You wanted me to post my stand up comedy so here you go! Since I stutter I pretty much just have to report my interactions with really really ignorant people. Thanks for asking me to post and supporting the blog!
You wanted me to post my stand up comedy so here you go! Since I stutter I pretty much just have to report my interactions with really really ignorant people. Thanks for asking me to post and supporting the blog!
Aging happens to everybody, but when it happens to comic Dan St. Paul, it’s hilarious. Upon reaching the half century mark, St. Paul had a series of revelations about his body (“I’m a cylinder now. I can wear a belt anywhere on my body.”); his faulty memory (“I have eight pairs of reading glasses and I have no idea where they are.”); and dealing with his teenage son (“I have a bumper sticker that says ‘My Son’s Just Getting By At Hillsdale High’).
Now he has packed his cleverest reflections on going gray into “What’s Funny After 50?” Turns out, getting old has given this former opener for Jerry Seinfeld some of his best material ever. Comedy-lovers from their teens to their golden years will enjoy this solo show.
Dan is a veteran of San Francisco comedy. After a seven year stint of headlining San Francisco clubs in the comedy duo Murphy-St. Paul, Dan launched his own solo act that was to land him in the finals of the nation’s toughest comedy competition, The San Francisco International Stand-Up Comedy Competition.
Soon after, Dan moved to Los Angles and appeared on several episodes of “An Evening at the Improv.” Plus numerous shows on VH-1, MTV and Comedy Central. Since then, he has opened for such superstars as Jerry Seinfeld, Natalie Cole, and Smokey Robinson.
Comedy and Pinball for a Cause, a show produced by comedian Nina G, brings Dan St. Paul to Alameda for a special one night only performance at the Pacific Pinball Museum on Friday, February 7. Proceeds from the show will go to the Pacific Pinball Museum, a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Learn more about the museum and its mission and cultural events at www.Pacificpinball.org.
The shows begins at 8 p.m.. Show will contain adult content. Tickets are $15 and available at:
Ever since I started comedy my goal has been to educate people about disability history, but it is so damn hard to get people to laugh at some of the awful things people with disabilities have experienced. I finally found a venue for the material I have been working on. It is not funny haha, dick joke, applause break kinda stuff, but I am really happy that obsessing about these jokes for years finally paid off! Please take a look at the video and find out more about disability history!
Oakland, California— Nina G knows first hand what it means to meet the challenges of having a Learning Disability. Diagnosed in third grade as well as having a stutter, she has met the academic as well as personal challenges as person with a disability. Nina is considered the only female stuttering stand up comedian in the world and is also a disability awareness educator. She uses humor as a tool for activism and education.
Nina passes her knowledge onto readers in the new book Once Upon an Accommodation: A Book About Learning Disabilities. Her book is a soft cover with illustrations by comedian/musician Mean Dave. The latest edition of the book includes a workbook to help the reader better understand their particular needs and how to advocate for them.
“Many adults and children are diagnosed with Learning Disabilities (LDs) but don’t know what that means for them. They are expected to understand what their LD is, why they need accommodations and then advocate for themselves,” says Nina. “With all the excellent help I received as a kid from supportive parents and teachers, I don’t think I really understood my LD until my early 20s!”
Nina attempts to demystify what it means to have a LD in terms of the diagnosis but also explains what an accommodation is and why people with LD receive them. She states, “most people with and without disabilities are not taught about the histories of people with disabilities. As a result they don’t know how this history is connected to civil rights laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Some powerful activists fought for my right as a person with LD and I want kids with LD and adults who are newly diagnosed to understand this!”
Although the book is written so children can understand it, adults can also benefit from Once Upon an Accommodation’s story and campy humor. Many books about LD are difficult for children and even adults with Learning Disabilities to read. Once Upon an Accommodation was designed to address multiple modes of learning. The writing and illustrations are simple to understand while also conveying complex information.
Once Upon an Accommodation helps people of every age understand the process of being diagnosed with LD, why accommodations are needed and why advocacy is some important. Nina explains, “it is my hope that this is not only read by kids but also by parents, family members, teachers, and helping professionals so that they understand the context of what having an LD means.” Nina helps the reader see what it means to have a LD and to be part of a larger disability community.
Nina G is currently living in Oakland, California. Nina is a humorist who performs with The Comedians with Disabilities Act who bring disability awareness to night club and college audiences through comedy. She is also an educator and disability activist educating people through workshops, keynote addresses, and trainings. Workshop topics include universal design in teaching, disability awareness, and humor as a coping strategy.
Once Upon an Accommodation was published by Create Space and is also available through Amazon.com. Link to purchase: https://www.createspace.com/4173946. Contact your local bookstores and libraries to request that they include it in their collection.
Become a fan of Once Upon an Accommodation at http://www.facebook.com/onceuponanaccommodation.
There is also an effort to get Once Upon an Accommodation into the hands of children at schools and agencies. To donate go to www.gofundme.com/LDhumor.
At the end of my sixth grade year I ran for student government. The office I ran for was “religious affairs officer” that I would serve during my seventh grade year. The tasks of the religious affairs officer was to collect mission money and say the morning prayer at assembly. My primary goal in school was to always get out of class and collecting mission money was a pious manipulation to spend at least 1-2 hours a week outside of classroom. Time occupied outside of the classroom is always a plus a student with a Learning Disability. Since I stuttered, the morning prayer wouldn’t be a problem either because most people who stutter do not stutter when they recite a poem or speak in unison with a group. The speech I constructed for the election campaign excluded all words that I thought I would stutter on with sentences constructed to reduce any chances of stuttering. When I won the election I didn’t know what other speaking situations would be forced on me because the pre-planning of an 11 year old isn’t very good. I won the election although there was some objection to me winning. The candidate I ran against objected because she felt that I bribed the grammar school constituents by handing out Tootsie Roll suckers with my name on them. I drove a competitive campaign.
The next academic year, the new student council needed to be sworn in. It being a Catholic school, and taking itself much too seriously, over celebrated with a ritual. During the initial rehearsal for the inauguration, Ms. Casquera lined us up on stage to run through the ceremony. In spite of it being the mid-1980s, Ms. Casquera looked like the square villainess from a retro Frankie and Annette beach movie . Polyester blue suit, comfortable nun-like shoes, dark loose fitting nude pantyhose, a dyed black bouffant hairdo and, to top it off, cat eyed glasses. I remember once staring at her during a windy lunchtime recess. Garbage was blowing everywhere, but the wind could not penetrate her beehive hairdo. Not one hair was out of place! Even though she sounds like she would be potentially awful, she was actually ok in the quiet sort of way.
During the rehearsal, I learned that each student had to state, “I (insert name here)” before reading the oath in unison. Of course no one had a problem with their name. When it came to me I naturally stuttered on Nina. The combination of the “I” before my name along with my name made it a stutterpalooza. You should understand that most of us people who stutter, stutter on our own names. There is no substitute for our name, unless we straight up change it, which some of us might to from time to time. But this wasn’t a Starbucks order where I could slyly say my name is Enid instead of Nina. I had to say “I Nina G.” When I stuttered in the rehearsal it resulted in laughter for the mostly 7th and 8th graders who were there “leadership qualities”. What really pissed me of was that one of the girls laughing had a very mild stutter. Apparently, there was no solidarity in the stuttering dog eat stuttering dog world of the middle school during the 1980s. Ms. Casquera attempted to intervene by telling the students to shut up, but it didn’t work. I left feeling defeated.
There was one of my fellow student representatives who didn’t laugh like the others. He was in the 8th grade and tended to be on the hyperactive side (I have always connected to hyperactive men and boys. The potential to get into trouble with them is just too wonderfully overwhelming!). I remember that same year this boy dressed like a 1970s Fat Elvis in a white jumpsuit and tiny toy guitar which I saw as evidence of his integrated weirdness, which I was impressed with. The rest of the year I called him Elvis, thus forgetting his name forever, so from here on out he will be referred to as “Elvis”. After rehearsal, Elvis approached me and asked, “can you say ninja? Because if you can say ninja, you just switch it over to Nina instead.”
When you stutter, or have any kind of disability, suddenly everyone becomes an expert on your type of disability. Advice like “just slow down and breath” is common and recommended with great hope that this will be the solution to all your problems, making them your abled bodied savior. Gee, I guess I NEVER thought of slowing down when talking and this entire time I guess I have not been breathing! (Really, breathing?) There was even the time when I educated a psychologist about stuttering. I explained to him that it is a brain based disability in the left frontal-temporal hemisphere. I went on to share that Marilyn Monroe stuttered which was why she talked in her whispery-sexy voice. I demonstrated it as well. His reply? “That is very sexy, maybe you should talk like that all the time.” Really Mr. Dr. Psychologist? Because people will take me much more serious if I talked like a baby! Way to empower women! That’s ok, I think I’d rather stutter.
At the time though, the advice coming from this 8th grade Elvis boy was actually ok. He was attempting to be an ally where I thought I didn’t have one. Plus he was kinda cute. Funny how that can get you a pass, even on shitty speech therapy advice. I did appreciate his attempt to help and I felt that I had at least one friend.
All that week I practiced my name alone in my room. I practiced it with my parents who even drove me an hour away so I could practice my name in front of my speech therapist. It is funny that my parents would let me take a sick day at a moment’s notice but never introduced this as an option for the inauguration ceremony. Instead it was assumed that I would attend and participate.
Finally the day of the inauguration came. All the student body officers were in their school uniforms and wearing white gloves to convey the formality of the event. The program started with the student officers sitting on stage with all the girls crossing their legs at the ankle as instructed. We sat across the stage from the principal, Sister Theresa, Ms. Casquera and the parish priests. The entire school was in attendance as well as some interested parents and the local newspaper. You would have thought it was the frickin’ Kennedys being sworn in!
The ceremony started with the priest saying an opening prayer. We then proceeded to the oath where each of had to say “I (insert name here).” Again and again I practiced my name along with my speech techniques in my head. It was my turn to say “I, Nina G” and I proceeded to stutter, “I N-N-Nina G.” “Did I really do it? Did I really just stutter on my own name?” I thought to myself. In my seventh grade girl mind I knew my life was over. That was it! I would need to transfer schools, maybe even move. I mean the newspaper was there! I immediately saw the headline, “Girl stutters on her own name in front of entire school.” Keep in mind, this was before the Upworthy website could turn my traumatized experience into a one sentence blurb to inspire people.
As I got off the stage I expected a repeat of the rehearsal where the other officers made fun of me except this time it would be times ten because I was exposed to the entire school. That was when I walked by Sara, a girl from my class. She said, “Nina, good job.” I was a bit stunned. I initially thought that she was being sarcastic, but then I realized that she was just being nice. “That’s weird,” I thought (luckily Sara is now a teacher in the inner city!).
I proceeded with my day waiting for the next person to start making fun of me. I had not yet had recess so I was expecting I would get it then. During recess I was talking to Elvis, the 8th grade boy when a second grader who had seen the older kids make fun of me approached us. He came up to me and said, “Hey, N-N-Nina” as if to impress the older boy. This is a comment I still get today. Assholes of the world–please note, this is hack stuttering material! Even if it is in the tune of the Chia Pet jingle–I have heard and whatever I say back will sting ten times that. If you want to make fun of me, come up with something new. This time was different than the 7 million other times I was made fun of because Elvis did something I had never seen. He gently knelt down to look the second grader in the eye. He told him, “If I ever hear you say anything like that again, I am going to tell everyone that your penis is this big” and indicated with his thumb and pointer finger half an inch.
Naturally, I thought, “this is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me!” I don’t think anyone ever stuck up for me, besides my parents, before this point. I always had to deal with assholes, big and small, on my own. My friends never said anything when I was made fun of, especially in middle school where kids didn’t want to stick out their neck in opposition to group think. This was a truly exceptional moment in the life of a seventh grade girl. How does a girl process this event? She has a crush on the boy for the rest of the year, and maybe even researches where he might be when she is in her 30s and single (can’t find him since I don’t know his name).
Besides harboring affection for this individual, I learned some important things that day. The first is that I learned that I could stutter and live. Before that day, I thought that I had to be fluent and there were no other options. My speech difficulties are not severe but it is significant enough that if I chose to let it stop me, people might rationalize that this was ok for me. In fact, it has stopped me from answering questions in groups, flirting and at times ordering at a fast food drive through window. Stuttering in front of my entire school was the first time that I experienced that I could stutter in front of others and it could be ok. I am sure it was difficult for my parents to allow me to participate in the ceremony, but they did and I am thankful to have had this experience.
The second thing I learned was that I had allies outside my parents and a few wonderful speech therapists and tutors. My peers could be allies because they had my back. I didn’t have to be the one who always stuck up for myself. You really don’t know what this feels like until it happens to you. It is a shock to know you are not alone in this way and since this time I have sought allies, although it has sometimes been a struggle to remind myself that this can be an expectation to have in a relationship.
Lastly, I learned something else that day about comedy. If anyone, and I mean anyone, makes fun of me. I do what Elvis taught me that day. Tell them they “have a small penis.” And no matter how touching and life changing a story might be, be a good comedian and end with dick joke!
Picture of the ceremony.
I am a Howard Stern fan. The name on my Safeway card is Nina Bababooey so that when I check out, the cashier is forced to say thank you Ms. Bababooey. I went to a taping of America’s Got Talent just to see Howard Stern. I sat with complete strangers where we immediately bonded and shouted as loud as we could, “F Jackie” and “four inches is fine.” Stern made me a Lady Gaga fan and periodically makes me cry on my way to work when he and Robin talk about her struggles with cancer and the genuine affection they have for one another. How did someone who identifies as a militant Disabled feminist become such a stern fan? You mean the answer isn’t obvious? Let me explain.
It all started in the late 1980s. I was in high school. I was a weird girl. It wasn’t because I had a Learning Disability and stuttered? It was because I was into unusual things that not even my unusual peers were into. I loved comedy. The men I were in love with were all stand up comedians with my biggest crush being Barry Sobel, a stand up comedian who got his start in San Francisco and appeared on the Tonight Show. Not surprisingly, I was the only girl at school writing I ❤ Barry Sobel on my binders. My high school years were spent taping comedy from HBO half hour comedy specials, watching SNL and listening to the Alex Bennett show where local comedians from the San Francisco Bay Area appeared, many who I am happy to say I have been able to work with. My role models for women were Laverne DeFazio, not Madonna or Debbie Gibson. The one piece missing for me was someone to look up to who had a disability similar to mine.
When I was nine years old I saw my first person, other than me, who stuttered. It was Raider’s cornerback Lester Hayes. He had an amazing game where he did something amazing and then he was interviewed, and that was the amazing part for me. My dad shouted at me, “look at the TV!” Lester Hayes was being interviewed and stuttered! Instead of pride, I thought to myself, “tomorrow at school everyone is going to make fun of him.” I found out the next day that no one cared. Your accolades overshadow your disabilities. As cool as it was to see someone stutter on TV, I didn’t relate much to him. I didn’t care much for sports, as much as the Raiders were thrusted upon me (my brother saw my dad cry at an exhibition game when the then LA Raiders returned for one night to play the 49ers at the Oakland Coliseum). A male football player didn’t really do it for me. There was also country singer Mel Tillis who I love now because of his songwriting and music, but as many times as I saw Cannonball Run as a young girl, I just couldn’t relate to him. I spent the remainder of my childhood identifying most with Porky Pig and the occasional badly acted stutterers on shows like Small Wonder where someone who stutters appeared for one very special episode.
One night when I was about 15 years old I saw him. I was watching a show from a New York station on my local cable channel. It was Howard Stern’s Channel 9 show. The show was funny, but what stuck out to me was a guy on who stuttered. He interviewed people, asking them horrible things. They both reacted to his speech as well as the awful things he asked. The reactions were reactions that I knew way too well and had never seen this level of my experience reflected on TV. The person doing the interviews was Stuttering John [Melendez]. There was a very, very, very small window of time when Stuttering John was cute and he entered my life at exactly that time. He was no Barry Sobel, but he was cute and he stuttered. Stern, Fred (writer on the show) and others made fun of John, but it didn’t feel horrible. It wasn’t like he was a victim in being made fun of instead it felt like inclusion. It would have been weird for them to give him a pass and not make fun of his speech. If Gary “Baba Booey” Dell’abate was made fun of because of his teeth and looking like Oates (from Hall and Oates), then John’s stuttering was fair game. That’s right, the first time I saw someone on TV who stuttered who I could relate to was being made fun of on the Howard Stern show. Since he was a recurring character, unlike the numerous other one time characters with a disability, I was able to watch every week, looking forward to someone who talked like me on TV.
Seeing Stuttering John helped me to own my stuttering. It was the first time that I saw someone be dysfluent and it was ok–in fact even celebrated (ok, made fun of but he was part of the joke). He purged people’s attitudes about stuttering. I remember the day I started hating Chevy Chase. It was when he was on the Tonight Show and he commented on Raquel Welch punching Stuttering John. He asked if the punch cured his stuttering. Thanks Chevy, we really want to connect violence toward stutterers with fluency. I don’t care if National Lampoon’s Vacation is a great movie and that you were one of the first cast of Not Ready for Prime Time Players. You are on my shit list Chevy Chase! You can thank Stuttering John for that.
The relationship with the Howard Stern show began then. I have been listening ever since. About ten years after I found the channel 9 show, Stern had another stuttering first for me. He had on a young woman who sold hot dogs out of a cart in a bikini. She also stuttered and her name was Nina (that’s my name in case you didn’t know). It was actually the first time on TV I saw a woman who stuttered (I was about 23 years old). More men than women stutter (1:4 ratio in adults), so the representation of women who stutter is small, plus I don’t think the media represents us. I sometimes think that if you have more than one identity TV executives think people’s heads will explode so representations of stuttering are usually white men. We almost had an Asian American female who stuttered on Glee but she was faking it on the show (Glee, you are also on my shit list). So seeing Nina the hot hot dog girl was a big deal for me. There was misinformation in the interview like Stern saying that stuttering is a psychological problem. He is wrong, it is neurological. But I was able to see a woman on TV who talked like me and even stuttered on “Nina”.
Many see Howard Stern through a sexist ableist (that is the term for abled bodied bias) lens. They hear snippets of the show that then color their entire perception of the show and Stern. He makes fun of people with disabilities, but they are also on the show and represent holistic experiences of life. They have sex, they can be assholes, they experience more than just being inspirational images to abled bodied people (the predominant image in our media). On the topic of sexism and Stern I have mixed feelings. It seems like much of the sexism now is represented in the cast of players like Ronnie the Limo Driver who objectifies women but is criticized for it. This is different from Stern’s more shock jock persona of the 1980s. I have seen Stern and the people on his show change. They acknowledge the language of the disability community (and sometimes integrate it into their speech). I have also seen the impact that this level of visibility has had. Many times I will be asked, after I get off stage from doing stand up, “can I ask you a personal question.” Most other situations this is bound to be something awful about curing my stuttering, but when it comes from a Stern fan, they respectfully ask, “have you ever considered contacting the Howard Stern Show.” We immediately bond. They have already met someone who stutters because of the Stern show, so they already know how to react (and often how not to react) to my speech. I am thankful to Stern for including people like me. Of course, I don’t speak for all people who stutter. Some might be extremely offended in Fred mocking Stuttering John’s speech, but for me, when there is genuine love for one another some making fun is ok because it can express affection (perhaps it is an Italian thing). It is why my good friends in comedy can mock me all they want but if you are not friends with me and we don’t have love then you too will be on my shit list with Chevy Chase and the producers of Glee. Finding people who can fulfill your need to identify when you are a person with a disability can be difficult. Sure, I would love to have had other options to find my identity as a woman who stutters, but they were not available. As I always like to emphasize, when a Disabled feminist says the only place she saw herself reflected was on the Howard Stern show, you know there is great room for the media to improve.
In case you can relate to a Football player who stutters, here you go: http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-films-americas-game/09000d5d8008cd0c/America-s-Game-1980-Raiders
Picture with Nina doing stand up, captioned: I didn’t see a real woman who stuttered on TV until I was 23 and it was on the Howard Stern show. When a woman with a Disability who considers herself a feminist says the only place she saw herself reflected was on the Howard Stern show, you know the media could be doing a better job representing disability
Today I was the guest blogger for The Mobility Resource! Please check out what I wrote. If you want more on learned helplessness, you might want to check out what I wrote a few days ago.
I have met some new people, thanks to blogging. Someone asked me how I got involved doing comedy, especially being one of two stuttering female stand up comedians in the WORLD. Here is part of my story.
As a part two to last nights post, Don’t Be THAT Person (When Talking to a Person who Stutters), I thought I would share a video by my self and fellow PWS Gina D.