Stuttering On My Own Terms

ninagAbout the author: Nina G is a stand-up comedian, disability activist, author, and speaker. She brings her humor to help people confront and understand social justice issues such as disability, diversity, and equity.  When she isn’t performing at comedy clubs like the San Francisco Punchline or the Laugh Factory, she is playing colleges, presenting as a keynote speaker, and training professionals!  Nina is part of the comedy troupe The Comedians with Disabilities Act, which brings laughter and awareness to audiences across the country. She is the author of a children’s book Once Upon An Accommodation: A Book About Learning Disabilities, that helps children and adults advocate for their rights as persons with disabilities.  Nina’s one person show, Going Beyond Inspirational, a comical exploration about growing up with Learning and Speech Disabilities, debuted in 2015.  Most recently she was part of the first ever comedy compilation of comedians with disabilities, Disabled Comedy Only.

As a stand-up comedian who stutters, people make a lot of assumptions about me.  Fluent people think I am brave for public speaking.  After doing a presentation at a library (before my days as a comedian), a woman came up to me and said, “You are such an inspiration.  If I talked like you, I wouldn’t talk at all.”  With experiences like these, how do you not turn to comedy?!

People who stutter (PWS) assume something else about me.  They assume that I am totally free of stuttering fear, shame, frustration and whatever else we feel when we talk.  It is as if I am immune because I tell dirty jokes in a dive bar at midnight (which is much of what you do as a stand-up).  For those who think I stutter through life without the stutter bug (the feelings we attach to stuttering) catching me, I am writing this for you.

Let me start the story backwards (dyslexic style).  This was the night that I won the Killer Laughs Comedy Competition, against all odds.  It wasn’t against all odds because I stutter.  It was against all odds because I was the very first comedian of the line-up and the first comedian of the line-up in a competition NEVER wins.  With this in mind, I decided to do something different.  My parents were supposed to be in the audience to support me at the event more importantly, VOTE for me.  Of course, they were late as is their mode of operation.

Since I figured I wasn’t going to win, I decided to get back at my parents for something they did to me when I was eleven years old.  When I was a kid I won a joke telling contest on the radio that was judged by San Francisco comedy legend Will Durst.  The prize was seeing him at The Other Cafe, a legendary comedy club that closed in the early 1990s.  I was a really big comedy nerd so I was excited about going to my first comedy club, especially based off of my own joke.  I won’t mention that the joke was one I stole from Pee Wee Herman from his appearance on Letterman (“I don’t know his name, but his face rings a bell”).  We lived in San Leandro about 45 minutes away from the Haight Ashbury where the club was located.  Of course, we were late.  We drove by the club and saw through the corner window that the show was already underway.  My parents decided that we would not to go to the show because they were afraid the comedians would make fun of them for being late.  I started crying and we ended up going to see the movie Innerspace.  Martin Short would have to be my Will Durst substitute for the time being.

At shows I usually stick to my scripted jokes, but I decided not to that night at the competition.  Instead, knowing that my parents were in the parking lot and on their way in during my set, I explained to the audience how they robbed me of my first comedy club experience.  That was when I asked a room full of people to turn around when I said “Hi mom and dad” and then turn around to stare and boo my parents.  I made sure to tell the audience that I knew I wasn’t going to win anyway, because I was up first.

At the end of the competition I came in first place.  I then went for four or five more rounds, beating out 120 comedians and ended up winning the whole thing (even without the same audience, like many comedy competitions).

So that explains the end of the night.  Now let me tell you about the beginning of the night.

I carpooled to the competition with a car full of my good comedy friends who I would be competing against.  Apparently my car was clean that night because five of us were able to fit into my jeep.  Feeling the need for caffeine to get myself through the show, I decided to stop by the McDonalds on the way to the competition.  Before ordering my “large diet coke” I asked everyone in the car if they wanted anything.  They all denied my offer to order for them and I followed up with, “are you sure?”  They assured me that I was the only one ordering.  After I ordered my “large diet coke” my friends started barking out orders, “order me a Fillet-o-fish.”  “Get me a Big Mac with cheese and a Sprite.”  I literally froze.  I couldn’t do it!  I signaled for my friend in the front row to order and rolled down the backseat windows to yell out their order.  Afterwards my friends were astonished that I couldn’t place the order, making the observation that I could talk in front of hundreds of people but could not place an order to a fast food drive thru speaker. And I was like, “I stutter, and I don’t always do drive-thrus.”

What happened was I felt a lack of control when orders were being barked out at me.  When I am on stage, I have the mic and usually I am the one in control.  I say what I want.  My friends had no idea that requesting a Fillet-O-Fish would make me throw in the towel at a drive in.  So many times we, as PWS, blame ourselves for not living up to perceived expectations.  We internalize the expectations that we need to be fixed and talk like everyone else.  Even if we stutter openly, many of us put pressure on ourselves that we need to be self-accepting and courageous at all times no matter what.  People perceive my ability to talk in front of hundreds of people as evidence that I stutter confidently and without stigma 24/7.  How would this be possible when we are socialized in the world we live in?  We aren’t always going to be able live up to others or to our own expectations and we need to be kind to ourselves.  Sometimes asking our significant other to order the pepperoni pizza after a long day at work isn’t a stuttering sin and a sign of our lack of pride or self-acceptance. Stutter with as much pride as you can but on your terms and no-one else’s.  And if you are ever in a car with me, know that I will throw my Diet Coke at you if make me order you a frickin’ Fillet-O-Fish.

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Comments

Stuttering On My Own Terms — 81 Comments

  1. Fantastic paper, Nina. It is really important, for me, to be reminded that I don’t need to be self-accepting and courageous at all times. More importantly, I appreciate the warning about the Fillet-O-Fish. Thankfully, I only like the Burger so I will not get drowned in Coke!

    Hanan

  2. Nina–great story (you should get it on video!). It’s interesting–we know that stuttering is one gray area after another, yet we often speak of acceptance as a you-have-it-or-you-don’t dichotomy. Thanks for bringing some nuance to the issue.

  3. Hanan and Dale, thanks for the comments. As people who stutter, we have a lot of extra emotional work that we do and I think we need to be easy on ourselves. Thanks for reading.

  4. Hi Nina!

    Wow, what a great paper! I am an aspiring speech-language pathologist, currently in my first year of graduate school. I really enjoyed reading about how you have learned to embrace your disfluency, even admitting that it’s not easy sometimes. How do you shift your focus when you get frustrated or are placed in situations where you feel less confident? Do you find it harder to listen to the assumptions of people who are fluent or those of other people who stutter?

    I couldn’t help but think of the old saying, “never judge a book by its cover” as I was reading your paper. It’s true that we never really know what lies beyond the scope of outward appearance. As a future clinician, I intend to encourage my clients to embrace their disfluencies, but not be defined by them based on the expectations of others. You have provided me with a new perspective on how we can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond; most importantly, we have the power to write our own stories. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Nikki Legg

    • Thank you for your feedback on my paper Nikki! Let me take a shot at your questions and see if I can answer them. If I miss anything or if you would like me to address them more or have follow up questions, please let me know.

      Frustration/situations where I may not feel as confident: I am well into adulthood. I have been through a lot of different situations from someone telling me “You are such an inspiration, if I were you wouldn’t talk at all” to “is there an invasive brain surgery you can have to stop stutterting.” I know people will constantly say these things. Before starting comedy, I didn’t have a way to express the surreal nonsense that I experienced. Having comedy as an outlet, I welcome the odd things people say (s

      • Sorry, that was entered too quickly…

        Having comedy as an outlet, I welcome the odd things people say (see http://youtu.be/stCCXC4KYPc). I also made an agreement with myself a few years back that I am never going to “let a comment go.” When I did let comments go in the past it bothered me. I am much more satistified now.

        I am usually always ok with the assumptions of people who stutter because I know we are a work in progress. I know that we are both a work in progress. We are both actively learning about stuttering. Fluent people usually are not part of this process and sometimes I feel exploited by their inquiries (unless I am getting paid–then as away!!).

        Again, thanks for reading this and as a future clinican, thank you for considering what goes beyond what you see in stuttering :-).

  5. Hi Nina,

    Thank you for sharing your advice! I am currently a first year graduate student in speech pathology. We’ve seen many videos/podcasts that contrast people who accept their stutter versus those who don’t, and seeing you publicly speak while offering advice to others about PWS is very cool to see!

    The point that caught my eye most was about how to speak to a person who stutters. You mentioned that therapists in the past taught you to use slow and easy speech, therefore reducing your rate of speech and likelihood to make dysfluent speech. As a speech pathology student now, I will say that we’ve learned this technique both in our undergraduate and graduate stuttering courses, (as a previous poster mentioned above), yet you openly said how un-natural that is. My question to you is do you think there is any pro to using slow, easy speech in therapy or does it just frustrate the person who stutters even further? In future practice, I want to make sure that my patients feel comfortable in therapy, so avoiding techniques that have the reverse affect would be paramount.

    Thank you,
    Olivia

    • Thank you for your comments Olivia and for asking the question about prolonged speech. I think the technique can be helpful but it needs to be integrated in with the speakers style and their authentic self. I think the assumption most people have is that people who stutter want to and strive to be fluent. For me, the primary goal is good communication and being my authentic self. Changing how I naturally speak–stuttering, voice tone, speed, etc… doesn’t feel right. The advice that I have for SLPs is collaborating with your clients on treatment. Say, “this is something that has worked for some and what do you think about that?” Interventions of any kind work when the client is part of the intervention. There is a slogan that the Disability community has adopted, “Nothing about us without us.” So many times people have told us what we SHOULD do but don’t involve us in the decisions that impact our lives and our sense of self. Collaborating with your client will insure that your work with your client will be generalized.

  6. Oooooh, poor widdle Nina 😉 I LOVE your paper and had no idea that your parents deprived you of your first comedy gig. But LOOK at you!!! You are amazing and talented and I love your stuff. (Don’t be insulted that I call your Richard (Dick) jokes “stuff”…..I call everything “stuff”. Oh, by the way, maybe you could go to Starbucks with me. I’ll pay if you do the ordering. How about a Cinnamon Dolce Latte or maybe a Caramel Flan Latte (I can’t remember), with a Turkey Rustico Panini???

    • For you, and only you, I would order a Cinnamon Dolce Latter! Thanks for the comments Ruth! <3 <3 <3

  7. Nina,

    The entire time I was reading your article it felt like you were communicating with me face-to-face, your comedy definitely transfers over into your writing. The major topic I took from your article is that you do not let stuttering define who you are as a person, and that is something that should be implemented into therapy early on. The fact that you have reached this level of self-acceptance is significant. When you are around other people who stutter how do you react to them when they assume you are free from fear and frustration? Your article also taught me a lot about how stuttering can come in all different forms, because one not educated in the area of stuttering would assume that a PWS would do so more when in front of a large group of people, especially when telling jokes; I know when I tell a joke I lose some confidence because I am constantly thinking to myself, ‘What if that wasn’t a funny joke’ or ‘Did they understand that joke I just told?’
    Continue to disprove the stigma attached to stuttering! Good luck with your future endeavors.
    -Becca

    • Thanks so much for the comments Becca! When PWS get together there are sooooooo many conversations we have. I have discussed everything from stuttering in bed with your sexual partner to making phone calls. There are so many rich conversations! Please check out the NSA conference this July, you will likely overhear some hilarious and very real conversations! If you make friiends with us, which I am sure you will, you will really get the insiders perspective ;-).

      Please feel free to stay connected with me at http://www.facebook.com/ninagcomedian.

  8. Thank you for sharing your story. I feel you shared a perspective on stuttering I had not heard before. You made an important point to say that just because people stutter confidently does not mean they still do not feel pressure. As I am learning more about stuttering in school I think it is important to get these different perspectives. Also, reading through the comments I think you make a good point about making the client involved in choosing a therapy technique. Thank you for this reminder. As humans it is hard not to want to “fix” everything or make it all better. But, fixing for one client may simply be communicating. Thank you again for sharing your story and thoughts.

  9. Nina,
    What a funny and wonderful paper! For us people who stutter, so often the world can seem so black and white – you’re fluent or you’re not, stutter openly or covertly, stutter easily or struggle, approach or avoid, and so on. Thanks for reminding me how rich life can be when we live in the gray. By the way, your quote “We aren’t always going to be able live up to others or to our own expectations and we need to be kind to ourselves” is going up on the bulletin board in my office, where I work as an SLP. I imagine one day (and it won’t be long) self-compassion will be mentioned in the same sentence as CBT and ACT. Best to you,
    Rob

  10. Hello Nina,

    Thank you for sharing your story! Reading your story was inspirational because it is difficult to have the ability to express yourself without the pressure of hundreds of people staring at you, and you do it regularly (as a comedian)! I really enjoyed all of the humor you added into your story too. I’m curious, how did your parents react to everyone turing around during your comedy skit at the competition? 🙂

    When you said, “Even if we stutter openly, many of us put pressure on ourselves that we need to be self-accepting and courageous at all times no matter what,” it gave me the perspective of the constant pressure that a PWS must feel. I’m sure that constant need to feel fluent can be fatiguing. I’m glad you were able to find comedy as an outlet for you to express yourself. It brings insight on the importance of finding a person’s strength.

    Thank you for sharing!
    Kristin

    • Thanks for commenting Kristin! My parents are use to the nonsense that I put them through (on and off stage). Actually I think I have probably done even more embarassing things to them 🙂

  11. Hi Nina, I really enjoyed reading your story and hearing about your perspective on stuttering! When did you realize as a child that your lack of control in situations affected your stuttering? Do you remember the single most helpful technique you were presented with to accept your stutter?

    • Thank you for commenting on my paper Lauren! Thank you so much for your questions! I actually stutter the same whether or not I am in control of the situation. My fluency or lack there of does not play a role in it. I re-released this video which is older but it represents a really good set I had at the Punchline Comedy Club in SF and also one of my more stutterific sets: https://youtu.be/KJL8i2vOHK4. Here was completely in control and things were going well but I stuttered lots (possibly menstrual related. I think most speaking situations you are not in control so it isn’t useful to try to gain control over them but you can anticipate what to expect and that is helpful for some us. OF course, there are times when the anticipation builds anxiety so there is never a set formula for us PWSs.

      In terms of a helpful technique to accept my stuttering? Great question! The best technique an SLP or other helping professional can do to encourage self-acceptance is to accept that individual and help them find community. The technique for self-acceptance came when I was in high school and I saw am advertisement for the National Stuttering Project (now NSA). Through meeting my community I saw that fluency was not the goal I wanted but a freedom to live my life and not be constricted by the expectations of others and their ideas of normalcy.

  12. Nina,

    Thank you for sharing your story. I really enjoyed how your passion about being a comedian came out in your paper and transferred into how PWS should be heard and taken seriously. As a future Speech-Language Pathologist, I need to remember just as your friends were unaware that every PWS has certain situations that trigger disfluencies as they have situations in which they are fluent. Your statement, “Stutter with as much pride as you can but on your terms and no-one else’s” really made me think about how ones personality can positively or negatively impact the act of his or her stuttering. Not even a SLP can make a individual speak when they don’t want to. They have to find the energy and be ready to react to the speech they will produce. You have found the energy and strength to speak when you need to and you aren’t afraid to ask for help when you just need a break. You should be proud that!

    Best regards,
    Nicole

    • Thank you for your comments Nicole! Actually EVERY situation triggers my disfluencies. Actually when I am at my most anxious, like a radio interview, I am really fluent, I think because I get all right brainy but once I settle in, it is stutter on! I re-released this video (the quality isn’t that good and I try to only keep videos with good quality on my site) but it was my set at the Punchline Comedy Club in San Francisco where it was both a really good set (all my jokes landed) and I stuttered tons so that you and others can see that fluency is not my goal whatsoever and one day I can do this set with little stuttering and another not as well. Do be prepared because it is dirty. https://youtu.be/KJL8i2vOHK4

      I don’t necessarily think stuttering impacts the personality but how the environment responds to it can. There is much oppression people who stutter experience and we need our social circle to know how to cope with it which is why I think involvement in groups like the NSA is so important.

  13. Hi Nina,
    I loved your paper. As I was reading, I felt that you don’t let stuttering define you as a person and it’s just something that happens sometimes. I just wanted to let you know that your message to stutter on your own terms is powerful and important. I think it’s so great that you have turned stuttering into something positive (and something that has brought you much success)!!! Thank you for sharing your story and comedy!

  14. Hi Nina

    Fantastic story. I really enjoyed reading it. Realy nice to read such a positive outlook on stammering.

  15. Hello Nina,

    Thank you for sharing your story! I am a future SLP and am in my first year of grad school. I loved reading your perspective on the topic. I think so many times we get it in our head that we need to help clients learn to speak in a different way and that we want to help them become confident about themselves and improve the way that they view themselves and accomplish their goals. However, after reading your story, it helped me remember that it is also important to let them know that they do not always having to be courageous and self-accepting all the time and they don’t always have to be focused on changing their speech. We all have days when we don’t feel like we can be courageous and confident and the pressure of others can make us feel stressed and anxious. Your story was a new perspective to read about and I really enjoyed it.

    • Thanks so much for the taking the time to read my paper! I am so happy you received that message. Thank you for sharing it with me. Best of luck in your training!

  16. Hi Nina, thanks so much for sharing this story! There are so many statements from your paper that I had to write down because they put so much into perspective for me! I love your statement in a comment above that said, “Fluency was not the goal I wanted but a freedom to live my life and not be constricted by the expectations of others.” As a future SLP, I will never define success in therapy solely by ‘achieving fluency’. I completely agree with your line of thinking that self acceptance and pride in yourself are the ultimate goals. However, I’m sure that there are therapy programs out there that focus only on ‘fixing’ stuttering. How do you feel about that type of therapy? In your experience, is it effective in the long run?

    Thanks again!
    Madison

    • Thank you for your question Madison. Generally, and keeping in mind I am not an SLP so I don’t know the hard evidence, people who stutter tend to be fluent in the clinic but less so when they leave. I personally feel it is more effective to work on good communication skills and reduce secondaries in some cases. Part of good communication is educating your environment on how to respond to your stuttering which is why the following is on my door at work: http://www.zazzle.com/i_stutter_2_inch_square_magnet-147734537055914786. I think those are long terms benefits that fluency doesn’t always give you.

  17. Thank you for your article Nina!
    I was fascinated by your explanation of why ordering at a drive-thru can prove to be more difficult than speaking onstage in front of a large crowd. As you wrote, the level of control that you feel in a given situation affects your fluency, and your free reign to decide what you choose to say vs. being bombarded with demands for speech plays a key role. Do you have any advice for SLPs, or rather for anyone conversing with PWS, as to what might help increase the level of control that they feel during the course of a regular conversation?
    Thank you,
    Rochelle

  18. Wow Nina, what a great message. I have often felt the pressure to live up to the expectation that I am confident and inspiring in every speaking situation. When I was actively involved in Toastmasters, fellow club members told me that all of the time, that I was an inspiration. Like you, I hate that, because it puts too much pressure on me to be in “performance mode” and I don’t feel it’s inspiring to just be talking like everyone else, albeit in a different voice.
    At work, where I do a lot of public speaking, everyone assumes that I’m always good because I’ve done it so much now. But like everyone, I still feel anxiety and stress sometimes which is normal for any speaker, stuttering or not.
    I loved your reminder to be kind to ourselves. What do you do to be kind to you? This has been a process for me, as I am usually very hard on myself and still battle negative self-talk from time to time.
    Thanks for the great paper and keep on keeping on. -Pam

    • Thanks so much for your comments. It sounds like we go through similar things! I think to be kind is to just accept that we are not always going to be perfect. I drop my phone a gazzion times a day and I don’t get all over myself for that–I just bought the most industrial strength case I could! I know that I will not always have to be brave all the time and that it doesn’t really matter. Sometimes you need a break and when you are doing things that you might feel uncomfortable with and that are on the outskirts of what you think you might have done, then you kind of earn a pass for not ordering that pepperoni pizza by phone!

  19. Hi Nina! This is a really great article! Even with your humor, you were able to say something that I hadn’t thought about before, and that was your comment about being in control. It’s really cool that your “control” is being in front of hundreds of people (and you seem really awesome at it). I applaud you for that! We all have our insecurities in different shapes and sizes and certain things can be harder on one person than another. I am curious what you think about speech therapy though – did anything from speech help you reach this point or do you feel you reached this point on your own? Thanks! 🙂

    • Thanks for your comments and question Kristen! I think the point of self acceptance really came when I found the National Stuttering Association. Finding support from others and seeing myself reflected was an important step toward self-acceptance. My speech therapist was really wonderful. At a certain point she said that she had taught me tools, which back then was more fluency shapping. Her husband stutters so I think she knew the limits of therapy. When I stopped speech therapy I didn’t know about the NSA, in fact there were no kids involved at that time. Since then my former speech therapist hosted the stuttering Christmas party in our area so we still see each other.

  20. Great paper Nina! You serve as an inspiration to other PWS, by showing that even the most confident person will still struggle with this disorder sometimes. You have shown others that you could have all the confidence in the world, but moments when you are not in total control are inevitable, and in these moments it is okay to feel however one may feel. Did you learn any strategies from a speech therapist growing up, or have you developed this personal mantra all on your own?
    Thanks,
    Chelsie

  21. I love your paper, Nina! It is both funny and inspirational! Did you always want to be a comedian when you were little? I know form what I’ve seen (and heard) that it can be a stressful environment. Do you find that it stresses you? Or, are there other situations that are more stressful to you? I know that I would never be comfortable getting up in front of strangers to tell jokes, so you are awesome and really brave in my book!

    • Hi Kris. Check out the paper on ISAD on stuttering comedians. Your questions lead to an entire research project!

  22. Nina,

    I am currently a graduate student in speech-language pathology. I, like you, like having control of situations and usually have something written down, or at the very least planned, if I am going to be speaking in front of others. During our fluency class, we were charged with the task of stuttering in order to better understand the thoughts and feelings of PWS, especially potential clients. I chose to perform the assignment at a drive thru. I felt very out of control, and wasn’t sure how to respond to others. Other times, like phone calls, I wasn’t as nervous. Is there a particular instance in which you stutter more than any other situation?

    Thanks,

    Hannah

    • Hi Hannah, my stuttering doesn’t especially fluctuate unless I’m all language based. The more I think about the words the more I stutter…which is why think before you speak is the worst advice ever! Everyone is so different but for me, sometimes the more stressful, the more adrenaline and the less I stutter. That is the interesting, and at time frustrating thing about stuttering, is that no one stutterer stutters the same.

  23. Nina,

    I loved reading what you have to share. It encouraging to see someone who is so open and completely honest about their experience stuttering. I particularly liked how you said that people who stutter should do so on their own terms. To me, that alone is powerful. Taking ownership of what you do as a person, stuttering or not, gives you a new sense of confidence and, like you mentioned, control over the situation. What strategies do you use to stutter with pride, but also on your own terms? I love hearing your humor and seeing your personality shine through your post. Not only do you suggest to others to own their stuttering but it is easy to see you practice what you preach! What advice do you have for future speech therapists or those who work with PWS? How would you encourage and approach treatment?

    Thank you for sharing your story! It was great to read!

    Kalie

    • What great questions Kalie! I may not catch them all but like my page on Facebook because I do creative projects ad comedy around these issues so you might get some updates. For SLPS I think coming at therapy in a collaborative way. When it is authoritarian in nature people are told what to do and if it doesn’t work it seems like it’s your client’s fault. With stuttering sometimes things work in the office, other times not, so many variables. I think helping your clients find people who are like them is important as well. Support groups are awesome and transcend support into friends, romance, and even hooking up, so how well rounded is that! Strategies to stutte with pride? Hmmmm I think being open and advertising is a big one. When you come into my office at my day job you, the first thing you see is this magnet…http://www.zazzle.com/nina_g_comedian

  24. Nina,
    I loved reading your post about the difference between how you feel on stage versus in real life situations that lack control. I was wondering if you feel like you are more fluent on stage when you are more comfortable and feel more in control?

    I am a graduate student studying speech language pathology and will be working with people who stutter in the future. I am trying to learn the best way to build my clients’ confidence in their stutter while also providing effective therapy. Thank you so much!
    Macy

  25. First off, I appreciate your positivity! I love how you are able to share your insecurities with grace. I am a strong believer that sharing those insecure moments can give hope and peace to those in similar situations. I love you courage, honesty, and humor!

  26. Hello Nina,

    What interesting feedback! I really appreciate your frankness. Although I do not stutter, I can most definitely apply what you said to my life. We will not always live up to our own expectations, but we should “be kind to ourselves”. Thank-you for that reminder. I am a first year graduate student in communication disorders, and I would like to ask if you think humor should have a role in therapy? Thank-you in advance!

    With Warm Regards,
    Hannah D.

    • Great question! Check out the paper in the research section on stuttering comedians. I think that it would shed light. I think humor is great as long as it is done right. I think the big thing is that the humor is not one down from the therapist to the client. You can make fun of yourself or the process but not them. I think that is a good general guideline.

  27. Hello Nina,

    Wonderful story! Thank you for sharing. I appreciate your message of being kind to yourself. It can be easy to be your own worst critic in light of daily pressures from societal expectations. Also, I especially enjoyed the joke on your parents at the comedy competition! Congratulations on all your success in the comedy industry.

    When doing a stand up routine, do you use any strategies within scripted jokes to help you with joke timing and delivery if stuttering occurs? Additionally, I think incorporating comedy and activism is an excellent way to create understanding. Do you feel comedy has served as an effective platform to connect with new audiences providing a greater awareness of stuttering?

    Thank you,

    Lauren

    • Hi lauren! Thanks for the comments! Check out our paper on stuttering comedians. It addresses all this stuff! Your questions are practically the research questions in the paper!

  28. Hi Nina,
    I really enjoyed reading your paper. I especially enjoyed your last paragraph discussing how even if you openly stutter, you feel pressure to be self-accepting and courageous in all situations all the time. While it is inspiring to read stories about people who have accepted their stutter and openly stutter in all situations, I liked your honesty about how it is unrealistic to believe that people would be accepting of their stutter 24/7. Because stuttering is so personal, your take-away about stuttering with as much pride but on your own term speaks to the fact that even if someone has accepted their stutter, there will be times where they just don’t want to worry about their stutter and have someone else speak for them and that that is ok. Thank you for sharing your story!
    Kelly

  29. Hi Nina,

    I read your paper with considerable interest because I have been actively involved on the public speaking scene (in the UK) for the past 14-15 years. During that time, I have I assembled a wide repertoire of talks – one of which relates to my lifelong battle with stuttering. I have given it to several hundred diverse community organisations in an attempt to increase public awareness (and understanding) of stuttering.

    When I share my life story with an audience, I touch upon many of the ploys/strategies that I once utilized to cope with my stuttering issues. I have discovered that humour can be a very useful tool with which to convey an important message.

    My talks are purposely littered with amusing anecdotes. When my listeners laugh, I know they are more likely to remember the circumstances that created the merriment, thereby strengthening their understanding of the principle(s) I am attempting to explain.

    But, I don’t just tell the audience that I once practised extensive avoidance strategies. I go one step further and recount a few stories, which vividly illustrated that trait.

    No-one will ever forget that my fear of saying words (commencing with the letter “S”) heavily influenced my actions (as a young police officer) when dealing with a drunken individual. Having first encountered the intoxicated and disorderly man in Somerset Street, I assisted him (a short distance) to an adjoining road which had a less-challenging name. Had I arrested him at the original location, I would have experienced considerable difficulties (with my speech) at the subsequent court hearing. 🙂

    I further illustrate the implications of avoidance by speaking about the time that I invented a false identity (Adrian Adams) when depositing items at the dry-cleaners. I chose this option because I had convinced myself that I could not say my own name. However, the ruse was cruelly exposed when, unbeknown to me, someone else decided to collect the garments on my behalf. When that person requested the clothing for “Alan Badmington”, there was (of course) no record of any such transaction. As you can imagine – I had to do a great deal of explaining. 🙂

    I use numerous other examples to reinforce the audience’s understanding of the desperate measures to which I resorted, in order to avoid stuttering. One involved saying my wedding vows – but, as my time is limited, I will keep that for another day. 🙂

    Incidentally, I was recently approached by someone in the street who remembered some of the humorous episodes from a talk that he attended 5 years ago.

    However, I should stress that the mirth is NOT directed at persons who stutter (in general) – it is confined solely to the unique experiences of Alan Badmington.

    Although I no longer have any hang-ups about speaking in such a vein, I readily acknowledge that some PWS might feel uncomfortable about associating humour with their past oral struggles, particularly when in the company of total strangers.

    The manner in which I now react to such experiences contrasts starkly with how I would have responded prior to embarking upon a more self-accepting, open and expansive existence. I recognise that I am, indeed, at a very favourable place in my life.

    Nina, thank you for sharing. I wish you continued success with your chosen career.

    Kindest regards

    Alan

  30. Nina,
    Thank you for sharing your story! The last line made me laugh out loud. I love your message of being kind to yourself, and that you choose to stutter on your own terms. Your attitude is inspiring! I hope you don’t mind me asking, but I’m curious, does your stuttering (type or frequency) change while you’re on stage?
    Thank you,
    Kim

    • The stutter fluctuates so much! And when I am on my period–watch out! Stutterpolloza. I re-released this video http://youtu.be/KJL8i2vOHK4. It is poor quality video but a really good example of a set that went well that I stuttered lots in.

  31. Nina,

    Thank you for sharing your story. I think you hit the proverbial nail on the head, both in your paper and in your comments following, about how unique the stutter is to the person who stutters. Different situations trigger different disfluencies, and different ways of dealing with the disfluencies. I have met people who stutter more around family and friends, and others that stutter more in front of a crowd. The one who stutters around family can get up in front of a crowd in a heart beat, and the one who stutters in front of a crowd can speak more fluently with their family. However, feelings are the “tie that binds”. We can listen to only the situations and easily say “I can do that, they are nothing like me…” or “How can they do that? I could not do that on my best day!” and easily dismiss any form of connection between the two stories. However, when we listen to the emotion behind the situation, as you shared in both your paper and comments, we can easily see the common bond.The feelings we share when we cannot get out what is being demanded of us, or when we get through that one tough moment we thought we could never surpass, those are the moments that unite and provide strength.

    Thank you, again, for sharing your story.

    Virginia Weaver

  32. Hi Nina,

    I LOVE your humor! How true it is that we can’t live up to perceived expectations. This is true for PWS and for everyone else! I am studying to be a speech-language pathologist, and I love hearing your outlook on stuttering experiences. Your story shows that stuttering is different for everyone, and that all PWS have to overcome the negative emotions associated with stuttering. I love that you stutter on your own terms; you inspire others to live life on their own terms as well.

  33. Hi Nina,

    What you do is so awesome! Thanks for sharing your experiences with us all. To me, you are not only a comedian but also an educator to those who don’t realize that a stutter doesn’t always have to restrict a person from achieving their goals and dreams. Have you always felt a sense of control during your stand up routines? For any comedian, i’m sure that the audience does not always cooperate and I know for myself this would create a lot of anxiety. Has your stutter ever gotten worse during a particular show?

    Thanks again,
    Katie

    • Doing comedy, there are few times when you feel completely in control-Louie CK might have a different experience! For my stuttering, I try not to think about controling it when I speak. I have found that it distracts me from my message and delivery. I re released this video from a set that went great and one I stuttered a lot to show people that you can stutter and still do well. I think I probably felt more in control here because it was going well http://youtu.be/KJL8i2vOHK4

  34. Hi Nina,
    Thank you for sharing your personal experiences about your frustrations and accomplishments. I am a speech language pathology graduate student and do not have very much experience working with PWS. I feel that I need to have more exposure to feelings and attitudes of PWS in order to become an effective SLP. One of the reasons this will be beneficial to me is that when I work with PWS I can share experiences of PWS that are successful as they don’t let stuttering get in the way of life. I like that you use comedy as stress relief and that you also give yourself time outs from being perfect. I feel like no matter the disability or impairment some times we are our own worse judge inflicting undue guilt and shame. As a side note, I can relate to your families schedule of always being late, that is how my family functioned also.
    Thanks for your thoughts,
    Dorene

  35. Hi Nina,
    Thanks for sharing your story. I am currently a speech-language pathology graduate student in California and am in a fluency class this semester. I was curious, do you have any useful strategies for when you get frustrated with your fluency or are in a situation where you feel less confident? I appreciated your point of view, that while you have learned to embrace your speech, it is not always easy.
    Thanks so much!
    Hillary

    • It is funny. My confidence usually has little to do with my speech. I try to front load situatiuons where I let people know I stutter so then I can just do or say whatever.

  36. Nina, I really appreciated this paper because you were honest about how stuttering impacts you. It isn’t just something that you overcome as a confident (and “brave”) comedian, it is also something that causes difficulty and discomfort in your life! And no one should see your act and think “I wish I could be confident like that with my stutter,” but should also realize that you have struggles of your own, just like everyone.

  37. This is beautiful. I’m not familiar with your comedy, but it sounds like I should be. I would assume that a lot of your jokes stem from the strange interactions that you have had regarding your stuttering. To what extent do you get kickback from people who misunderstand the intention of your comedy? I would imagine that a lot of people just hear comedy + disability = mockery and fail to really listen to the message. Am I off base?

    Thanks for bringing laughter to the world!

    • Great question!! Thank you for asking about the comedy process. People are so weird! Some think I am faking. Some people think I am making fun of stuttering. Some audiences who think they are entilightened think they can’t laugh because that would be laughing at a person with a disability–I mean come on! I am a comedian! I am really careful about mocking stuttering. I will make fun of my nose, my education (I have my doctorate) but never how I speak. Mostly I make fun of people who say odd things. Check out yourtube.com/ninagcomic. You will see some good examples.

  38. Thank you for sharing your experiences – as a current Speech and Language Therapy student in the UK I find the ways that different people ‘cope’ with their stuttering very interesting. I like the idea of you being in control. Many thanks

  39. Hi Nina,

    It’s amazing to see how you have such great control of your stutter and are able to stand up in front of a huge crowd and win competitions!! That is so great. I found it especially interesting that your friends did not even know that you stutter and were unaware that throwing you off by screaming there orders at the last minute would cause you to stutter or just not be able to order. When you are thrown into situations where you aren’t in control do you usually stay quiet? Or do you have ways to control/deal with your stutter in that case?

    • Thanks for the comments Vicki. I actually don’t have control over my stutter and it is cornorstone in my act. Here is a good example of that http://youtu.be/KJL8i2vOHK4. If I only spoke in when I thought I would be fluent-I would never talk :-). I hope you enjoy the video and see that for me control over when and where I talk is more important than controling my stuttering.

  40. Nina,

    Thank you for sharing your story. I really enjoyed reading it! I hope that your parents were not late to another one of your comedy shows after that one. You bring up a great point about stuttering. Reading a lot of the other articles I keep thinking to myself “it must be tiring to be so strong all the time”. It was refreshing to hear that there will be times that you just don’t feel like ordering that fillet-o-fish. This goes for just about anything! Everyone deserves times for someone to order for you. Congrats on your win and good luck in your future endeavors!

    Kind regards,
    Janine

  41. Hi Nina,

    Thank you so much for giving me such a good read with my dinner! I feel that my neighbors (at a food court) probably decided that I was nuts seeing me snigger and laugh in front of a laptop. I also watched your presentation on Previously Secret Information (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UlwJC3eMEc). That didn’t help improve the situation. As a person not categorized as a PWS, I think you are an inspiration—in how you turn humor, a weapon that so often hurt PWS, into a bridge that helps others understand. Finally, a minor question: I wonder if you would be able to say the orders if your friends had let you prepare beforehand?