Posts Tagged ‘humor in stuttering’
Well, I took a big risk and joined an improv class. I had heard improv was a great way to get out of your comfort zone, practice being in the moment and have fun.
My first class was this week. I had googled a few articles on improv so had a general idea as to what it was, but really had no idea what to expect when I walked into the classroom. I was nervous and excited at the same time. I was nervous about looking foolish in front of others and about how to handle the fact I stutter.
It was important for me to find a way to let my classmates know that I stutter so they wouldn’t be surprised when they heard me stuttering.
We started out with doing some warm-up exercises to get to know each other. They were a combination of saying our names and doing a fun action. Before we knew it, everyone was laughing and seemed somewhat comfortable. Turns out, I wasn’t the only one who was nervous.
We then moved into learning some of the basics of improv, like establishing relationships and places so that onlookers can get a sense of the scene you’re creating. We worked on collaborating with each other, using the improv strategy of “Yes, and.” This strategy has us agreeing with what our partner gives us and adding to it, forging onward with what we are given. In other words, much of improv is going with the flow.
At one point, the teachers wanted all of us to get to know one another, as our selves, not characters we were creating. We paired up and just talked to each other, asking questions to get to learn about each other.
My partner asked me how my summer was and if I had done any thing fun. Here was my opening to talk about stuttering. I mentioned that I had gone to Atlanta for a conference and naturally she asked what type of conference.
I told her it was the annual NSA conference for people who stutter and that I stuttered. She went with the flow and said that was very interesting. Everyone was watching our “introduction piece” so I advertised it to the group as well. After that, I felt more comfortable letting my stuttering out and just going with the flow.
I am really looking forward to seeing how this class goes. I’ve been looking for something to challenge me since finishing with Toastmasters and this definitely will be a challenge. I’ve been worried about the fact that I am not naturally funny and I’ve read that I don’t have to try and be funny. I can just be natural and work with classmates and think in the moment and work as a team and funny will naturally happen. I’m hopeful that’s true.
Wish me luck. We do a performance in front of an audience at the end of the class, live on stage. I’ll really be stepping out of my comfort zone and hopefully having a blast!
I have recently listened to podcasts (besides my own, who knew?) where people have suggested that we can have fun with our stuttering. Micheal Kidd-Gilchrist, a NBA basketball player with the Charlotte Hornets, was recently on a sports podcast where he talked about having fun with his stuttering.
I have thought of stuttering in terms of making it a positive rather than a negative – “I’m stuttering well today” – but have never really thought about how it can be fun or pleasurable. That takes re-framing from a negative to a positive to a whole new place. A place that many people may not be at in their journey with stuttering.
I brought this idea of having fun with stuttering up at a recent discussion on Stutter Social. It was met with mixed results. Some people were intrigued by the novelty of the concept, as it really is the opposite of what people think about stuttering. One person was willing to explore out loud what it’s like when he makes fun of his stuttering. He mentioned that when he reaches that point, that he can poke fun at his stuttering, then he might not really stutter anymore.
Several people indicated that they could not imagine at all having fun with stuttering. They mentioned the negativity they feel when they stutter and how they wind up feeling depressed during and after long periods of stuttering.
I have been more conscious lately of smiling when I am in a stuttered moment. Whether it be a string of repetitions or a block, I try to remember to smile while I am stuttering. That may not be the same as having fun with it, but it makes me feel better to smile during the moment and I’m pretty sure it helps the listener to remain comfortable and present until I finish.
I am going to challenge myself to play with my stuttering and see what happens when I think about how the repetitions feel as they roll off my tongue and what the sensation of the block feels like. I am far from feeling that getting stuck in a block can be pleasurable, but I get where Constantino is coming from. Anything that we produce – and we produce sounds and words – should be valued as ours, as creative, as something positive.
What do you think of this idea of having fun with your stuttering? What does it feel like when you block? Can you make that a pleasurable experience?
I recently had the opportunity to attend a comedy show, headlined by Drew Lynch, a person who stutters. Drew was featured on last season’s reality TV show, “America’s Got Talent” (AGT.) Drew did stand-up comedy on the TV show and wound up finishing the talent competition in second place.
Drew did not grow up as a stutterer. He claims he began stuttering a few years ago, after being injured in an accident. He was hit in the throat by a softball and began stuttering. He had aspirations to be an actor and decided to try his hand at stand-up comedy when fate intervened and he was injured.
I remember last year when Drew was on AGT. A lot of people in the stuttering community did not find him funny and did not think it was cool to make fun of stuttering. Audiences laughed at his stuttering jokes and the way he made fun of himself. He almost always laughed himself after telling a joke.
I found him to be funny and his humor appropriate, but was only seeing him in 3 minute segments.
When I heard he was coming to my hometown to headline a comedy show, I was very interested in seeing him perform. I wondered how he would handle performing for a longer stretch. And I wondered how my hometown audience would react to a comedian that stutters.
My sister had asked me to go with her to the show, which was a surprise, as I didn’t think she would be interested in seeing someone who stutters. She and I don’t talk about stuttering. It’s always been a taboo topic in my family and continues to be so, even though I am very open and public about my stuttering.
So we went to the show and had a great time. There were two opening acts, one which was very funny and the other was just OK. Neither of them stuttered! 🙂
When Drew came out to perform, he immediately started with a joke about stuttering. He laughed and the audience laughed. Drew went on to perform for almost an hour, which I marveled at, given that it’s a long time and a lot of material to remember for the performance.
His material was not all stuttering related. He had funny jokes about every day life which the audience enjoyed. About half of his material was related to stuttering, and making fun of his own stuttering. I think his willingness to poke fun at himself and laugh at his own jokes and funny stories gave the audience permission to laugh. And laugh they did. It appeared everyone in the packed room was having a great time.
I posted something about having attended this comedy show on Facebook. Several people commented that it is not good to laugh at stuttering, because it opens the door for anybody to laugh at stuttering.
I say that most people can appreciate the context and will not laugh at someone stuttering just because they happened to laugh at a stuttering comedian.
After the show, Drew stayed around to meet and greet fans and signed autographs and took pictures. The line was so long, which was a great sign that the audience had enjoyed Drew’s performance. I did not stay to talk to him, although I really wanted to let him know that I stutter too.
Turns out, after my sister drove me back to my car, she went back and stood in the line to get an autograph and a photo. Guess she really enjoyed the performance.
So, what do you think? Is it OK to laugh at someone who stutters when they are telling jokes and making fun of their own stuttering?
Another TV reality show features someone who stutters, trying to make it big because of, or in spite of, their stuttering.
In the show, America’s Got Talent, we have a young man who stutters and is a comedian. His story is interesting because he says he stutters due to a sports injury. He explains it in the clip below.
Drew Lynch is a comedian and he’s trying to get people to laugh, but I would have liked to see some material that wasn’t encouraging laughing at just stuttering. All of his jokes were about stuttering.
What do you think?
Interesting reference to stuttering!
I was watching an episode of “Nurse Jackie” on Showtime this week with a friend that also stutters. There was an interesting reference made to stuttering, which was comedic and meant to be funny.
A doctor character out of the blue grabbed the breast of the main nurse character. She became angry and immediately pulled away, saying something like, “are you kidding?”
The doctor explained that this was a reaction to stress that he gets, similar to Tourette’s Syndrome.
The doctor grabbed the same nurse’s breast later in the episode. She reacted the same way and the doctor responded with “I can’t help it. When I get stressed, I react like this. It’s like a physical stutter.”
Both my friend and I laughed. We weren’t at all offended by the reference to stuttering, which of course does not manifest itself in such a way.
What do you think? Would you have found it funny? Or do you think it was in poor taste?
This is a clip from the 2014 movie, “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn,” starring Robin Williams and James Earl Jones, an actor who stutters in “real life.”
I think Robin William’s character expresses some of the impatience that listeners often experience when listening to someone who stutters.
What do you think? Do you find this funny or in poor taste? Personally, I found it funny.
Caution: adult language at the end of the clip.
One of the best workshops I attended at the recent NSA conference was called Creative Movement and Storytelling for People Who Stutter. The workshop gave people a chance to see how well their bodies can work, while also helping them express their stories.
It gave people the opportunity to express themselves in different ways than just our verbal communication.
The session was facilitated by Barry Yeoman, an award-winning journalist who has studied dance and story telling.
The workshop included ice-breaking exercises, improvisations and simple movements. By the end, we all worked together to create a more complex piece that we all built together as a group.
I had marked this workshop as one I really wanted to attend, but also told a friend I was nervous about it, because I feel I have two left feet and I am not very good at creative, expressive movement. It takes me way out of my comfort zone to do things like this.
In the end, I was very glad I attended. It was a beautiful, simple, fun way to let go and be creative and not have to worry at all about our speech.
Below is a brief clip of what some of the free expression looked like.