Still Doing It Her Way

By Brian Aker

Seeing D’yan Forest’s cabaret act is not for the faint of heart. The 88-year-old comedian and author is no stranger to “mature themes” that, while never vulgar, would shock most Americans. Forest, who’s performed worldwide, splits her time between Paris and New York, where she delivers the most hilarious cabaret shows either city has seen in some time.

Forest grew up a nice Jewish girl from Boston, only to run away to France, where she indulged in countless romances, eventually partnering with a former nun for 25 years. She’s had day jobs teaching basketball, piano, and sex education and recounted her life in the 2021 I Did It My Ways. The book describes this stand-up comedian’s life journey from Boston to Paris—and beyond.

Forest made her way from Boston to Paris in the 1960s after a divorce. “I got through the divorce, then my parents asked, ‘What now?’ I told them, ‘I’m going to Paris.’” Paris in the sixties was as far from Boston as you could imagine. The city’s atmosphere was defined by its unabashed embracing of modern sexual philosophy. Women were galvanized by Simone de Beauvoir’s theories of female empowerment. “It was anything goes!” says Forest.

Decades passed and when Forest eventually returned to the US, she had acquired a French accent. Everyone thought she was French born. “There’s not one drop of French blood in me. It’s all Russian, Latvian, and whatever, but I made a career being a French chanteuse. Being French-ish, I always had work in cocktail lounges where I established myself as a singer,” says Forest. “But I also sang in nine other languages, so if they had an Italian event at a golf club or something with a Jewish band, I would do it!”

Forest has been singing and performing since she was ten years old. “I started learning stand-up comedy eventually.” She recalls once going to a club years ago with only 15 people in the audience. “I’d never done comedy onstage before. Then for five minutes, I used my ukulele for a parody of Thank Heaven for Senior Sex, and that was it. When I saw people laugh, I couldn’t believe it. By my third joke, I was hooked.” Forest added, “This was the year after 9/11. So, I started working in comedy when we needed the laughs.”

Forest is looking forward to following up her 2022 show Swinging on the Seine with a new cabaret act for 2023 in Paris and New York City. She says, “Nobody can believe an 88-year-old is saying what I say about what went on in my life. It works because they know I’m a little embarrassed about what I’m saying, and let’s face it, I am. I’m a pure Bostonian. But this is the comedy that works.”