Tag Archives: disability

Transforming How We Think About Stuttering

I am happy to share one of the chapters from my book Stutterer Interrupted: The Comedian Who Almost Didn’t Happen (debuts August 6, 2019 but available for pre-order now).  One note before you read this offering.  I encourage everyone reading to think about how they think about stuttering (whether or not you are a person who stutters) and what you would like to think and feel about stuttering.  To assist, I have included a blank iceberg that can be used by people to create their own version of the stuttering iceberg.  You have permission to use this for your presentations, clinical work and wherever else it might be helpful!

berg brand

 

Transforming The Iceberg

I have very little control over my stutter. I wouldn’t even call it control; it’s more like I have to bargain with it. “Hey Nina’s Stutter, if I put on my ‘business voice’ and totally not sound like myself, will you let me get through this one phone call with a stranger?” “If I allow this word or that word, will you at least stay out of my next sentence?” I get exhausted just thinking about it. If I planned my day around Nina’s Stutter, there wouldn’t be time for anything else. Life is short, and I’m not going to waste it trying to control what I can’t control.

Stuttering is one of the few constants in my life. My hair has changed, my clothes have changed, my address has changed—but Nina’s Stutter is here to stay. It has never changed, and it probably never will. But the way I think and feel about it has changed.

 

I used to hate Nina’s Stutter. I was ashamed of it. I devoted the best parts of my youth to fighting it, instead of doing things that made me feel happy or productive. The more I missed out on life, the more I blamed Nina’s Stutter, doubling down my efforts to kill it. If only I were fluent, everything else would fall into place! I could speak freely. I could have boys ask me to prom. I could even follow my dreams and be a stand-up comic. All I had to do was stop stuttering!

When I write it down, it seems so ridiculous. How can some pauses and a few extra syllables take control of a person’s life?

That question became a point of focus for Joseph Sheehan, a clinical researcher and psychologist where?. Throughout his career, he observed that stuttering was typically more disruptive to a person’s emotional wellbeing than it was to their actual speech. In Stuttering: Research and Therapy (1970), Sheehan writes that “stuttering is like an iceberg, with only a small part above the waterline and a much bigger part below.” According to Sheehan, what most people think of as “stuttering” is only the tip of iceberg—the outwardly observable symptoms on the surface. But the emotional baggage that it carries—the invisible pain underneath—that’s the bulk of the ice. Sheehan organized these murky, underwater emotions into seven categories: fear, denial, shame, anxiety, isolation, guilt, and hopelessness. According to Sheehan, as the stutterer resolves these issues, the negative emotions begin to “evaporate.” This in turn causes the “waterline” to lower, until, finally, all that remains is the physical stutter. 

Sheehan’s book became highly influential in its field. The iceberg theory advanced a more holistic view of stuttering, inspiring professionals to consider more than just the sounds coming out of a person’s mouth. It also helped me think about my own experience. I have all those emotions below the water. I have felt guilty, for making people wait through a stalled sentence. I have felt isolated, especially before discovering the stuttering community. But most of all, I have felt shame, simply for speaking the way that I speak.

 Although it provides a useful framework, I don’t think Sheehan’s Iceberg presents the full picture. Sure, it explains the negative things we feel, but what about the other emotions? Just like everyone else, the life of a stutterer is filled with ups and downs, victories and defeats, good times and bad times. Even if your overall situation doesn’t change, things might look better or worse on a given day depending what side of the bed you wake up on. It’s all a matter of perspective.

If you’ve ever laid on the grass and looked up at the clouds, you know how easily perspective can change. One minute this cloud looks like a dragon; the next minute it looks like a bunny rabbit. Unless El Niño is brewing up an apocalyptic tornado, that cloud probably hasn’t changed much in the last sixty seconds. Instead, you let your eyes wander, reoriented your perspective, and unknowingly formed a different mental picture of the same thing.

If it can be done with literal clouds, then it can be done with metaphorical icebergs. Stuttering doesn’t have to be a bad experience if we change our perspective. Before I found the stuttering community, my perspective was all negative. I was isolated, ashamed, and everything else Sheehan packs into that sad popsicle. But when I found the National Stuttering Project during that summer in high school, something changed. I was no longer isolated–I had found a community. I was no longer ashamed. Maybe even… proud?

Sheehan writes about negative emotions evaporating until only a stutter remains. I disagree. When bad feelings subside, other feelings have to take their place. We don’t refer to happiness as “not sadness,” or confidence as “not embarrassment.” The negative emotions in Sheehan’s Iceberg all have positive equivalents. I propose that we can do more than simply make the bad feelings go away; we have the power to transform fear, shame, anxiety, isolation, denial, guilt, and hopelessness into feelings of courage, pride, comfort, community, acceptance, kindness, and hope.

So how do we do that? Although the negative emotions in Sheehan’s Iceberg are common to the stuttering experience, they are common because we live in a society that treats people with disabilities as substandard. But we don’t have to buy into it. All the weird looks we get in public, all the shitty images we see in the media, all the lowered expectations that people project onto us—they can all be thrown out and replaced with something better. Instead of struggling to conform to the ideals of a culture that makes us feel deficient, we can cultivate our own perspective and learn to love ourselves as we are. Every person who stutters has the responsibility to create their own iceberg—one that reflects their best possible self.

How we are perceived is largely influenced by how we perceive ourselves. When I began to accept my stutter, so did the people around me. Friends and family stopped offering advice on how to improve my fluency. People stopped thinking of me as a weirdo (at least after high school). Obviously there is a limit to how much self-perception can determine the views of others: I can’t force an asshole to stop being an asshole, as we’ve seen countless times in this book. But I can determine my own worth and decide which assholes are beneath me. I can share my values with the world, doing what I can to sway us from that asshole culture toward something more loving and equitable.

Promoting stuttering acceptance has been one of my greatest missions in life. Everyone who interacts with us, thinks about us, studies us, works with us, produces movies and TV shows about us, reports on us—they all have stuttering icebergs too! The strange and shitty ways they treat us stem from murky emotions below the tip of the iceberg. If we are ever going to overcome discrimination, we have to address the emotional baggage of these people as well. It’s not going to be easy. It’s hard enough to understand my own feelings toward stuttering, much less model them for others! All I can do is put myself in front of the public and try my best—in bars and comedy clubs, on college campuses, in online videos and social media, and now on in this book. Changing minds isn’t easy, but I’ll take that over trying to change how I speak.

 

Stutterer Interrupted: The Comedian Who Almost Didn’t Happen is available for pre-order now through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Ingram, Baker Taylor and your local bookstore.  Debuts August 6, 2019!

apetizer
Image is a JPG, but a high quality version in PDF is linked below.

high quality base iceberg

Stuttering Comedian and Author to Headline Punch Line Sacramento

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Stuttering stand up comic Nina G will have the top spot at the Invisible Disabilities Comedy Show at the Sacramento Punch Line on Sunday, January 27 2019! Author of the forthcoming book Stutterer Interrupted: The Comedian Who Almost Didn’t Happen, Nina’s comedy is funny, revealing, unapologetic, and always a window to her experience as a person who stutters. Through humor, Nina G is challenging now people think of stuttering.

Nina’s brand of comedy highlights that the problem with disabilities is not the people with them, but a society that isn’t inclusive. Nina thinks the recent trend of online stories featuring “clever” ways people “cured” their stuttering may be sending the wrong message to those who are non-stuttering speakers, offers.  Nina adds, “focusing on changing us instead of living our lives gives the wrong message to the public.” Always one to model in herself what she expects from others, her humor is accessible to all who are ready for a good laugh!

Bio

When Nina G started comedy nearly eight years ago, she was the only woman who stuttered in the world doing stand-up. Undaunted after battling a lifetime of stigma, Nina pursued her dream.

Nina G is a comedian, professional speaker, writer and educator. She brings her humor to help people confront and understand Disability culture, access, and empowerment.

Book

Nina G’s latest book, Stutterer Interrupted: The Comedian Who Almost Didn’t Happen

is a memoir, published by She Writes Press, will be released August 6, 2019.

Nina tells the story of her journey of how she became, at the time she started, America’s only female stuttering stand-up comedian. On stage, Nina encounters the occasional heckler, but off stage she is often confronted with people’s comments toward her stuttering. Listeners completing her sentences, inquiring “did you forget your name?” and giving unwanted advice like “slow down and breathe” are common.  As if she never thought about slowing down and breathing in her over thirty years of stuttering!  In Stutterer Interrupted… Nina confronts these interruptions and so much more!

What the show is about and the awareness that it brings

Producers, Ali Ada and and Drew Kimzey each live with multiple disabilities that substantially limit their lives, yet you might never know it. They’re both passionate about comedy but have significant obstacles that can prevent them from achieving their goals. The desire to turn their obstacles into strengths inspired the idea for this show.

Line up includes: Chey Bell, Jeanette Marin, Sureini Weerasekera, Anihca Cihla, Nicole Tran, Emily Pedersen and Kelley Nicole. Hosted by Amber Whitford.

In the 18 months since Coral got her start in comedy she has gathered a significant following with her shockingly real and relatable story telling. After going through a major medical crisis she took to stage with her natural, conversational humor and absurd comedy style and never looked back. Many of her jokes surround her new life post surgery as a young, broke, female adjusting to having an ostomy bag. She performs all over the Bay Area sharing her unabashed tales in major clubs such as the SF Punch Line and the San Jose Improv, bringing light to her not-dinner-table-appropriate disability (aka her poop bag.)

Quote from here:  “Talking about my ostomy bag on stage not only helped me to accept my new body and situation but educated others on a struggle they knew nothing, to little, about. It’s not just about making people laugh, it’s about drawing them in to your life enough that they begin to invest in attempting to understand your experience, with your disability. It gives my comedy more purpose to know I’m doing my part to reach out to the audience and share that we are all going through some type of invisible struggle, and here I am being open and honest about mine in an attempt to bring us all closer together.”

Invisible Disabilities Comedy Show

Show: Sunday, January 27, 2019

http://www.punchlinesac.com.  (18+ 2 drink min)

916-925-8500

The Punch Line Sacramento

2100 Arden Way

Sacramento, CA 95825

Produced by Ali Ada and Drew Kimzey

Media Contact:

Nina G

NinaGbooking@gmail.com

510-922-0179

###

 

show id.nina

Changing the image of Disability through comedy

10981074_935633939815397_7085018791117066670_o

Big news!  The Comedians with Disabilities Act and Friends album is out.  Disabled Comedy Only is the first ever compilation of Disabled comedians on a single album.  Monumental! The recording was done independently and without any Jumpstarts or GoFundMes.  As artists with disabilities we retained complete control over our material, our image and our brand.  No abled bodied people dictated what we should or shouldn’t say.  Please support independent comedy fighting for visibility, equity, and disability justice through comedy.

Please support the album by purchasing it at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/comedianswithdisabilitie

and sharing our videos!

Thank you for the support!

Funding Disability Awareness Events on your College Campus

Image

I receive many emails and phone calls from colleges who want to have me speak or perform but aren’t sure how to fund travel, lodging and speaking fees.  This is especially true of programs for students with disabilities whose budgets are strapped and rarely have funds for guest speakers.  I have wanted to share some ideas that I oftentimes share in scenarios like this.  If you have other ideas, please share them in the comments section.

 

Disability as Part of Diversity and Multiculturalism:  Disability is a culture and people with Disabilities are part of the largest minority group in the United States.  Sometimes they are not included in events around diversity.  Having speakers who represent the Disability community can contribute to the conversation on diversity and also acknowledges the multiple minority status that many people experience.  Some schools have diversity committees that can contribute funds for a speaker and be a co-sponsor for the event.

 

Student Life:  Many colleges have Student Life departments that book shows and speakers for campus events.  Student Life often has the money to fund the events but they may not know of performers and speakers with disabilities.  Many entertainers are part of a larger organization to get their gigs but performers with disabilities may not have access to this organization because of the expense or lack of an agent to represent them.  Referring a performer with a disability can bring diversity to the Student Life department.  Although every month should be disability awareness month (in addition to Black history/ Gay pride month, etc…), it may be a good argument to get performers in October and April when many schools have or should have Disability awareness events.

 

Explore Multiple Speaking Opportunities:  When I do a show at a college, if the schedule permits, I am open to talking to other groups or classes (of course you will have to pay performers-just because we have a disability doesn’t mean we are giving it away for free!).  In negotiating with the performer, you might pull together a schedule where they are making different appearances throughout the day.  Some performers may be open to getting $100 as a guest speaker and then $800 for a big show the next night.  Thinking creatively can help entice a performer to your college, even if you are not able to pay their top dollar price.

Speakers May Not Mind Doing Double Duty:  Many performers and speakers are multitalented.  They may be performers by night but teachers, motivational speaker and trainers by day.  For example, I could do comedy with the Comedians with Disabilities Act at a night time show but be available to train faculty on universal design in teaching, speaking to fluency classes on stuttering or having a meet and greet with students who have disabilities.  Wearing multiple hats may mean multiple funding streams to support the transportation and lodging that come along with hiring a performer.

Collaborating with Student Groups:  Student groups can be a great resource for bringing in speakers.  These groups sometimes include special interests (career oriented), minority status (ethnic, disability, gay/lesbian/bi/trans), or service oriented.  Speakers who represent different groups might be co-sponsored by multiple organizations.  Speakers with Disabilities are primed to be sponsored by groups like Disabled Student Unions, future special education teachers, and social justice organizations (just to name a few).

 

Collaboration with the Community:  In higher education there is a movement toward community engagement.  Schools should be looking at how to engage with Disability related organizations.  Community organizations might have the funds but not have the venue.  Colleges might have the venue but not the funds!  Why not join each other to educate the college and local community!

 

President’s Speaker and Other Special Series: Many colleges have a special series or colloquiums where speakers with specialized knowledge are invited to speak.  These positions are often reserved for big shot academics.  The Disability community often resents “experts” representing their experiences.  A core value in our community is “nothing about us without us,” a moto appropriate from the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.  So when you approach the president’s office to fund your event, be sure to share this value and why having an activist instead of an academic is appropriate.

 

It is common at colleges for events to be sponsored by many departments and organizations.  For programs for students with disabilities collaboration is especially important because of limited resources.  If your department is able to do the “work” of setting up the speaker, there is oftentimes money that can be mined from different departments.  It could take work and schmoozing, but the students with and without disabilities, faculty, staff and the local community will all benefit.  Plus the more investment by different groups the more people will come!  It is a good way to get butts in the seats and allow other groups become invested in disability awareness.

 

Please feel free to share your ideas for funding in the comments area below.

 

There are lots of comedians, performers and speakers with Disabilities who would love to speak to your college communities.  Here are just a few!  Make sure you make sure they are a good fit for your show before you book.  

 

Comedians with Disabilities Act: A blind man.  A woman who stutters.  A wheelchair user.  A Little Person.  While this may sound like a description of a support group, it is, in fact, the lineup for the “Comedians with Disabilities Act”, a comedy troupe that the San Francisco Examiner called “the most unconventional  comics  to  pop  up  in  2011.”    Made  up  entirely  of performers with different disabilities, the troupe brings their brand of humor to audiences throughout the Bay Area.  www.facebook.com/comedianswithdisabilitiesact

Nina G (hey that’s me):  Nina is a humorist who performs with the comedy troupes The Comedians with Disabilities Act and Feminist Tendencies.  She brings disability awareness to night club and college audiences through comedy.  She is also an educator and disability activist educating via workshops, keynote addresses, and trainings.  Workshop topics include universal design in teaching, disability awareness, and humor as a coping strategy. http://www.ninagcomedian.com

Cheryl Green, MFA, MS integrates her degrees in performing arts and speech-language pathology to explore how story can be used to break down stigma and barriers. She creates films with a disability justice perspective and can lecture on disability representation in the media; brain injury identity and culture; and a variety of technical topics around brain injury deficits, cognitive rehabilitation, and participation level treatment concepts. She is located in Portland, OR.  https://www.facebook.com/StoryMinders

 

Ally Bruener: Ally is a stand-up comedian based out of Louisville, Kentucky. Her sweet and innocent appearance is the ultimate misdirection once she opens her mouth. She’ll steal the hearts of a shocked audience. http://www.allybruener.com/

 

Caitlin Wood: author of Criptiques http://whereslulu.com/

 

Aaron Snyder: https://www.facebook.com/themusclea

 

Queenie TT: http://www.pssistermovement.com/

 

Chris Fonseca: http://www.comedypro.com/fonseca

 

Shannon Devido: http://www.shannondevido.com/

 

Tim Grill: www.Timgrill.com

THE “COMEDIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT” TOUR ROLLS INTO NAPA Thursday Feb. 27 at Bui Bistro’s Comedy Night @ Bui Bistro

Image

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Tim Wolcott
Tel. 707-337-8582
Email: timwolcott79@gmail.com

THE “COMEDIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT” TOUR ROLLS INTO NAPA Thursday Feb. 27 at Bui Bistro’s Comedy Night @ Bui Bistro.

A blind man. A stuttering woman. A wheelchair user. A little person. While this may sound like a description of a support group, it is, in fact, the lineup for the “Comedians with Disabilities Act”, a comedy tour that the San Francisco Examiner called “The most unconventional comics to pop up in 2011”. Made up entirely of performers with different disabilities, the troupe is bringing their “special” brand of humor to Comedy Night @ Bui Bistro, hosted by local comedian Tim Wolcott, on Thursday, Feb. 27 at 7pm.

The foursome, all of them working northern California comedians, met each other through the comedy club circuit and decided to band together to treat audiences to a unique and unforgettable experience.

“Lots of able-bodied comedians out there tell blind or wheelchair jokes and get the audience to laugh AT people with disabilities,” said Michael O’Connell, the group’s wheelchair representative and founder of the troupe. “But wouldn’t it be more fun for the crowd, we thought, to be invited to laugh WITH people with disabilities instead? That’s guilt-free fun right there.”

Since their first sold-out show in Sacramento, the group has been in growing demand, getting booked at such lauded venues as the Laugh Factory in Hollywood and San Francisco’s Punch Line comedy club. Their comedy comes from the lifetime of experiences each has had due to their individual challenges. They see the tour as not only a chance to entertain, but to educate people on disability issues.

“We’re all comedians first,” said Napa native Steve Danner who identifies as a Little Person, “and it’s a comedy show. But who says you can’t make people laugh and send them home with something to think about too?”

Danner’s comedy career began as an audience member at a club. The comedian on stage that night decided to have some fun at his expense, and Danner’s skills in heckling back at him led the comic to approach Danner after the show and suggest he give comedy a try. He did so, and soon began a career as a prolific comedian and producer, delighting crowds at clubs and comedy rooms all over the west coast with hysterical tales centered heavily on his dwarfism. His comic journey keeps him on the road much of the time, but as Danner is fond of saying, “Shrimpin’ ain’t easy!”.

Michael O’Connell was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy at two years old and began using a wheelchair in 1995. But it wasn’t until years later that a friend dared him to try doing comedy at an open mic night at a Sacramento club, and after ending up winning the competition that first night on stage, he never looked back. He’s played comedy clubs from Seattle to L.A. (including the Hollywood Improv and the Jon Lovitz Comedy Club), been featured in newspapers and on radio and television, and counts several Hollywood celebrities among his fans. His business card reads “100% Comedy, 0% Stand-Up”.  Michael is unable to attend this show but you can check out his comedy at http://www.michaeloconnell.com/michaelocomedy.

Sacramento’s Eric Mee was only eighteen years old when, while protecting a young child, he was stabbed in the chest. Complications resulting from his injury led to the loss of his eyesight. Choosing not to let this drastic life change get him down, he began joking about his condition and giving speeches to groups that were always filled with humor. After many suggestions, he turned his talents to stand-up comedy, and now brings his manic energy and outrageous tales to the stage, both at clubs and college campuses.

Touting herself as “the America’s only female comedian who stutters”, Nina G. hails from the Bay Area and has spent a lifetime dealing with both speech and learning disability issues. A key note speaker and disability advocate, Nina turned her talents to the stand-up stage to help raise disability awareness through comedy, and performs her award-winning work at some of the industry’s hottest clubs (the Hollywood Improv and the San Francisco Punchline) and has shared the stage with some of its biggest names (Dave Chappelle).

The Comedians with Disabilities Act will be joined by special guests Steve Lee and Queenie TT.   Steve Lee, a Hong Kong native, originally came to the US as an exchange student.  His comedy integrates his experiences as a first generation Asian American with a disability.  Queenie is a motivational speaker and a body esteem educator with lymphedema.  Combining comedy with motivational speech, Queenie empowers women to make healthier choices for their lives by embracing the power of self-love.

The show will be hosted and produced by local standup comic, Tim Wolcott. Tim started his standup career in 2003 while attending Pacific Union College, where he also helped form the improv/sketch comedy group, Desperate 4 Attention. After a few years of the journeyman comic life, living in Los Angeles and Tampa, Tim returned to St. Helena’s restaurant scene and the San Francisco/Bay Area comedy scene in 2009. He has since performed at venues all over the bay area, including at San Francisco’s historic Purple Onion.  Tim began producing his own shows in June of 2013, at La Condesa in St. Helena.  This will be the second show he’s produced at Bui Bistro, a French/Vietnamese restaurant in downtown Napa.  The show begins at 7pm and has no cover.

If you’d like more information on this event, or to schedule interviews with any of the comedians please contact Nina G at NinaGbooking@gmail.com or Tim Wolcott at timwolcott79@gmail.com.

 

Nina G’s book helps individuals with Learning Disabilities

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

Image