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First Person

The Experience Questionnaire: DeAnne Smith

DeAnne Smith is a comedian who will be featured in the upcoming Netflix special “COMEDIANS of the World.”

Where do you come up with your best ideas?

Usually in my mind, but often in my heart. Sometimes in my gut. Every once in a while, out of my ass.

What is the best non-material gift you’ve received?
Any and every home-cooked meal! I have a host of annoying dietary restrictions (I mean, look at me, of course I do!), so someone accommodating me by making something gluten, meat, and dairy free is already such an act of love. And because I travel so much, I really value a home-cooked meal. Note to everyone reading this: Feel free to invite me over for something as simple as rice and beans. I will be so grateful!

What is the best non-material gift you’ve given?
I’m not sure I know the answer to this one. But I live with a single mom, and I suspect it might be all the free babysitting I do.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
Getting the help I needed when depression was taking me down. It felt scary to open up and talk to people about how I was feeling, because I couldn’t shake the idea that it was my fault, and that I should be able to will myself to be stronger. Also, one of depression’s biggest lies is that you aren’t worth getting help for. I think I also felt an extra pressure to just “snap out of it” because of comedy. It’s my JOB to be joyful and energetic and bring the party to groups of strangers every night. I had to reach a real low point before I admitted I needed outside help, but I’m so glad I was able to reach out. Now, with the help of talk therapy, meds, exercise, and CONSTANT VIGILANCE, I’m keeping the ol’ D-bag (that’s my fun little nickname for it) at bay.

Either that, or opening pistachios. How does anyone have the finger strength? They’re impossible.

If you had to choose a different profession, what would you do?
I’d love to own a used bookstore. Sitting in a cute book shop all day, reading while waiting for customers, sounds like a dream to me. I’m not sure if it’s obvious, but I have very modest dreams, and a flexible definition of what “profession” means.

I lied in church! In front of God! I was sure I was going to go to hell and/or get in trouble with my mom, both of which were accompanied by the same sense of dread.

What is the most useful mistake you’ve made?
Interesting question. Probably eschewing any hope of a stable or “normal” life by getting into stand up. It was definitely ill-advised but it’s working out so far!

What opportunity do you regret passing up?
I really try to live my life without regrets. That doesn’t mean I do everything perfectly the first time around, but I don’t tend to look back and wish I had done something else. I also have a terrible memory, so that helps.

How do you relax?
Hmm. The night guard I wear for grinding my teeth while I sleep indicates that maybe I don’t ever fully relax. Even in my sleep, I’m gritting my teeth and trying to get through it.

But any time I spend with my dog, Rudy, is always the best and most relaxing time, whether we’re taking a walk in the fresh air or cuddling up under the blankets, both of which are our favourite pastimes.

If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
I am generally content to be wherever I am, and I move around so often that I don’t miss any one place for too long. But if I’m not home, I’d say home. If I am home, and it’s winter, I’d say literally anywhere warm.

What is your most indelible childhood memory?
The time I lied about my name at church camp. I was in preschool at the time. When they asked our names to write on name tags for the day, somehow I realized I could make something up. I mumbled “Susan,” which I’m sure came from my obsession with Susan on the show “Eight is Enough.” As the woman was writing it down, in marker black as sin, I was immediately mortified. I lied in church! In front of God! I was sure I was going to go to hell and/or get in trouble with my mom, both of which were accompanied by the same sense of dread. I had a pit in my stomach all day, every time a grown up called me Susan. I couldn’t even enjoy it. Mail from that church addressed to “Susan Smith” came to my house for years after that, haunting me.

Describe a perfect day.

A perfect day for me would incorporate all of these things: trees, people I love, my dog, art, comedy, a great book, and a perfectly made cortado.

When you’re stuck how do you get unstuck?
Through sheer force of will and habit. When I’m stuck with writing, I make myself clock hours of writing, and let it be garbage. No judgment, just letting my fingers fly over the keyboard or letting the pen fly across the page. Eventually, whatever’s stuck becomes unstuck. When I’m stuck in a larger way, like in life, I find that moving toward my fears always helps. If I’m afraid of acting, I take an acting class. If I’m afraid of delving into my past, I get into therapy. Luckily for me, I’m afraid of so many things that there are always a million ways to get unstuck!

What is your proudest moment?

Getting almost to the end of this interview, which I have to say, has felt quite intimate and exposing.

What would you like to experience before you die?

A long and healthy life!

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