“It’s always interesting to me that we [stutterers] are the ones who have a communication disorder, while everyone else is trying to interrupt us and not communicating very well to us.” ~Nina G
Becoming a comedian was something Nina considered at the age of eleven, and over the years she loved writing out jokes. Her dream died during her early adulthood, as she didn’t see any role models in stand-up comedy who stuttered. The dream was revived when she was 35 and attended a conference of stutterers, and six months later she began doing stand-up comedy, which is now a dream that she has been doing for ten years as of this interview. Her first time at stand-up was “surreal” to her, and her embarrassment didn’t come from her stuttering but from her wanting everyone to know how funny she was. She initially didn’t tell a lot of people she was doing this, and Nina notes that doing comedy is “a more authentic voice to myself,” one which is different from her previous environment of being in academia, where the voice she uses isn’t her own. That said, the message she likes to deliver is that of equality and telling others what the experience of stutterers is like to those who don’t have it.
Nina’s topics are essentially those of things which annoy her, and having a funny take on things. Not all of the things which annoy her are ones she will use, with Nina giving the example of seeing a rat, which seemed rather relaxed rather than scared, and while she found it interesting, she doesn’t know if she can turn it into a joke. Nina notes that people treat comedians like the latter can be told anything, which means that she gets such strange comments as people telling her that certain sex acts will cure her stuttering. She also remarks that people ask her to “tell a joke” right on the spot, with the rejoinder that she’s not asking people to do their job right on the spot.
Stuttering, which is defined as prolongations and repetitions of speech in blocks, isn’t known to be permanent until adolescence, and 3% of all children stutter, while 1% of adults doing so, with 1 in 4 stutterers being females. Nina’s stuttering is a mild to moderate version of the condition, with the condition’s intensity varying from day to day. Rather than being a result of trauma or low intelligence, stuttering is a neurological condition due to some difference in the brain’s left hemisphere near Broca’s area (the expressive part of the brain, which is where speech begins), and it possibly has a genetic link, as sixty percent of children who stutter have a relative who also stutters. Singing and changing intonation are part of the brain’s right hemisphere, which is why stutterers can sing without doing so; and Nina also notes that Marilyn Monroe was a stutterer, which was why she adopted the way of speaking that she was known for, as doing so enabled her to use the right hemisphere of her brain to keep herself from stuttering. Different people thus use different speech tools, such as creating an accent, but Nina chooses to communicate without using such tools.
The most frustrating thing Nina and other stutterers face from dealing with “normal” people is micro-aggressions, which are the everyday, unintentional things that occur which are slights to the person concerned, which give the latter stress and annoyance. For Nina, some of these micro-aggressions are when people interrupt her, such as people trying to guess her name or comment on it, and with people trying to help her out by finishing a word or a sentence for her.
To those who have been diagnosed as being stutterers, Nina recommends that they get into a community of stutterers, which would enable children to see role models for what they could grow up into as well as learn and adopt such things as the way they would feel most comfortable communicating in. She is particularly concerned about girls who are diagnosed as being stutterers, as there are fewer females who stutter than males, so getting a suitable role model would be very important for their growth as a person.
Purchase from Amazon: Stutterer Interrupted: The Comedian Who Almost Didn’t Happen by Nina G