Tag Archives: stand up

Stuttering On My Own Terms

(I haven’t proof read this–so deal with it!)

As a stand up comedian who stutters, people make a lot of assumptions about me.  Fluent people think I am brave for public speaking.  After doing a presentation at a library (before my days as a comedian), a woman came up to me and said, “you are such an inspiration.  If I talked like you, I wouldn’t talk at all.”  With experiences like this, how do you not turn to comedy?!

People who stutter assume something else about me.  They assume that I am totally free of stuttering fear, shame, frustration and whatever else we feel when we talk.  It is as if I am immune because I tell dick jokes in a dive bar at midnight (which is much of what you do as a stand up).  For those who think I stutter through life without the stutter bug (the feelings we attach to stuttering) catching me, I am writing this for you.

Let me start the story backwards (dyslexic style).  This was the night that I won the Killer Laughs Comedy  Competition against all odds.  It wasn’t against all odds because I stutter.  It was against all odds because I was the very first comedian of the line up and the first comedian the line up in a competition NEVER wins.  With this in mind, I decided to do something different.  My parents were suppose to be in the audience to support me and event more importantly, VOTE for me.  Of course, they were late as they often times are.

Since I figured I wasn’t going to win I decided to get back at my parents for something they did to me when I was eleven years old.  When I was a kid I won a joke telling contest on the radio that was judged by San Francisco comedy legend Will Durst.  The prize was seeing him at The Other Cafe, a legendary comedy club that closed in the early 1990s.  I was a really big comedy nerd so I was way excited about going to my first comedy club, especially based off of my own joke.  I won’t mention that the joke was one I stole from Pee Wee Herman from his appearance on Letterman (“I don’t know his name, but his face rings a bell”).  We lived in San Leandro about 45 minutes away from the Haight Ashbury where the club was located.  Of course, we were late.  We drove by the club and saw through the corner window that the show was already underway.  My parents decided not to go to the show because they were afraid the comedians would make fun of them for being late.  I started crying and we ended up going to see the movie Innerspace.  Martin Short would have to be my Will Durst substitute.

As shows I usually stick to my scripted jokes, but I decided not to that night at the competition.  Instead, knowing that my parents were in the parking lot and on their way in during my set, I explained to the audience how they robbed me of my first comedy club experience.  That was when I asked a room full of people to turn around when I said “hi mom and dad” and then turn around to stare and boo my parents.  I made sure to tell the audience that I knew I wasn’t going to win anyways because I was up first.

At the end of the competition I came in first place.  I then went for 4 or 5 more rounds, beating out 120 comedians and ended up winning the whole damn thing (and I didn’t even bring an audience).  To all the comedians reading this who are saying to themselves, “your not that funny and competitions don’t mean anything,” you can go F’ yourselves.  I still won.

So that explains the end of the night.  Now let me tell you about the beginning of the night.

I carpooled to the competition with a car full of my good comedy friends who I would be competing against.  Apparently my car was clean that night because five of us were able to fit into my jeep.  Feeling the need for caffeine to get myself through the show, I decided to stop by the McDonalds on the way to the competition.  Before ordering my “large diet coke” I asked everyone in the car if they wanted anything.  They all denied my offer to order for them and I followed up with, “are you sure?”  They assured me that I was the only one ordering.  After I ordered my “large diet coke” my friends started barking out orders, “order me a Fillet-o-fish.”  “Get me a Big Mac with cheese and a Sprit.”  I literally froze.  I couldn’t do it!  I signaled for my friend in the front row to order and rolled down the backseat windows to yell out their order.  Afterwards my friends were pretty astonished that I couldn’t place the order, making the observation that I could talk in front of hundreds of people but could not place an order to a fast food worker. And I was like, “I stutter, we don’t always do drive-thrus.”

What happened was I felt a lack of control when orders were being barked out at me.  When I am on stage, I have the mic and usually I am the one in control.  I say what I want.  My friends had no idea that requesting a Fillet-O-Fish would make me throw in the towel at a drive in.  So many times we, as people who stutter, blame ourselves for not living up to perceived expectations.  I think we internalize the expectations that we need to be fixed and talk like everyone else.  Even if we stutter openly, many of us put pressure on ourselves that we need to be self-accepting and courageous at all times no matter what.  People perceive my ability to talk in front of hundreds of people as a evidence that I stutter confidently and without stigma 24/7.  How would this be possible when we are socialized in the world we are socialized in?  We aren’t always going to be able live up to others or ourselves and we need to be kind to ourselves.  Sometimes asking our significant other to order the pepperoni pizza after a long day at work isn’t a stuttering sin and a sign of our lack of pride or self-acceptance.  If you stutter, awesome and if you want to sit one out, it doesn’t mean you’re lesser than anyone else.  Stutter with as much pride as you can but on your terms and no else’s.  And if you are ever in a car with me, know that I will throw my Diet Coke at you if make me order a F’n Fillet-O-Fish.

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

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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.