DeAnne Smith talks her ‘sneakiest’ stand-up

Comedian discusses her approach to inclusive humour

DeAnne Smith in Comedians of the World.
Screenshot from YouTube

DeAnne Smith started out just like every other comedian—realizing she wasn’t funny. 

“You think you’re funny and then sign up for an open mic and find out you’re not funny,” she said in an interview with The Journal. “I went and I felt all the ways that people do when it’s their first open-mic night—the lights were too bright, I forgot my joke—but from there I couldn’t stop doing it.” 

While she no longer forgets the jokes and is more accustomed to the lighting, Smith’s love of comedy hasn’t waned. 

She’s planning to prove that to Kingston when she plays the Octave Theatre on March 4. 

The stop will be one of the last on a tour that’s taken Smith across North America, and as far as Australia. 

The tour  rounds out a landmark year for the comedian. She recently released her special “Gentleman Elf” on Netflix for their COMEDIANS of the World series. Smith had been working toward a special, and she was excited to join a project that highlights voices from all around the world.  

The act in the special takes on gender and sexuality with non-threatening, welcoming humour. It indicates Smith is part of a new era of comedy that’s inclusive and uplifts the voices of marginalised people. For her, that comes naturally. 

“I’ve always done kind of explicitly feminist, anti-oppressive type comedy. But I’ve always had to find a way to do that in the sneakiest way possible,” Smith said. 

It was this kind of humour that went viral in 2017. Her clip “Straight men, step up your game,” has over two million views on YouTube. 

In the clip, she warns straight men that women are getting tired of them. She knows this because her girlfriend—who only dated men  before their relationship—was “easy to impress,” because the men in her life had been so inadequate as partners.  

“I’m not talking to all of the men. I’m just talking to those of you who are feeling particularly defensive,” she says in the clip, highlighting how those who refuse to recognize their own flaws are the problem.

These themes of inequality, sexuality, and patriarchy make their way into “Gentleman Elf,” but Smith pays special attention to gender in the set.  

“We’re in a cultural moment, we’re all kind of talking about gender and it feels like a bunch of people are kind of losing their heads about it—being threatened or not understanding it. It was important to me to represent myself and represent another option,” she said. 

In the show, she describes herself as agender, and says that rather than man or woman, her preferred gender identities are either trans-masculine house mouse or gentleman elf. 

However, Smith also respects the limitations of the English language and knows that reviews such as these tend to use gender pronouns. 

“If you’re a reviewer you can call me a woman, I won’t be offended,” she said, though she did offer specificities as to how she prefers it be spelled. 

“I would just ask that you spell it a certain way, we’ll start off with the ‘W’ and then the ‘O’ should be a little woman’s symbol, and then at the end when it says man, just cross it out. And then draw a tiny dick. And then cross that out.”

“That was a test. That shouldn’t be there. That was a micro-aggression. And then put asterisk. And then go to the asterisk, and it’s just an infinity symbol,” she said in the special. 

While her spelling is suspect, her stance on gender is clear: it doesn’t have to be a binary and people definitely don’t need to freak out about it. 

When Smith brings her wisdom and insight to Kingston on March 4, she’s sure to show audiences that she’s a smart, kick-ass *wman. 


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