington.
“I always have to talk about what’s important to me and what’s going on in my mind at that moment,” Smith said. “When I put [Post-Joke Era] together there seemed to be a few themes there so I just ran with it.”
Smith’s week-long run of Post-Joke Era took place at multiple intimate venues this year, including Mainline Theatre, a black box theatre that seats 100 people, and La Chapelle, a small community performing arts theatre. Though Smith is experienced in performing for large crowds, and performed in a gala this year, she prefers smaller venues and the level of connection with the audience they provide.
“I absolutely love an intimate venue,” Smith said. “My comedy is relatively interactive—every show is different, just based on the night, and based on who’s in the room and what kind of energy the crowd is bringing me, you know. I love being in the moment and really making the most of a live performance.”
The preference for a smaller venue is common among comedians, in part because it feels reminiscent of earlier days. Like most comics in Montreal, Smith got her start by performing at open mic events—a pastime that quickly became her passion.
“I came to Montreal in order to do a writing program at Concordia,” Smith explained. “And then I started doing open mics and immediately just fell in love with it and felt like I had found my calling. I felt like I had found the thing that made me feel really happy and energetic and passionate, so once I started doing open mics I didn’t stop.”
Like any comedian or stage personality, Smith is no stranger to pre-show nerves. Every comedian has their own mechanisms for handling them, but Smith believes that her personality type and experience grappling with mental illness predispose her to being comfortable on stage.
“I think you have to have a special kind of personality […] to even want to do comedy, and then to enjoy it,” Smith said. “Most people’s biggest fear is public speaking, and to me it’s like I think, I don’t know, struggling with anxiety, struggling with depression, I can feel uncomfortable everywhere, so being uncomfortable on stage doesn’t even phase me [….] I think sometimes when you have your own demons and you CAN be your own worst enemy, being potentially judged or rejected by other people isn’t really that big of a deal.”
If her natural affinity to the stage wasn’t clear from the start of her career in Montreal, years later, Smith exudes an impressive sense of comfort and confidence during her set. Beyond being self-deprecating and quick-witted, Smith’s standup moves boldly into political realms that many comics avoid at all costs.
To learn more about Deanne Smith or to purchase tickets to her upcoming show at Montreal’s Comedy Nest, visit her website.