Bert Kreischer, a nationally touring comedian, was in Fayetteville the last weekend of October, and took the town by storm. He has been seen on Travel Channel’s Bert the Conquerer and Trip Flip. He is also the author of “Life of the Party,” a book detailing how not to grow up.
I volunteered to work Bert’s merchandise table. During the preshow, I was told that Bert wanted to speak with me. One: Bert wants to talk to me? Two: Bert wants to talk to me!! I was in the mid-bite of scrumptious tortellini alfredo at the currently bare merchandise table. I didn’t want to leave my food, so I grabbed the plate, and went back stage. He was sitting on the couch, and as soon as I saw a window, I walked up and introduced myself. He explained his routines, passion for stand-up comedy, shirt sizes and what the plan was for after the show. After his schpiel, he pointedly asked me, “which ear are you deaf in?” So naturally, my childhood habit nervously resurfaced and I asked, “what?”
He repeated. This became a duel, and our hands hovered over the holsters of “I-give-up.” (My other arm cradling tortellini alfredo still.) Finally, my brain organized all those vowels and lip movements into clarity! “Which ear are you deaf in?”
I explained to him that I have hearing loss in both ears (forgetting to differentiate between Deaf and severe hearing loss), wear hearing aids, yada yada. I took a bite of tortellini, awkwardly asked the comedy star if he wanted a bite. Why did I do this? I don’t know. I really don’t know. 😀
I took the suitcase of merchandise back to the table and the show shortly started thereafter. I watched local comedians make Fayetteville proud, and Bert make it a celebration. After the show, I sold lots of t-shirts, he took lots of pictures, and I had the privilege of conversing with him once more.
We picked up our conversation from earlier (sans tortellini) and he had a thousand questions. His first being: “do you laugh deaf?” This was a first for me. I didn’t understand the question. “Deaf people have the best laughs,” he remarked with honest sincerity (not at all rudely or insensitive). I responded with my own, I’m-pretty-sure-is-normal, laugh.
He also asked me more about speech, what I can or cannot hear, and hearing aids. To which I responded by doing this:
Why did I put my hearing aid against his ear? Again, I don’t know, guys. But look at his face! 😀
It is wonderful when people express curiosity about Deaf and hard of hearing life, even if it’s just about a laugh. I am happy to talk about living with hearing loss and how my hearing aids work. Not everyone is like Bert. Sometimes people don’t know how to respond when they meet someone who has a hearing loss. It can be uncomfortable or awkward. Sometimes there are people who go straight to the jokes. I would like to offer my contribution to the kind souls who show interest with a few pointers on what NOT to do when meeting someone with hearing loss:
- ANYTHING at all that makes it hard for us to communicate with you, as a joke. A joke is used to make people laugh, and we aren’t going to laugh if you immediately cover your mouth and start speaking. We will not laugh if you mouth your words. We will not laugh if you respond with anything, anything at all that panders to our lack of hearing you. The safest bet would be to speak as you should to everyone; directly and clearly.
Exception: Sometimes we are guilty of joining a group in laughter despite not knowing what was said. The ‘deer in the headlights’ gaze is a dead giveaway in such occurrences.
- True, this is the opposite of previously stated, but yelling is just… yelling. It tends to make you come off as angry or too eager, and does little to add substance to your message. Appreciate the effort, certainly, but yelling does not mean clarity. Again, just speak like you normally would (or should).
- Be uncomfortable. It’s okay! We are people, just like you.
In other words, be like Bert! He had interesting questions, spoke normally, and was genuine. That’s the way we all wish to be treated. So thank you, Bert, for an interesting conversation and whether you realize it, advocating for the hard of hearing population.