Bashing The Deaf Community To Make a Point?

March 25, 2011

The video clip above is a sketch by comedian Brad Williams, who has some words to say about a specific disability group.

Like any diversity group, the disability community can be deceptively easy to describe as one with common interests and an unified agenda on accessibility and inclusion. In reality, the world of people with disabilities (PwDs) is itself highly diverse and fragmented, with so many specific types of disabilities which present their own issues and challenges.

As Think Beyond The Label often demonstrates in its marketing and communications, it is not the easy-to-describe labels that define a person with a disability, but the skills and capabilities the person brings to the table. Yet, like some people without disabilities, PwDs are sometimes accused of creating unfair labels about some people within their community. Which goes to show that the presence of so many different types of disabilities within the PwD community can result in misconceptions and misunderstandings.

What do you think of Brad Williams’ video? Edgy? Thought-provoking? Inappropriate? Does he make a valid point? Comment below.

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    { 15 comments… read them below or add one }

    Andy Foster March 25, 2011 at 9:36 am

    One question – does he typically mock other groups? I don’t know this comedian well enough to make an observation. But if this is a normal part of his shtick, then it seems that he likes doing this because a) it’s easy and b) it gets him cheap laughs.

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    Michael Janger March 25, 2011 at 9:58 am

    We will have to leave it to someone to answer your question, because the videos on his website are, ironically, not captioned.

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    Allen Janger March 25, 2011 at 10:03 am

    He makes a valid point, cites an inconvenient truth: we know when we are hurt, not when we hurt others.

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    Michael O'Grady March 25, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Michael,
    I looked at a few of his other videos and the vast majority of his jokes are self deprecating. He seems to take no prisoners with regards to any specific groups.
    Hope you are well.
    Mike

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    Georgia McDonald March 25, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    I laughed hard! This is pretty tasteful in my book. It helps he is a dwarf so his rant had more power to it.

    If he was ranting about Social Security and how deaf people in general don’t tip, then I’d wonder…

    If he was ranting on why it’s so hard to talk to a deaf person and that talking to us means punching holes in paper to read braille to us, then i’d have a problem because he’s perpetuating a silly misconception. I’d start throwing rocks.

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    J.J. March 25, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    I actually found it hysterical…(shrugs)

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    David March 25, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    His story reminds me of the time that Greg and I went to see Rosie O’Donnell at the Kennedy Center. The interpreter just threw Rosie off her stride because she kept glancing over and over to see what the interpreter signed and made a few feeble (and unfunny) jokes about Deaf people and signing. I have to say that I lost whatever respect I had for Rosie then and there. Her whole attitude was condescending.

    In contrast, this guy is straightforward. I think he would have said the same thing to my face if I was in that audience.

    Deaf people are so unfamiliar to a lot of people, so I think it’s OK for us to be the butt of jokes, so long as the humor is equally directed towards other groups.

    By the way, I don’t recognize the sign for “retarded” that Brad Williams uses, unless the unnamed ‘terp was using the alphabetical “MR” which is politically incorrect.

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    Deaf Citizen March 26, 2011 at 3:11 am

    This dude is trying to be comedian at the expense of the deaf community.

    I see he used wrong sign for retarded.

    He seemed to be signing, “I know it” few times.

    Not sure if he is serious or joking about not liking deaf people.

    That’s his choice.

    Karma works its way around one way or another…

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    MM March 26, 2011 at 5:31 am

    The comedian DID provide a text overview of what was said. He was very funny, and accurate too, many old signs used are based on mimickry and visually descriptive of the subject matter, over time attitudes change however signs often don’t, so you have to take deaf sign in context, and not assume an immediate attitude of taking offence. Sign here has been ‘updated’ to adopt political correctness, most deaf ignore it ! Political in correctness is what the comedian is about, he rejects it obviously, as do I, it has caused more problems than it was ever meant to solve and given weight and credence to a whole host of very introspective and silly people to act as thought police on our behalf, the man WAS funny, and I’d pay to see him again. I wouldn’t pay to see or join the wingers who seize upon every aspect as an insult, they need to get out more… Barriers are supposed to be coming DOWN, not be built ever higher by some puritanical heirachy acting as witch finder generals…

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    Mad Doc March 26, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    I haven’t view this clip but when reading the article no one ought to complain about it. Let me say this:
    are we white people allowed to say black jokes such as the dread “n” word in a joke? Are black people allow to say jokes about white the dread “h” word? Are Arabic terrorist allowed to bomb us if we joke about their ways of praying to Muhammand? We handicap joke about our own joke. As a Deaf person I like handicap joke so I can laugh at my own expense. Here’s one, What did Helen Keller’s parents do to punish Helen Keller?

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    Ann_C March 26, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    The comedian is a little person, er, dwarf (never mind the impolitical correctness, lol).

    He exaggerated the interpreter’s sign for little person, and it was funny. He was poking fun both at the sign language and himself. The sign for retarded and the sound of deaf speech had something of a double entendre, which was funny as well.

    Lord help us if we can’t laugh at ourselves.

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    MM March 27, 2011 at 5:37 am

    Heaven protect us from the New Puritans….:)

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    Michael Janger March 27, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Thanks for the comments. As a deaf person, I laughed when I saw Brad Williams’ video. I thought this was a very clever bit. I was really curious to see what everyone in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community thought of this clip, since we don’t see a lot of those comedy clips that target the deaf community.

    Years back, I went to a comedy club in DC once because a friend of mine had free tickets and rounded up a bunch of deaf friends. She convinced the club to put up a sign language intepreter on stage. Well, the lead comedian — I forget his name but he’s a B-list comedian with a reputation for raw, hard-hitting humor — didn’t know the interpreter was on stage. As he went up there, he saw the interpreter and asked what he was doing there. When the interpreter explained why, he got it and completely changed his 30-minute performance and made fun of the interpreter the entire time. Some jokes were funny, but most were just over-the-edge and made us very uncomfortable.

    Brad Williams’ performance is an adroit take on a basic rule of thumb regarding making fun of other groups. If you’re part of that group, you’re allowed to make jokes about that group. If not, then don’t. So by that definition, Brad Williams shouldn’t make fun of deaf people. But since he’s a dwarf, and had something to say about the ASL sign describing dwarves, he made it into a larger commentary on how ASL signs describe specific disability groups. Which I thought was funny, clever, and thought-provoking. But edgy, and I can see why it can make some people uncomfortable.

    That said, his sign for retarded — which appears to be adapted from the interpreter’s use of “MR” to decribe mentally-retarded people — is outdated. And he exaggerated the signs used by the interpreter to make his point.

    In an apologist defense of ASL, many signs are descriptive because deaf and hard-of-hearing people rely so much on visual cues. So how else do I describe a blind person using ASL? I need a visual description that involves the eyes. Same thing with dwarves since they have a physical characteristic that distinguishes themselves from those who are not dwarves. Even the sign for “deaf” incorporates the person’s ear in its description.

    I’m thrilled, though, that ASL signs are constantly evolving to fit modern realities. Years ago, signs for Asian nations such as Japan, China and Korea used the first letter of the country’s name, and pulled back the eye. Now, these signs embrace the country’s geographic shape or a specific part of its culture to describe the country.

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    Dollydale March 28, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Ohh My Gosh,,,Brad Williams how can u talk like that ,,,,u think we always get away with anything ,,,Not only deaf people hearing people do too,,,Dont judge us as DEAF LABELS,,,,We dont sign dwarf as little,,,WE always spell it out and we deafies hardly ever use the word DWARF and dont say deaf make fun of dwarfs,,,hearing make fun of us deafies bec we cant hear,,,DONT MESS WITH THE DEAF,,,,,
    We can do anything u do just that we cant hear,,,,,Are u out to make fun of us bec we signing,,,u cant sign???
    U dont know anything about deaf community and Once u know the deaf culture u will understand us clearly ,,,

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    Dollydale March 28, 2011 at 10:50 am

    I dont know if u got the signing from an interpreter ,,,,The sign for DWARF and RETARD are all wrong ,,,,,U INTERPRETER need to get it right ,,,,,I raised at a DEAF SCHOOL and graduated also attended Gallaudet University,,,,OUR DEAF SIGNING is not like the Interpreter ,,,,They sign it all wrong ,,,,,Believe me !!!!

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