July 23, 2024
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D’yan Forest: The Real Mrs. Maisel

D’yan Forest The Real Mrs. Maisel
Photo Courtesy: D'yan Forest

By: Taylor Dietrich                              

Whether it’s performing out east at venues such as the Southampton Cultural Center or golfing at Noyac Golf Club in Sag Harbor, D’yan Forest has been a Hamptons staple for decades.  On July 29th, Forest will celebrate her 90th birthday with a show at Joe’s Pub, dubbed “D’yan Forest: Ninety Years of Song & Scandal.”

The Guinness World Record

How does a provincial girl go from piano lessons and housewife expectations to getting the Guinness World Record for being the oldest performing female comic? For D’yan Forest it was studying abroad in Paris that brought her to life. “I was very protected as a child,” she admits. “And I went to Paris and did every little dream that I ever had in my brain for all those years. Try this, try that. Nobody knew me in Paris. I was free!”

This love for Paris quickly took over Forest’s life. In fact, it created a second one. Born Diana Shulman, the comic began to embody French culture so much that, in her words, she “became French.” In fact, when she returned home to America, no one really thought twice about whether she had been born with that accent or not. The ever-growing demand for international singers in clubs, bars, restaurants, and country clubs, made it possible for Forest to get her foot in the door of live entertainment. Her musical accolades came to a halt when live music took a dive after the 9/11 tragedy, but they would not be stopped for long.

The Filthy Ukulele Player

When asked to write down all the jokes she knew and the funniest things she could think of, Forest thought, “Well, I have a ukulele.” To her shock, her first stand-up show had the tiny club filled with fifteen people absolutely cracking up. “I’d always kept my sexual life and my social life a secret,” said Forest. “As soon as I started doing the comedy shows, about eighteen, nineteen years ago, I started, as they say, coming out on the stage and saying everything.” And so, those wholesome pianos and singing lessons her mother had paid for turned into a stand-up act—and a risqué one at that.

“I Married A Nun”

D’yan’s popular one-woman show, “I Married A Nun”, landed her on iconic stages such as Caroline’s, Joe’s Pub, The Metropolitan Room, and Gotham Comedy Club, the same venues frequented by Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Gaffigan, and the always blunt Joan Rivers. When introduced to Forest one night at Gotham, Rivers remarked, “Oh yeah, I heard about you. You’re the filthy ukulele player!” Forest simply responded, “No, Joan, I’m really just risqué!” In January she performed on the Drew Barrymore Show, where she was presented with her Guinness World Record plaque.

I Did It My Ways

Over the recent years, Forest began to wonder what to do with all of these stories of hers. The boys who chased her in Paris, the girls who also chased her in Paris, being the only Jewish person in the Presbyterian choir, and, oh yeah, that time she had married a nun. So Forest took her pen to the paper and poured her heart out into a hysterical but heartfelt memoir. It was only when she sat down to record the audio book that she realized what she had done. “Yes, I wrote it. But when I started reading what I wrote, I said, ‘What? I wrote this in the book?’ Oh my God, none of the people in the golf club will talk to me anymore.”

“Why wasn’t I born only twenty years ago? The world is so free now,” she said. Even so, the last chapter on her book’s table of contents says it all: It Ain’t Over Till the Old Lady Dies. D’yan is still booking clubs in New York and Paris to share her fabulous tales and whimsical music with as many people as she can. And it seems that more people are listening than she’d think.

The Real Mrs. Maisel

Having been in Paris at the time, Forest was not caught up on American TV. One night, while telling her story to a nice American family in Paris, she got a little bit of a confused look from them. “So, they tell me the story of this Mrs. Maisel woman on the program who gets divorced, she’s a comedian, she’s Jewish, she goes to Paris, she sings in a gay club,” she remembers. “But I did that, and I did it in my one-woman show eight years ago. Somebody stole my life!” Whether coincidence or not, Forest is still chugging along and telling her story in her own way, performing her new one-woman act “Swinging on the Seine.

When you get tickets to her show, she says to expect “a woman who’s 88 but feels, let’s say 60, and looks maybe 65.” But this is not a show filled with your grandparents’ dinner table jokes. Forest leaves everything on the stage, which she admits that she still gets embarrassed about. “The audience gets shocked that out of this 89-year-old woman comes all of these jokes. When my friends come to see me perform, they call me a slut,” she said with a laugh.

Published by: Holy Minoza

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