In the darkened back room of The Cameron House, a woman with a boyish haircut and an enormous smile waxes poetic about cunnilingus in front of a giggling crowd. Her name is Deanne Smith, and she is halfway through her one-woman show Livin’ the Sweet Life.
Smith plays fast and loose with the one-person show format, something that is necessary in a venue as unconventional as The Cameron House, where patrons from the front room cross the stage every five minutes to use the washroom.
But the crowd doesn’t seem to mind. Despite the disturbances, they seem to be taken with The Sweet Life’s basic premise — that we all deserve a shot at the sweet life and that Smith will be the one to deliver it to one lucky audience member for one night only. Never mind that the drink she buys for them is grape juice and not wine, and the meal she provides during the show is a cheap pack of uncooked ramen noodles. Livin’ the Sweet Life is a show full of social commentary, ukulele music, and biting wit that Smith employs to poke fun at society (often), her audience (rarely), and herself (mostly).
The format of Smith’s live show has evolved in the past six years from a series of humorous online articles to a mixture of stand up and musical comedy. “I thought it would be easier if I got up on stage, and just, you know, just said it,” Smith remembers. “It turns out it wasn’t, but it was more fun, so I kept doing it.
“In terms of motivation for getting on stage, I don’t know; a deep need for attention and approval that I don’t fully understand.”
Smith’s solo shows began in 2008, when she travelled from Canada to Australia. “To be perfectly honest with you, the real reason that I went to Australia was because there was a girl there that wanted me to go and I was like, alright.”
Whatever her reasons, Smith found the move entirely beneficial to her career. “It turned out to be really cool. They have a big festival circuit there so I stayed for a few months and hit all the festivals.”
Having enjoyed the vibrancy and support for the comedy circuit down under, Smith returned in 2009 and won spots on a series of TV and radio shows. “Once you’re on TV, people think you’re somebody, so I had to keep going back.”
Despite a solid fan base overseas, Smith is often thought of as a Canadian-American comic. “Canada does like to claim me, which is great, because I only moved here … as an adult, but I started my comedy career here,” she says. “So… in terms of my comedy, I feel Canadian and its where I grew up with comedy.”
The confusion, Smith notes, came when she moved to Australia.
“In 2008, George Bush was president and I had not lived in the States in like, 10 years, and I thought, I’m not [saying that I’m] American on my posters, I’m just not doing it… I don’t think I put anything [on the posters], but when I got on TV, it was my first TV appearance, and they started asking me questions about Canada… I’ve never pretended I was from Canada, but I don’t mind perpetuating that confusion.”
Smith lives in Montreal when she is in Canada, which is about half the year. She spends the rest of the year on tour, visiting fans across North America and overseas. As for future plans, Smith is just winding down from her current tour schedule, but is preparing for her next move.
“You’re catching me at the end of everything I was doing this year. I’ve been living out of a suitcase since the end of February… So [in the] immediate future I’m just going to go home and chill out, which I’m excited about.
But going home means writing. I’ll be writing a lot and getting ready for next year’s show. Next year, the whole cycle starts over again in February, and I’ll be taking another one hour show to all the festivals.”
Despite all the distractions created by the venue, the audience is fully enthralled when Smith ends her show at The Cameron House. Her closer is a huge hit: a song that Smith performs while strumming on a ukulele and detailing a series of nerdy pickup lines. If the positive reaction to such lyrics as “Like an archaeologist I am going to compute your age, I want to absolutely date you” and “Fuck is a legitimate word in scrabble, just FYI” is any indication, the next year will be a huge success for this Canadian-ish comedienne.