Interviewed By Sarah Campbell CHHA Summer Student Communications Consultant
As seen on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, America’s Got Talent and Conan (THREE times!), comedian D.J. Demers is not a stranger to making people laugh. Kicking off his career in Toronto, Ontario, he has left his then open-mic nights in the past, and has now moved to Los Angeles, California to perform on the big stage. His success in stand-up comedy has landed him many opportunities including appearances on Just For Laughs, a nomination for Best Comedy Album at the Junos, and the production of three comedy specials. Most known for his relatability to the hearing loss community, D.J. engages his fans with not only his humorous story telling of personal experiences, but also his accessibility, as his shows feature ASL interpreters.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m D.J. Demers. I’m a husband, a new father to a handsome baby boy, and a Canadian from Kitchener, Ontario who currently resides in Los Angeles, California. My occupation, nay, my vocation, is stand up-comedian. I started in 2009 and I’ve done everything you can think of in the industry. Open mics, cruise ships, corporate gigs, shows in alleyways, colleges, theatres, clubs, you name it. I love it all.
What inspired you to start doing stand-up comedy?
I was enraptured with stand-up comedy from a very young age. I just knew I had to try it. I was valedictorian of my grade school and high school and I loved writing and delivering those speeches. I started writing jokes in a little notebook in high school and finally got the courage to step on stage at an amateur comedy night in Toronto when I was 21. I did a few more open mics and amateur nights as I finished my business degree at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo. (I did not complete the valedictorian trifecta in university, as partying had taken priority over academia by this point.) After graduating in 2009, I moved to Toronto to pursue comedy in earnest. Somehow, thirteen years later, I’ve made a career of it. I’m not sure how. What a racket.
Your shows are accompanied by an ASL interpreter. Do you, or will you in the future, include live captioning on screen as well for better accessibility for those who are Hard of Hearing?
My ultimate goal is to include every tool that is required to make my show 100% accessible to all audience members. As of right now, not even all my shows are ASL interpreted, as I don’t have the financial means to hire an interpreter at every club I perform at (they are expensive – and they deserve it!). The grand plan is to build a large enough fan base that I can tour theaters with an interpreter and live captioning at every performance. It’s a big goal, but I’m going to work my hardest to get there.
You are a very successful comedian, what has been your favourite or most exciting experience so far in your career? (And if this is not The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, I need to hear more about that!)
The Tonight Show is definitely top of mind right now. It’s a historic television show, obviously, and it’s an honor to now be part of that lineage. That was also the first time I’ve had an ASL interpreter with me for a late-night set. In fact, I believe it was the first time a comedian has ever had an ASL interpreter on the Tonight Show, period. It felt momentous. Plus, the pandemic was very tough on comedians, as live comedy shows share all the same characteristics as a superspreader event. Coming out of the pandemic (Are we out? Please knock on wood as you read this), it was heartening to play my trade on a big stage and hopefully re-gain some momentum that I lost when the pandemic began. By the way, millions of people suffered far greater setbacks than I did during this time, so I am not complaining. I’m just giving context as to why my Tonight Show performance felt like it carried even more weight for me than it might have in a non-pandemic world.
You’re returning to Canada for a show in Toronto in August, what can people expect from your show?
Yes! I’m performing at the Paradise Theatre on August 20th! People can expect an awesome comedy show! I will have an interpreter with me – the talented Jennifer Lees, who interpreted my second special – and I will be performing a different hour from the special I just released (which is called Born in ’86. You can watch it here!). I haven’t performed in Toronto in a looooong time, so I’m excited to get back there. I spent the first seven years of my stand-up career and the majority of my twenties in Toronto, so I have warm, fuzzy feelings just thinking about coming back. Get your ticket and come say hey after the show!
What are your goals for the future?
My goals for the future are to keep writing better jokes than I did before until I become scary good at making people laugh. I want to make people feel great whenever they come see me. I want audiences to feel like we’re old friends and they can’t wait til I come back and visit their city again. I want my family to be healthy and happy and I want to spread good vibes everywhere I go.
What message would you give to other aspiring entertainers who have some type of hearing loss?
To all you young kids with hearing loss who are thinking about becoming a stand-up comedian, listen to me carefully: BACK OFF! This is my territory, and I will fight tooth and nail to make sure you don’t achieve any of the accolades I’ve worked so hard to achieve. 😊
Just kidding! My advice is to work hard and remember anything worth achieving is a marathon. Do not be deterred by minor setbacks and do not be content with your achievements. As the great Quincy Jones said, “Be humble with your creativity and gracious with your success. And always remember: an ego is just an overdressed insecurity!” It would bring me great joy to see a new generation of hard of hearing comedians at the comedy clubs!
I appreciate the questions and I love the work the CHHA does. Thank you. Much love!
You can find D.J. on social media.
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/c/DJDemers
Instagram – @djdemers
Facebook – D.J. Demers
TikTok – @djdemers
Website – https://www.djdemers.com/