first came across Keith Wann on Youtube. I was looking for videos in ASL so I could improve my receptive skills, and I came across his hilarious version of the Sir Mixalot song “I Like Big Butts” in American Sign Language. It was hilarious to watch Keith awkwardly sign the song, almost as if he was the 10 year old boy he was talking about in his story. After watching this gem, I was introduced to Keith’s version of “Ice Ice Baby”, “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” and tons of little stand up comic bits, like his explanation of how technology ruined Deaf Pizza Night. I was rolling on the floor laughing by the end of it. I insisted that my husband, who doesn’t know any ASL, come and watch all of them immediately. He ended up in stitches as well.
I don’t know why it never donned on me that there were ASL comedians out there. I know about C. J. Jones, of course, and he’s what most people would call a comedian as well as an actor and writer. I just never thought there might be more people on a mission to entertain the signing masses by making them laugh so hard they fall over.
I’m always on the lookout for more biographies of Famous Deaf Americans. Keith isn’t deaf, he’s a CODA, but I thought I might want to include a biography anyway. He’s been really important to me lately in my quest to learn ASL. To my surprise, I found that he and a bunch of others were touring around the country with the ASL Comedy Tour. Even better, they were coming to my area!! I immediately bought 2 tickets, one for me and one for my husband.
We arrived at the Marriott in Irvine about an hour early, then waited in the hotel lobby for the time to pass. I’m always nervous in situations when I know I’m going to have to interact in sign. I have a decent vocabulary, but I never seem to get any better than “rusty”, and my grammar is bad. I’m also never sure how to behave with a non-ASL-speaker present. I don’t want to just sign, because they won’t understand me, but I don’t want to not sign because the deaf people won’t understand me and it’s rude. It’s a catch 22.
It ended up not being a problem. People all around us were talking, so I felt comfortable talking as well. My husband and I sat and just enjoyed the general atmosphere when suddenly the comedy started. I realized once again how in love with ASL I am. Even when it’s dirty, it’s just so picturesque. There was a voice interpreter, so my husband understood most of what was going on, although occasionally he missed things because the crowd was laughing so hard he couldn’t hear the interpreter. I was thrilled to realize that I understood almost everything that was happening, even when I couldn’t hear the interpreter.
There were four comedians that performed that night. Keith Wann was first, Branton Stewart was second, then came Peter Cook, and Finally Crom Sanders. I was so disappointed when the night was over. I could have listened to all of them go on for hours. After their acts were finished, anyone who wanted to could go on stage and take pictures with all of them. I was shy at first, but I finally got up the gumption to ask for a picture. I was then able to tell them all how much I had enjoyed myself.
I know my husband experienced mad culture shock, but the night only made me realize more fully how much I love ASL and Deaf Culture. It also made me realize that my ASL is coming quicker, I don’t have to think about it as much as before. That must mean I’m getting better, right?
But seriously, if you’ve never seen any of these guys sign, you need to check them out immediately. They are the funniest guys I have ever met, and they will revolutionize your ASL experience.