All posts by ninagcomedian

Nina G is the world’s only female stuttering stand up comedian (or at least until she finds another). She is also a disability activist, storyteller, children's book author and educator. She brings her humor to help people confront and understand social justice issues such as disability, diversity, and equity. When she isn’t performing at comedy clubs like the San Francisco Punchline or the Laugh Factory, she is playing colleges and presenting as a keynote speaker to children with disabilities and training professionals! Check out her newest project, Once Upon an Accommodation: A Picture Book for all Ages! Nina writes from her own experience as a person with a Learning Disability and how to navigate the world of disability related accommodations in school. (from my first blog) I am reluctantly blogging! I actually hate writing! Despise it! Use entirely too many exclamation points! I am a stand up comedian who stutters and has a Learning Disability. In spite of the stuttering I love talking. Not the case for writing. It sucks! I hate the process because I feel that I have to go through drafts and drafts because of structure, grammar, spelling and all those things that I got red on my paper for while in school. My fantasy was to write my memoirs but that has been three years in the fantasizing. So I decided to open myself up and write it here. In my stand up, I stutter openly. I say I stutter and I just stutter---f-f-fuck it, right?! Well why not on a blog? Not the stuttering part but the Learning Disability-dyslexia part. I am choosing to let the little green and red lines dictate my editing. I am not having someone look at this before I publish it. I am just going to write. I am smart, most likely smarter than most good spellers and grammerers (ya, that's a neologism--live with it). Obviously I am defensive because this is a difficult process for me and I want the reader to beware of any disjointed-ness and PLEASE don't correct my spelling or grammar--just like you shouldn't complete my sentences. With that warm welcome of self-disclosures, I welcome you to my blog. I hope to share my experiences as a woman with multiple disabilities who sees herself as an activist using humor as a way to express my perspective and hopefully move along the conversation of whatever I am talking about. Thank you for checking out my blog. You can become a fan of me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ninagcomedian and find my videos on Youtube at NinaGcomic. I look forward to comments ranging from "women aren't funnny," to "you are such an inspiration (which I only allow if you actually have a disability and I reflect on your experiences)."

International Stammering Awareness Day-Dublin Ireland

Note to participants!  I will be checking my twitter throughout the presentation to field questions.  So please address them to @ninagcomedian.  Also, please post questions here that you would like me to address.  

Saturday, October 21 I will be the keynote for Dublin, Ireland’s National Stammering Awareness Day!  I am so excited, especially because this year’s theme is “A World that Understands Stuttering.”  Because I will also be in Huntington Beach performing for the keynote at the California Association of Postsecondary Education and Disability, I won’t be in Dublin in person (as much as I would love to go back to Ireland).  That is why I wanted to front load my presentation.  I will be delivering my Irish keynote on Skype so I don’t think I will be able to do a powerpoint, but wanted to supply some visuals.  So Irish Stammering community!  Here ya go!

Through a combination of storytelling, comedy, and hopefully taking advantage of saying “feck”, I will be talking about, you guessed it—STAMMERING!  I will be exploring Joe Sheehan’s concept of the”stammering iceberg” and how it is constructed by the stigmas we take on from the world.  I will question the idea of this iceberg as a constant.  If we shirt our perspective, might be be able to reframe the iceberg to be more empowering.  Can’t we change how we think about our own stammering?  I offer an alternative, but in the end will challenge the audience, stammers, or not, to reconsider their own icebergs.  These questions include:

What does your current iceberg look like?

  • What thoughts and feelings do you currently have about your stammering?
  • Where did these thoughts and feelings come from?

How would you like this iceberg to change?

  • Choose one feeling from Sheehan’s iceberg that you currently identify with or have identified with in the past.

What kind of iceberg do you want to strife for?

  • How do you want to change the ways that you think and feel about stammering?
  • What do you need from the stammering community to do that?

Of course, we should recognize that we just don’t snap our fingers and make these changes.  They are life long.  To reject the stigma that our society fosters and change the way we think about stammering is a work in progress.

Since I just gave away most of my speech, let me explain my two images that I will be using.

 

This picture is especially for the professionals in the room.  Speech and language therapists, helping professionals, and whoever else: this is an illustration of equality and equity.  It is commonly shown in presentation in education in the US.  It demonstrates that everyone has differences and that through universal design we are able to address these differences.  For people who stammer, we don’t want anything different from anyone else, we just want access to what everyone else gets.  This can include education, work, and relationships.

together-1

 

The next picture illustrates Sheehan’s iceberg on the left and my revised iceberg on the right.  Sheehan’s analogy of the iceberg was that stammering was like an iceberg, with stammering above the waterline and our negative feelings about stammering submerged below.  I challenge this theory by asking, can we think of our stammering differently.  I added some different words we might use to describe the experience of our speech.  It just isn’t the job of the person who stammers to change how they think about stuttering but it is the responsibility of parents, professionals, the media and everyone in the world to create a better understanding of stammering.

bergs2
Graphic will be part of a chapter in Stammering Pride and Prejudice

, published by J&R Press, 2018If you want to create your own iceberg, go for it!  I would love to see them, so tag me at Facebook.com/ninagcomedian or Twitter/Instagram @Ninagcomedian.  Here is something you can use…

Image (33) 2

Nina’s book Stutterer Interrupted: The Making of a stuttering Stand Up Comedian is due out in 2018!  Sign up for news from Nina at www.NinaGcomedian.com.

 

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The Disability Art and Culture Project Presents “An Evening of Comedy” Featuring Nina G

For Immediate Release | September 19, 2017 Media Contact:
Kathy Coleman, Disability Art and Culture Project 503-358-9085, kafia2008@yahoo.com

The Disability Art and Culture Project Presents “An Evening of Comedy” Featuring Nina G, the Bay Area’s favorite female stuttering stand up comedian
The Disability Art and Culture Project (DACP) invites you to attend our upcoming fundraiser!

Curious Comedy Theater
5225 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Portland, OR 97211 Wednesday October 18, 2017
Doors at 7:30 p.m.

Photo by Shannon Knight.
[Image description: Nina G speaks into a microphone.]

The Disability Art and Culture Project (DACP) invites you to attend our upcoming fundraiser!

Advance Tickets: $30, available now through Eventbrite! https://www.eventbrite.com/e/an-evening-of-comedy-featuring-nina-g-tickets-37469773100 Admission is $35 at the door, so make to sure to get your tickets early.

DACP will bring Nina G, the San Francisco Bay Area’s favorite female stuttering stand up comedian (granted she is the only one), to Portland for an evening of comedy, and a silent auction!

‘Nina G has been challenging attitudes about Disability since she did stand-up for the first time in 2010. “How many people with Disabilities does it take to screw in a light bulb?” Answer: “One to screw it in and 5 able bodied people to say ‘You are such an inspiration!”‘ (Branch). She brings her humor to help people confront and understand social justice issues such as disability, diversity, and equity.

Our fundraiser will support the second biennial Portland ReelAbilities Disability Film Festival. Founded in 2007, ReelAbilities is dedicated to sharing the stories, lives and art of people with disabilities. It consists of award-winning films of the highest cinematic and artistic quality and is hosted in cities across the country. We are excited to bring these films back to Portland in the spring of 2018!

In addition to being a stand up comedian, Nina is also a disability activist, storyteller, children’s book author and educator. Learn more about Nina G W WW.NinaGcomedian.com , her one person show: Going Beyond Inspirational , or purchase Nina’s book: Once Upon An Accommodation: A Book About Learning Disabilities

Visit DACP online to sign up for our email list, and stay in the know about our events!
The Disability Art and Culture Project | disabilityartculture@gmail.com | http://www.dacphome.org |

http://www.facebook.com/DisabilityArtandCultureProject

Learn more about the 2016 Portland ReelAbilities Film Festival, and stay up to date with developments for 2018: http://portland.reelabilities.org/

Branch, Valerie. “Comedian Who Stutters Goes Beyond the Punch Lines.” 2014.

– – – – – About the Disability Art and Culture Project:

The mission of the Disability Art and Culture Project (DACP) is to further the artistic expression of people with both apparent and non-apparent disabilities. We view disability as a natural and valuable variation of the human form. We believe affirmative disability identity is intertwined with racial, gender, social, and economic justice. DACP accomplishes this mission by supporting the creative expression of people with disabilities. DACP utilizes the performing arts as a method of examining disability in relation to society. DACP also supports established and emerging artists, as well as the community at large, in developing knowledge and expression of disability culture and pride.

 

“An Evening of Comedy” Featuring Nina G is made possible by the Northwest Health Foundation.

 

An Evening of Comedy Flyer 10.18.17

How Will You Celebrate Stuttering Awareness?

As a stand up comedian and Disability educator, I aim to make the world more aware of aspects of the disability experience.  As a person who stutters, who loves her community, I make a special point to share my experience and educate people about stuttering and stuttering etiquette.  In everything I do, I hope to go beyond stuttering awareness to place where we can celebrate our community and have a more inclusive world where we are able to be more integrated in our identities as people who stutter and however else we identify (culture, talents, hobbies, etc…).  We just aren’t our speech, but I personally don’t want people to overlook my experiences as a Stutterer because those experiences are an important part of what has created me.

Sometimes I get a little stuck on how I want to raise awareness.  I am just one individual, so how will I make an impact in raising awareness in my personal and professional lives, not to mention the world?  I have some ideas that I wanted to share with you.  And in no particular order….

Ain’t No Party Like A Stuttering Party

You know what?  People don’t equate stuttering or disability with fun!  I know, I don’t get it either.  Whenever I am around people who share my experiences I have hella fun.  I feel like I am at home.  People without disabilities or who don’t stutter can’t even imagine us getting together and partying.  Why not get together with your local stuttering community and go out to eat, picnic, sing karaoke, go out dancing, or whatever would be fun.  Make it an open invitation so people can meet up (you can even use meetup.com to do outreach), meet each other and find a community where they can not only share their gripes about stuttering in a fluent world, but also share their joys, successes and laughter.  Making space for us to have fun is so important and is a great bonding experience.  If you want to wear matching shirts or stuttering awareness sashes, that is great, but just getting together is a big deal for us.

Fun+food+stuttering=awareness

As an Italian-American, I tend to overdo it with the food, so I think I have some expertise in this area.  My plan is to bring stuttering awareness cupcakes to my office to share this year.  They will eat sea-green colored cupcakes but also get information about how to talk to a person who stutters.  There is plenty of information online about stuttering (just make sure it is the good stuff—please don’t send them that BS of Tony Robbins curing a person who stutters in 7 minutes because he was traumatized by Rocky and Bulwrinkle–no joke!  There is a lot of information about stuttering.  There are many organizations that produce materials such as the National Stuttering Association (NSA), Friends who Stutter, and Say.  Both organizations stress self-acceptance, community, and treatment options for people who stutter.  Not everyone is looking to be fluent and it is important for people outside of our community to know that we don’t need to be fixed.  Why not provide this type of information with decorated cookies or cupcakes?!

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Providing resources

Whatever you do, remember to provide resources to people you outreach too.  You might want to make a list of your top ten links, organizations, or videos.  Sometimes people are too shy to ask questions so providing resources can help them to find information on their own and digest it in their own time.  There are also some great podcasts like Women Who Stutter: Our Stories, Stutter Talk and Stuttering is Cool that you can promote as resources where real life experiences are explored.  Also, there are wonderful communities that can be found online.  One of my favorites is Stutter Social where you can communicate with people who stutter from all around the world in real time.  Because it is a Google Circle, you are able to see and hear people and is open to everyone.

Donating/Fundraising

There are large and small ways to fundraise or donate.  The most obvious is to just do it.  Send money to your favorite stuttering organization.  Many of us can’t afford to do this, but we might be able to organize an event to raise money.  There are some amazing organizations that help individuals who stutter to find their identity and advocate against discrimination.  Find out what stuttering organizations fit your own passions.  Besides raising money, your personal campaign funding is also raising awareness too because you are profiling an organization that you are passionate about.

Extra-Extra: Stutter all about it!

Did you know that radio stations NEED to do public service announcements (PSAs) as part of their community outreach?  Why not one about stuttering? I found the National Stuttering Association when I was a teenager because of a late night PSA and it changed my life.  Why not network to see how you can bring stuttering to a bigger audience?  Contacting your local news outlets is another great way to get the word out.  National Stuttering Awareness week is a great hook for a news outlet to cover.

Social Media

Social media is a blog entry in and of itself!  Lots of great activism goes on in social media.  Between tweeting, facebooking, blogging/vlogging, pinning and whatever else Silicon Valley has introduced this week, there is a ton of stuff that you can do to raise awareness and celebrate the Stuttering community.  Here are a few ideas.

Memes

For my purposes, I am talking about the little pictures that you can post to your social media.  Memes have a more broad definition, but let’s stick to the images for now.  Memes are a great way to give a visual image to a sound bite that you want to convey.  You can create your own to share or you can re-share others.  I have some of the ones that I have created at, please feel free to steal them: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.918396334847879.1073741833.123746114312909&type=1

Whether you create your own or share other’s, you might want to include a message about what the meme means to you and why you are sharing it.  We don’t always get to share our experience of stuttering, so saying a bit about it’s significance in your life will help to educate others.

Vlogs/Blogs

One of my biggest pet peeves, whether we are talking about entertainment or the academic/research realms, is that we, as people who stutter, have often had our voices blunted by the dominant/fluent perspective.  Traditionally, we have not had control over our images in the media or elsewhere.  The Disability community has adopted the slogan, “nothing about us without us” meaning that we should have say over all aspects of our Disability experience.  For the first time in our history, we have a direct line for representing who we are.  Why not share your experiences to the world?  Of course you should consider what you are sharing and take precautions.  If you are a young person, check with your family and friends to see if what you are thinking is a good idea and if you are prepared for any backlash.  Just assume that someone will have a problem with what you are saying, but also know that if you speak from a place that is authentic and true to yourself, you will touch people.  Other videos, like skits or slide shows, can also contribute to the library of images and diversity of content about stuttering.

One of my favorite videos I have worked on was with Gina Davis.  

Sharing videos

Sometimes you just can’t get around to creating a video or a blog but you might want to share other videos/blogs that represent your views.  There is a lot of great stuff out there and losing yourself in a search can produce some great opportunities to educate people on your Twitter feed and Facebook.  When sharing, do take into consideration that over saturating your Facebook feed can water down your message.  People get overwhelmed.  It might be better for you to post twice a day over the week instead of all at once.  Marketing research says that the peak time for Facebook is 11AM.  Apparently you are all sneaking it at work!  Thinking strategically can make the most out of your own personal awareness campaign.  Also, instead of just posting videos, include comments or questions so that people interact with the video.  It might start some great conversations on your feed!

People you admire who also happen to stutter

If I see another meme or article about Tiger Woods overcoming his stuttering, I am going to hurl!  So many of the images of people who stutter are people who don’t stutter openly.  Look beyond the awareness posters and images of “people who overcame” and look toward the athletes, professors, reporters, podcast hosts, authors and people YOU identify with.  Post these pictures and bios to your social media outlets and let people know why they are important to you.

The following is a list of some of the stuttering awareness material I have produced over the years.  Please include additional links in the comments section.  I hope something touches you and motivates you to tell others about stuttering:

BLOGS

Don’t Be That Person Who Stutters

The Stuttering Iceberg Gets A Make Over

License to Stutter: What the Stuttering Community Has Meant to Me

VIDEOS

Reflections on stuttering and stand up comedy

1-tB0dA_v-GdbrzgVsbYAY9gI recently celebrated my seventh year of doing stand up comedy. Guess what?  I have some stuff to say!  Please take a look and maybe even comment!  Thanks!

“Stories about disabilities usually end with a moral, an inspirational tale of overcoming, something warm and fuzzy for the non-disabled reader. That is not how I view my story. I didn’t overcome my stutter; I simply allowed it to exist. People can think what they want about me, my comedy and, yes, my stuttering. Good or bad, their views give me something to hang my jokes on — jokes that represent me”

 

https://thebolditalic.com/im-a-stand-up-comic-who-stutters-and-it-doesn-t-impede-my-career-at-all-f53dc852bbdb

 

#stuttering #stutter #disability #discrimination #standup #standupcomedy #comedian

 

Nina G Partners With EdRev!

Nina G is a comedian and professional speaker.  Every few months she chooses a nonprofit to highlight on social media and donate a portion of her speaking fees to.  Since August she has raised month for the Parent Education Network to bring awareness to Ed Rev.  Ed Rev will be held on April 22, 2017 at AT&T Park.  It is an amazing day of self-awareness, advocacy and resources for individuals with learning and attentional disabilities.

Nina’s recent donation to PEN went towards helping community college students and faculty attend EdRev. The day is marked with amazing keynote speakers, workshops, information booths, youth participation, and other fun activities (like getting to run around the SF Giants baseball diamond).  Plus Nina will be the MC and will signing her book Once Upon An Accommodation: A Book About Learning Disabilities. “I love seeing so many young people being proud of the way they think,” Nina says of the event.  “It’s something I just didn’t have when I was kid. To be there with other people who think differently and celebrate those differences is so empowering. I hope my contributions to PEN help bring more participants to this awesome event!”

If you are a student or teacher at a community college or public school then you are in for free if you use the codes below!  Event is also interpreted in Spanish (see flyer).  Hope to see you there!

EdRev17_Flyer_CommunityCollegeEdRev17_Flyer_PublicSchoolEdRev17_Flyer_PublicSchool_SpanishEdRev17_Flyer_PublicSchool_Spanish

What Betsy DeVos Needs To Know About Being A Kid With Disabilities

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If you are like me, your head may have exploded watching parts of the DeVos hearings.  I wanted to put a face on what her policies might result so I reflected on my own experience for my Huffington Post blog.  Please share it so people understand that we can’t go backwards in supporting our kids (and adults) with disabilities.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/what-betsy-devos-needs-to-know-about-being-a-kid-with_us_58804453e4b0fb40bf6c46b0?ncid=engmodushpmg00000004

#Devoshearings #dyslexia #learningdisability #education #specialeducation

A Stuttering-Dyslexic Brain Walks Into A Comedy Club: On writing and performing new comedy

NOTE TO READER:  In case you haven’t read my WordPress blog before, this is the raw deal.  I write in my full dyslexic glory without feedback from my regular editor.  It is likely that this will be a draft for another article or possibly one day a book, so please comment.  I would love to hear your differences in how your process speech or what science might say to explain my process.

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It had been awhile since I went hard on comedy.  I started working a full time job and a lot of my energy went into adjusting to my new duties and environment.  Luckily my job was with a college so in my winter break, and with an entering US president who offers so much richness to a Disabled comedian that I decided I needed to hit the open mics.  As my winter break ends I am reminded of the artistic process of doing comedy.  Developing material from the premises to bits, adding tags and experimenting with the intonation and timing of the delivered punchlines.  I am also reminded of how my dyslexia and stuttering interact with this process.  

 

As I stood in front of a small humble audience in Silicon Valley, that would eventually pay $8 for my gas money to drive 40 miles, I could see the juxtaposition of new and old material and how it interacted with my stuttering blocks and repetitions.  Old but trusted material was relatively fluent.  It reminds me of when I was religious affairs student government officer at Saint Joseph Elementary school.  The majority of my role was to saying morning prayer.  When I originally decided to run for the office I knew that the criteria of saying prayers would not be a problem because memorized and automatic scripts can eventually become fluent for me (this is not always the case for all).  I am sure when I was required to memorize certain prayers for my First Communion I may not have been fluent, but over time automaticity of speech takes over and bypasses the stuttering part of the brain.  Apparently my jokes about sexism in comedy and disability discrimination function similarly.  With enough memorization they become automatic and although I might stutter on some of it, I seem quiet fluent.  So fluent in fact that some audience members look confused about my stuttering material, as they did in the Silicon Valley bar for the first 3 minutes of my set.  Then we ventured into my new material and they quickly found out that I did actually stutter.

 

Most things having to do with language are processed on the left side of the brain.  Rhythmic prose seem to be processed from the right side of the brain.  Creating something that is language based and then speaking it tax the left side of the brain.  As a comedian with dyslexia and who stutters, my left brain is on double duty when I write and perform new material.  Knowing what topic pisses me off enough to talk about in front of an audience, figuring out the funny aspects in that topic, writing the setups, developing the punchlines, trying out tags (the extra little something after the punchline), trying out the material, often putting the word that I might stutter on at the end of the punchline, practicing the timing in the car, and finally manifesting this all in speech in front of the audience.  And then, as the shampoo bottle directs, RINSE AND REPEAT.  I do it again and again until I have each step down and it becomes so automatic that it is like saying the Our Father or Hail Mary.  Of course these jokes are far from the holy, but my guess is that they eventually get stored in the same place in my brain.  

 

I wanted to share this for a few reasons.  First of all we either talk about stuttering or dyslexia but there are so many of us that have both of these. It is like we have to chose one of these things as a community.  We rarely talk about their interaction.  I have observed that the more my dyslexia is highlighted in the function I am doing, the more likely I am to stutter.  I don’t know the neurology of how these two things work in tandem, but my guess is that the more my left brain needs to function, then the more my speech areas are exacerbated and the more I stutter.  Again I don’t know if a speech and language pathologist would say the same thing, but I know that this is my own experience of stuttering and how it feels.  

 

Secondly, I wanted to acknowledge the sometimes difficult experience of stuttering.  I almost always write about the discrimination or the social-emotional aspects of our experience.  I see these issues as the crux of the Disability experience.  Why should we be discriminated against because of how we, as dyslexics, process language, or we as people who stutter, express ourselves.  There is no known remedy of either of these aspects of myself, nor do I care about ridding myself of them.  I would love it if people not be assholes, so please work toward that.  Although I am not usually the merry sunshine type, I do like to talk about the positive experiences stuttering and dyslexia can bring like community and self-acceptance.  I usually do not focus on the function of language, in part because I think that is what people expect.  The media often focuses on how difficult it is for us to speak and not how attitudes need to be changed in how others accept our speech as part of neurodiversity.  Additionally, the nuances of speaking from dyslexia and stuttering is often ignored.  It just seems to complicated for the regular inspirational porn we tend to see on either stuttering or dyslexia.    

 

Nonetheless, sometimes after a long day presenting at an all day workshop my jaw hurts (stuttering) and I could forget my husbands name (dyslexia).  It also takes me a really long time to figure out comedy.  I use to get double time for taking tests in college.  For every hour that you took the test, I would have two hours.  I needed time to process what I was being asked and then what I would respond back with.  It feels the same for me in comedy.  In addition to the writing aspects, there is remembering what I want to say.  I also attempt to say it the same way every time, which can be difficult to pinpoint what I feel works and what does not.  I even have someone transcribe some of my better sets so that I can see exactly what language was used.  I then have to see what words I will almost always stutter on and how that might affect my timing.  I then might have to structure my jokes so that timing is more efficient in delivering my message.  I then go and practice the jokes in front of others, because as any person who stutters will tell you, we usually don’t stutter when we are alone.  When I do stutter when I am alone, then I know this stutter will likely be even more exaggerated when I am in front of a crowd.  

 

Are you exhausted yet?  Just thinking about it makes my left brain hemisphere hurt!  

 

The other night at an open mic I started feeling the frustration of my speech which I usually have an incredibly high tolerance for.  I am like a stuttering Zen Master.  I know that repetitions and blocks are going to come and go.  I know that when my stutter is a bit more at times, that it will eventually become less.  I have found that there isn’t anything exactly that I can do for it, I just know it will fluctuate.  My recent surge of energy has brought some frustration though.  Working on my new 8 minutes and word smithing for comedy timing along with stuttering timing, all while having dyslexia finally got the best of me.  How does a stuttering-dyslexic comedian express their frustration?  I ranted and somehow threw Marilyn Monroe under the bus (please forgive me Saint Marilyn!).  

 

To introduce my newest joke I used a feigned exaggerated speech pattern hoping to be more fluent on the word “married.”  Frustrated that I even had to do this, I shouted about the brain and how using a phony voice would help to ensure that the word “married” would come out quicker. I mentioned that Marilyn Monroe used this technique. Of course her double M name took me longer to get out than “married” ever would.  And that’s when I pondered out loud what I had been thinking since I first learned that Monroe stuttered, “why would a person who stuttered give herself a double M name?”  Of course it was not said in that classy kind of way. There may have been a stuttering F-word somewhere in there instead.  You can check out the video below (warning, explicit language and Trump critique at the end).

 

My stuttering got to me this week.  It wasn’t because someone asked me if there was an intrusive brain implant that could cure my speech or say that they could cure me by something they could do to me sexually (yes, I have had both said to me on multiple occasions).  But I also discovered something about stuttering and comedy.  As a comedian I create music.  I know this because the more that my material transfers over to the right side of the brain (which is the hemisphere we sing from), I stutter less.  The lyrics, the rhythm, the timing, the automaticity of the words are what make up comedy and utilized when I am on stage.  Stuttering has helped me understand not only how difficult the chore of comedy can be but also the preciseness of speech.  Wordsmithing punchlines and tags while figuring out why timing works this way but not that way is part of all comedy, stuttering or not.  Many artists look down on comedy as a lesser art form.  I think I just proved that a prolific and talented comedian is creating a symphony, they may be using the 7 dirty words, and working independently might I add, but the result is no less great.  I don’t know if there are functional MRIs that show the different parts of the brain in creating comedy and delivering it, but my guess the whole brain is lighting up.  I am just lucky enough to be the one who shows people at a late night comedy show how it all functions.  

Watch the video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ks1tea2JXF4

 

Nina G Uses Humor to Talk About Dyslexia

Check out my video and interview with Understood.org.  Play the video or read the transcript here!

[Interview]

NINA G.: My name is Nina G., and I live in Oakland, California. I am a comedian and professional speaker, as well as an author and disability advocate.

[At Brainwash Comedy Club]

TONY SPARKS: I need you to lose your mind…for Nina G.!

[applause, cheers]

NINA: Thank you.

TONY: Come on!

[cheers]

[Interview]

NINA: I have language-based learning disabilities that manifest in many, many ways, and I also stutter. Which isn’t LD, but it’s something going on in my brain too.

[music]

[At comedy club]

NINA: So if you have a learning disability or ADHD or you love a person that has a learning disability or ADHD, make some noise!

[cheers, woots, applause]

All right. Thank you.

[Interview]

Throughout my life, it’s affected the way that I read, the way that I write, that way that I spell, the way that I process information. Even in sign language, I thought, oh, my dyslexia’s not gonna be a problem there. But you do have the fingerspell.

[At comedy club] So I have some advice. A lot of times, I’ll be in the midst of a stutter, so I’ll be doing, “N-n-n-n.” And that’s when the other person does this with their hands.

[laughter]

You know? Yeah. Yeah. This, and telling me to “spit it out,” always very helpful.

[laughter]

[Interview]

I didn’t really have an outlet. I’m not an artist. I’m not musical at all. And sports was not my thing. The thing that I did love, though, from a very, very early age was stand-up comedy. That’s always been a thing that I’ve really loved and that I knew more of about than anybody else in my class and teachers and everybody. I learned how to be an advocate, and I learned how to have ideas, and I learned how to be heard. For me, being a comedian, I’m better able to access those ideas. Comedians who made discrimination tangible for people, so like Chris Rock and Richard Pryor and George Lopez, they were able to make audiences understand their experiences through comedy. And they’ve inspired me that maybe I can help people understand the experiences of people with disabilities through comedy or writing or whatever I do.

[At Superfest Film Festival]

I remember as a kid, maybe there’d be an episode of 90210 where one of the girls would have dyslexia. It was consider a “very special episode.” And then, they wouldn’t talk about it ever again. [laughter] And that was it. That was it!

[Interview] So many times, I think disability–whether it’s learning disabilities or stuttering or anything else–it’s presented as people being very weak. And that’s not true. In fact, kind of the opposite is true. That some of the strongest people that I’ve ever met are people with disabilities. But we’ve been presented this one image, and I think it’s really important to change that.

[At comedy club]

Thanks so much, guys!

[cheers, applause]

Dyslexia and Self-Compassion

Why are two dyslexics having a deep conversation about Buddhist psychology, compassion and learning disabilities while lying down on astroturf? The answer will reveal itself.  Check out my conversation with Sarah Entine.  We were at a party and got talking and I was like, let’s video this conversation and see if other people are interested.  We went to the patio and then the rest unfolds from there….

 

sarah-en

See Video at: Buddhist psychology, self-compassion and dyslexia all walk into a bar…

NINA:  So I wanted to interview Sarah Entine because we were having this wonderful conversation outside of a bathroom, and I thought this needs to move to the video and move to YouTube. So I decided I would interview her on–Well, many of you know, I have this wonderful iceberg that I took from Dr. Sheehan. So he has the iceberg, where there is stuttering, but then underneath that, there’s denial and social isolation and all of these things. Really, you can take the iceberg, and look at it that way. But then you can turn it around and look at it in a different way. That different way could be that maybe stuttering is, that it brings community. Maybe there’s pride. Maybe there’s a different way to look at that. Sarah has done some work in Buddhist psychology, and she had a really interesting way of looking at dyslexia and maybe even general disability issues. So I wanted to have an opportunity to talk with her. Plus, you know, dyslexics kind of do things kinda weird. We’re at a party, and we are doing it in their backyard. And nobody knows. So that’s why we’re here. All right, so.

 

So you were telling me about self-compassion?

SARAH: Self-compassion, yes.

NINA: Tell me about that and how that worked with you having LD and what that meant.

SARAH: Well, for me, I came across this book by Kristin Neff, who’s the author of this book about self-compassion. It was so incredibly helpful because she has these three main points of acknowledging, sort of like mindfulness when something is difficult. Just being able to just acknowledge something’s hard. For me, having dyslexia or word-finding issues or sequencing or working memory stuff that comes along with my package with dyslexia, I find that there are these moments that are challenging and really hard. Just to be able to just recognize:  this is a hard moment. Just that in and of itself is one step in sort of acknowledging my experience. And then–

NINA: And you mean that like not everything in having a learning disability is fun and wonderful and great. You can acknowledge when you have a difficult time.

SARAH: Exactly. I mean, that’s I think, one of my pet peeves that I sometimes feel like I come across in the LD world and community in a sense, that there’s such a desire to want to make us feel good because in some ways, there’s sort of an understanding that this is hard.

SARAH: But they’re kind of wanting to make this jump or this leap to well, what are our strengths or what are our islands of competency or what’s our super power or what are the other ways that we can thrive? Which isn’t bad. I mean, it really isn’t bad.

NINA: And you need those things because if you get I wanna say “shit on,” but I’m trying to come up with a better word. But if you’re getting from school that you’re not good enough, that you’re not smart enough, all of these things, and you need those islands of competency to show you some other way. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that it doesn’t stop hurting.

SARAH: Exactly.

NINA: Because when you experience those things, you still hurt.

SARAH: Exactly. In those moments, it hurts, and then sometimes for me, it just feels like I’m being kind of pushed along to get to a happier place or an OK place faster than I’m at yet, kinda thing. So just to be able to first acknowledge this is a moment of difficulty, or this is a moment of suffering or challenge or whatever word we wanna use, you know? And then her second point is looking at experiencing this is like our shared, common humanity of life and that whether we have learning differences or not, we all have hard times, you know? Just to be able to know we are part of this human condition, that this is not an aberration. This happens in life, you know?

NINA: And for me, especially as a person who stutters and who has LD, my stuttering, I feel, is more communal, in that I can share that experience, that people seek that out because it’s a hard thing to hide. LD is a totally easy thing to hide.

SARAH: Totally, totally.

NINA: For me, it’s been really hard to find that community. I think that’s, in part, why I’ve been so active in the disability community, because I see that we have a shared experience. But I also have a difficult time finding those people that have LD who are like me, who think like me, and I really think we’re in the closet. Sometimes it’s hard to say, “Oh, it’s so advantageous to come out,” cuz it isn’t always. For me, stuttering, I’m half out of the closet. I have one foot out all the time, but for LD, you have that experience in isolation. I think that, for me, is the hardest part about having LD. What you’re saying is that it puts it into the context that everyone has those issues. So maybe did it help you feel that you weren’t so alone?

SARAH: Exactly, exactly. I think you’re totally right cuz I feel like I have this invisible difference. So no one’s expecting my sequence to be whacky when I’m speaking or a word-finding moment or just kind of going blank, trying to communicate or something. It may not even be that noticeable to other people. It might not be that big of a deal. But for me, I feel it.

NINA: Mmhmm.

SARAH: I can tell when I’m sort of in rhythm, and when I’m not.

NINA: Yes!

SARAH: When I’m not, it really is kind of like, I don’t know. It’s just an icky experience, I would say, in a lot of different ways.

NINA: I think that people don’t always understand that. I’ve been sick this entire week, and since I have Central Auditory Processing Disorder, I’ve been functioning like somebody who is Hard of Hearing. So people have been talking, and all I hear is, “Wah wah wah wah wah.” I’m like, “Ha ha, yeah,” and faking it. Because I cannot process language this week.

SARAH: Yeah, yeah. That’s a thing is it’s so easy to fake stuff.

NINA: Mmhmm.

SARAH: I mean, I definitely know that feeling, and I’ve done that many times in many conversations. And as my comfort level has grown, there’s times where I’m totally fine with outing myself about things. And there’s other times where I don’t want to, and I’m just gonna fake it till the moment’s over or something. But the shared, common humanity piece of it, I think, is really important. And then the last piece of the self-compassion, which is really kinda where–I mean, it’s all important, all three components. But this last piece is how can we turn towards what’s hard and be kind to ourselves?

NINA: Mmhmm! Mmhmm!

SARAH: And that’s not easy.

NINA: Yeah.

SARAH: We can have many years of not knowing how to do that and it being really self-critical.

NINA: And nobody’s ever modeled it.

SARAH: Not typically, yeah.

NINA: I mean, when I was in Catholic school, that totally was not modeled, so.

SARAH: Totally. I mean, it’s not modeled. I can’t think of a place. It’s very rare, I would say. So imagine if a good friend was really hurting, how would we respond to them?

NINA: Yeah.

SARAH: Can we show that same level of kindness towards ourselves? Sometimes that can just be like just having a kind phrase that we say to ourselves. Or it could be just physically, like putting a hand on our chest or some other place that just kinda like, “Ouch!” or “I just need to be nice to myself right now.”

NINA: Acknowledge.

SARAH: Acknowledge it, and “Can I just give it a moment here and just notice this is how it feels?”

NINA: Yeah.

SARAH: That has been really helpful. Even sometimes it can be like, “I don’t even know what to do; this is uncomfortable, you know?” That’s still sort of a drop in the bucket in that direction versus just ignoring it or powering through life or just distracting ourselves and getting on to something else and just stuffing it. It doesn’t, I mean, these things just kinda fester, especially because these issues are systemic issues, like this is how my brain is wired.

NINA: Yeah!

SARAH: This isn’t going away. So I need to find a way to work with something that’s gonna stay with me.

NINA: Well, and it’s systemic in that it’s systemic here in your head, but it’s also systemic in our society too, that there are barriers out there. When I have to look up a book using the Dewey Decimal System, yeah, that is a systemic thing that is always going to mess me up as a person that has dyslexia. It’s important that the society acknowledges that there are these different kinds of brains, but also we need to acknowledge that too. I mean, I think we ask people to accommodate us, but we don’t always accommodate ourselves in that emotional way.

SARAH: Totally, totally. And accommodations are important. I mean, all these things are–I’m not trying to say what I’m trying to share is more important than thinking of accommodations or thinking of what are the ways in which we are successful and have some other strengths in another area in our lives? That’s great, but to be a whole person in all that we encounter, I think having more social-emotional awareness and then some skills and some capacity to work with the difficulties that come up in life.

And just being able to be OK with it. I think parents are so well-meaning and have so much on their plates. And same with teachers. But I think it can also just be painful to see their child or student suffering and just wanna bypass this and get to what’s the strategy that’s gonna help fast?    Or how can we just get the homework done so we can feel good about ourselves again?

I think that, again, it’s just sort of like, “OK, this moment is like this. This moment is hard. Can we just hold it for what it is?” We still have to do homework, unfortunately. But can we–it’s like the attitude that we have about it. So that, we have some ways of working with it, and our attitudes, there’s–I’m losing my train of thought now. Eek! Edit, edit, edit!

NINA: And we’re gonna leave that in because this is the process.

SARAH: This is the process. So true. It’s true.

NINA: And it’s OK when you lose track.

Everybody edits that out. We’re not gonna edit that out!  So deal with it!

SARAH: Deal with it. Exactly. Yeah, I guess I’m sort of just thinking about the Buddhist psychology side of things and how we, the habits in how we think about ourselves can be really confining, especially when we’re just sort of stuck in it. So we’re sort of stuck in reaction mode. But when we’re able to give a little space and awareness, and we can choose an option, and we can choose, we can know this is really hard, but it’s not gonna last forever.

SARAH: Cuz we know. We can see that. Any emotion that we have, it kind of starts up, it peaks, and then it will eventually go away.

NINA: “This too shall pass” can apply to an emotion but also apply to difficulty when you’re doing your bills or difficulty when you’re doing those things that your dyslexia or your LD impacts you.

SARAH: Exactly, exactly. And a moment where I’m trying to describe a talk or just an idea right now, and it’s not coming out as smooth as I want–

NINA: And you say the thing! You know the thing!

SARAH: You know the thing!

NINA: The guy with the thing and the other thing.

SARAH: Right.

NINA: And I understand you when you say that.

SARAH: I’m glad you do [laughs].

NINA: It’s these people out there.

SARAH: Not everyone does. Or just like sensing other people’s impatience or something. We can’t control other people, but we what have more control over is what kinda relationship are we gonna have with ourself?  And that’s pretty major, you know?

Because that’s the most, I don’t know–We can have a more stable relationship with ourselves versus feeling like we’re at the mercy of what happens to us, just kind of naturally.

NINA: Well, and because so many of us experience learning disabilities in isolation, we may be that only individual that we know that has LD. So that is even more important. The community starts at home, and you really need to practice that.

SARAH: Definitely, definitely. And when I think about my own experiences, I figured out, I learned about this almost when I was 30, and then I started going to all these conferences. So again, I was trying to learn more about myself, but it was also, kinda similarly, it was like where’s my community? Where are these people?

Because it is true:  when you’re in school, it’s in some ways easier to have that because–I mean, easier? I don’t know. Depending on, if you go into a school that specializes on certain topics, you’re a part of a community, and you know it. But it’s through school. So you don’t know that.

NINA: But when I was in Special Ed, we were all in there. We were 30 kids in this class, or 15 or whatever, but none of us talked about it.

We were all in there. We didn’t know why we were in there. We just knew we had issues, and then we would act out on each other because we were acting out our issues.

SARAH: Right, right. Yeah, no, there’s so many kids I went to school with–I shouldn’t call them kids cuz we’re adults.  But we were kids then. I’ll be like, “You were dyslexic too?”

No one talked to each other. No one knew about it. And it wasn’t until I made my film, and I was talking to people about it, they’re like, “Oh! You know, I have this too.” I’m like, “Are you kidding me?!” So I think that is totally true. But I guess I’m also thinking there are schools like Landmark College or wherever where you’re all there for the same reason, and it’s very much front and center in the curriculum and what you’re talking about and stuff, so.

NINA: And also, those schools create an environment where it’s OK to be that. I just wanna recognize that not all teachers are educated in that same way. I’ve been in some Special Ed rooms that don’t work on that principle [laughs].

SARAH: Totally! That’s the thing is it’s such a smorgasbord of what’s out there.

NINA: And unfortunately, sometimes privilege–

SARAH: Exactly. I was about to say that.

NINA: –will, yeah, denote that.

SARAH: Like if you have resources, you can afford to go to some really pretty wonderful schools and experiences that I think can be pretty empowering. And then there’s some great public schools, and there’s some terrible public schools. And there can be some terrible public schools with a few great teachers.

 

NINA: I wish that everybody got that same experience of, “You experience this. It’s OK that your brain works this way. Sometimes it’s really hard,” but that emotional piece too, of like, “Yeah, there are things that you can do,” which I don’t think that everybody gets that in the same way. Which I think is really unfortunate.

SARAH: Right.

NINA: Which we’ll talk. I have a story for you once this is turned off.

SARAH: OK [laughs].

NINA: All right. OK, so that is Sarah Entine. Check out her movie…

SARAH: “Read Me Differently.”

NINA: “Read Me Differently.” And thanks for doing this, Sarah.

SARAH: Thanks, Nina. This was great!

NINA: So do you have a website?

SARAH: I do. It’s ReadMeDifferently.com.

NINA: All right. And I just wanna say, it’s a good thing we didn’t wear low-cut tops.

SARAH: Yeah, it’s really good.

NINA: Yeah, because we didn’t expose anything other than our souls.

SARAH: [laughs]

NINA: Thanks.