Published Sep 25, 2018As Courtney Gilmour has been at her JFL42 shows this week, DJ Demers was joined on stage by American Sign Language interpreter Jennifer Lees. But as a hard-of-hearing comic, Demers had a unique opportunity and understanding of how to exploit the interpreter for comedic purposes — the sign for cunnilingus in particular.
Having an interpreter can devolve into a novelty for hearing audiences — like just listing off curses or sexual terms because it's funny to see them visually represented, without a real care that audience members would just be watching a list of words without jokes — but Demers understands how visual storytelling in ASL could be mined for comedy.
Demers, a Canadian who (of course) moved to Los Angeles for work a couple of years ago, explored that transition, and how his attitudes have changed with the intrusion of "American thoughts."
He explored his disability from a variety of angles, from the positive value of going "full deaf" (at the gym) and flip side, like the fact that his girlfriend will certainly need to be the one to save him in the event of a late-night burglary.
Demers also discussed his discomfort with being perceived as either a sad sack because of his disability, or an inspiration for having successfully overcome his sad sack circumstances. Comedians don't fit well into either narrative, as Demers discovered during his stint on America's Got Talent in 2016, when producers constantly tried to fit him into one or both disability narratives before he eventually lost to a juggler.
With the presence of Lees, Demers cracked open the door and allowed a glimpse into the deaf community: the politics of not being able to sign (he can't); hard-of-hearing v. deaf; and explored the storytelling nature of ASL.
He also did a chunk on people who use big words. You think making an ASL interpreter spell loquacious is bad, that was before he said sesquipedalian six times.