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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Humor Escapes Me: Limping Chicken Takes a Piss

I am still upset about the fraudulent interpreter at the Mandela memorial service. Unsavory details are  being reported about the man in question. I have no idea if the news being reported is correct. Among the conjecture being reported is that he was supposedly hallucinating at the time and has a serious mental illness. Rumors suggest that ten years ago he was charged with murder. These facts are of interest and important but it is far too early to separate fact from fiction. I am sure scholars such as Lenny Davis who has studied mental illness from a disability scholarship approach and has written extensively about deaf culture will follow this story. What is of interest to me is the public reaction to the incident. The fraud has become the fodder of late night comedians her and abroad. I saw Stephen Colbert mock what took place. I was not impressed. Sorry but I find absolutely nothing funny about what took place in South Africa. All I can think of is the few deaf people I know and how they struggle to communicate in the hearing world. I wonder why is ASL not taught in every elementary school in America? Most importantly, why has the fraud become a joke?

Donna Williams at the Limping Chicken has a post in which she too sees nothing funny about what took place. Link: http://limpingchicken.com/2013/12/14/paul-whitehouse-fake-interpreter-comedy/ Williams took the British comedy awards to task. According to Williams, "Paul Whitehouse picked up an award for Best Sketch Show for ‘Harry and Paul’, and congratulations to him. Where he went wrong was when he arrived on stage, announced that he ‘had brought his signer with him’ and proceeded to give his acceptance while an actor pretended to interpret next to him, fake interpreter style." This is not funny. It is ignorant and I find nothing funny about ignorance. Williams deconstruction of this skit and its larger social significance is spot on. I urge readers to follow the link above. Williams writes no humor was involved: 


Because having someone standing there, pretending to sign, is taking the piss. And not in a good way. Every day deaf people who use sign language have to put up with discrimination and hearing idiots taking the piss. The people laughing have clearly never had to deal with random hearing people who thought they could sign after a few drinks, and got confused and upset when I had no clue what they were saying – shouldn’t I be able to understand them, they were signing?! Most deaf people I know have similar stories; meeting random hearing people – drunk and sober – who thought that waving their hands about constituted structured language. That’s not to mention those who just wave their hands about in a mocking manner and laugh in our faces. As should be obvious by now, sign languages are ‘real’ languages with grammar, structure and syntax. It’s not waving your hands about. Maybe I’m missing the joke. Clearly, the joke was directed not at sign language and deaf people, but at the lousiness of the ‘signer’ who somehow, incredibly, managed to find himself on a world stage. That’s hilarious, right?
Again, there is nothing funny about what took place. I cannot and will not celebrate ignorance.  Now I may not use the term correctly, I am not up on British humor, but I like the line "take a piss. So for those that find humor in this story go take a piss.

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