Ray Bradshaw introduces a new aspect to stand-up comedy with his show Deaf Comedy Fam. The two-time Scottish Comedian of the Year finalist tells his stories using both English and British Sign Language. The limited number of deaf students at Oxford presents a wider issue of inaccessibility for deaf people in society, including entertainment. Being brought up by parents who suffered from hearing loss, Ray aims to make his comedy show more accessible for people with hearing loss, allowing everyone the opportunity to enjoy comedy. This has led to his successful debut at the Glasgow International Comedy Festival, its popularity leading to another sell-out performance at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. He has also featured on BBC Scotland and BBC Radio 4. He aims to continue his success in a national tour during May 2019, which prompted him to contact The Oxford Student to raise awareness of his comedy acts, working towards making comedy accessible for all.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
I’m a thirty-year-old stand-up comedian from Glasgow who is the first comedian in the world to deliver a stand-up show in both Sign Language and English at the same time by the same performer.
What inspired you to start your show?
I grew up with two deaf parents, so that’s a big part of who I am. I have been doing stand-up for a while and the first time I ever did the Edinburgh Festival I got a sign language interpreter along to interpret two of my shows so that my mum and dad could come. After the festival I thought that it wasn’t fair that deaf people could only come to 2 shows out of 25, so I came up with the idea of trying to do a show that was fully accessible to deaf and hearing audiences alike so that they could come to any performance. That’s how Deaf Comedy Fam was born.
I came up with the idea of trying to do a show that was fully accessible to deaf and hearing audiences alike
How do you come up with the content for your show?
It’s surprisingly easy to do so as my mum and dad are both mad and hilarious in equal measure. All the stories in the show are true and based on things that happened in my childhood from me thinking my dad could actually hear and was actually a spy, to convincing my dad that his nipples made a noise.
Do you think that there is a lack of people with hearing loss in the entertainment industry?
I think there’s an underrepresentation in general of people with disabilities. One in six people in the UK will lose their hearing in their lifetime and I definitely don’t think that is being represented. It’s getting better but still has a long way to go.
Do you think your show has been impactful on the deaf community? If so, how?
So far, we’ve had over 700 deaf people come to their first ever comedy show so I do think it’s had a decent impact. It’s also had an impact on my bank balance as deaf people pay concession prices, so it’s lost me some money despite how well its gone!
We’ve had over 700 deaf people come to their first ever comedy show
Have you faced any hurdles in your career?
The language in the show has been quite problematic because the structure of sign language and English are completely different so it can be pretty hard to get the timings right when performing in two languages at the same time. I’ve had to properly practice when the punchlines hit and also at points simplify the joke in both languages, so it makes sense in both. It’s a tiny concession to make for something that is so enjoyable to do.
What has been the highlight of your career?
I’ve been lucky enough to have a few highlights over the last few years; I’ve got to gig with a lot of my heroes and been lucky enough to perform in countries I had never dreamed of visiting. But I think the best highlight is sitting in a theatre dressing room before a show and hearing my mum and dad laughing with their friends through the speakers. When I started doing stand-up, I just presumed they’d never get to come and see me perform so that was a major win!
Ray is happy for The Oxford Student to make use of the terms “hard of hearing”, “hearing impaired” and “deaf”.
Image Credit: Gaby Jerrard