Alice Wong interviewed Nina G for the Disability Visibility Project™ at StoryCorps San Francisco on October 2nd, 2014. In this clip, Nina talks about her experience as America’s only female stuttering comedian, and how being a woman and a person living with a disability informs her experience as a comic. She also talks about how she uses comedy as a way to confront discrimination and challenge ableism.
[Sound of people talking at a bar]
Nina G: My friend Dave, when he introduces me, he says, “What can I say about Nina that wouldn’t take a really long time for her to say about herself?”
[Music 01 begins: Fast-paced drumming with piano/keyboard, fun]
I say that I’m America’s only female stuttering stand-up comedian and I’m America’s favorite because I really am the only one. Like, I’m the only stuttering stand-up comedian in the U.S. and in fact I used to — when I first started doing comedy, I said I was the world’s only, but there was a woman who popped up in England, um, so I cannot use that “world’s only” anymore.
Alice Wong: And are there certain words where you know you’ll stutter a little more, so if you want to emphasize a certain word, but you know you’ll stutter, will you kind of reshape the structure of what you will say?
Nina G: You know? I try not to. I try not to. But there is one, one sentence that I do say that I know that I stutter more on this sequencing, and it works well comedically. And so, it s the only time that I stutter for a comedic emphasis which is… orgasms and stuttering have a lot in common because they both take a hell of fucking long. (laughter) So…
[Music 01 fades out]
A lot of comedy is bringing out the uncomfortability. And, kind of pointing out when able-bodied people are being assholes, to encourage, and to just kind of put it out there and so hopefully some behavior changes.
[Music 02 begins: Bass with drumming and piano/keyboard, funky]
One of the — Once at an open mic I started and the first thing I say is that I’m America’s only female stuttering stand-up comedian. If you stutter I’m an inspiration; if you don’t I’m just an angry bitch. To just kind of lay it out, like, this is what to expect. And then, the next piece that I do is, I say my name. Like a guy asks me what my name is, then I say, it usually goes like “N-n-n-n-n-,” and I stutter on my name. And there was a woman once at an open mic who couldn’t look at me. She put her hand like this, over her eyes, and she just wouldn’t look. And she was right next to the stage. And so, I went up in front of her face and I did it. (laughter) Like right in front of her face. And it was so much fun! And it broke down the barrier.
[Music 02 fades out]
You know like, part of the when I was thinking about doing comedy, which I had wanted to do comedy since I was 11, but because of the speech I didn’t think that was even a possibility. Um, and then I came back from a stuttering conference, and I had been reading some bell hooks at the time, and bell hooks was talking about how activists, a lot of times the females are just kind of off to the side, so like, they’re the wives, but when are they going to step into the light and take their role. I was like, “wait, I just …”
Alice Wong: That’s comedy.
Nina G: Yeah, and as a woman, and as a woman with a disability, and as a woman who stutters, that is so hard.
Alice Wong: And you’re always having to be more… holding it back. Right? Like, it’s kind of like, being good, being compliant, not making a scene.
Nina G: Ok, now see, this is where — this is something we don’t always talk about in the disability world. But what I find, at least around my stuttering, is that men will tease you in a way that is like, that’s making fun of your disability, but kind of flirting with you at the same time, but kind of like trying to take a place of power at the same time.
Alice Wong: It’s kind, of we are this oddity where it’s almost like a fetish, where it’s kind of like, “oh, let me just flirt with this disabled girl, she’ll get a kick out of it.”
Nina G: Yes!
Alice Wong: Or, “she’ll enjoy it because she never gets enough attention.”
Nina G: It’s like a pity fuck.
Alice Wong: “I’m doing you a favor.”
Nina G: Yeah.
Alice Wong: “You’re going to love it, and, you are going to remember me.”
Nina G: Yeah… isn’t that weird?!
[Music 03 begins: Bass and xylophone]
Alice Wong: I feel that so much of comedy is observational. Right, and I think being within this minority perspective, of being a woman, or, having a disability, it really gives you great insights on the absurdity, I think, of human behavior. So, tell me about what are your inspirations in terms of material that you use.
Nina G: Let’s see. I mean, I think, whatever gets me really pissed off. Um, and whatever irritates the hell out of me. A lot of my comedy comes out of the micro aggressions that I experience. Like, the way that I look at comedy is what they say about prison. Is that, you have to beat someone up on the first day. (laughter) And so, I don’t let anybody say anything about me. And, about my speech, without putting them down right away. So, I take them down a few pegs. Cause they try to, and I’m all, “Uh, no, so you better shut the fuck up.” (laughter) You know what I mean?
[Music 03 fades out]
Music 01: “Gravy” by Podington Bear (Licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License)
Music 02: “60’s Quiz Show” by Podington Bear (Licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License)
Music 03: “Sidecar” by Podington Bear (Licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License)
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Disability Visibility Project™. (2016, December 15). DVP Interview: Nina G and Alice Wong. Retrieved from: http://wp.me/p4H7t1-2
A photo featuring Alice Wong and Nina G taken on October 2, 2014: Two women sitting next to each other, smiling and looking at the camera. The woman on the left is Asian American, and is wearing a red jacket with a purple turtleneck and eye glasses. The woman on the right is Italian American, has long brown hair that is pinned back, and is wearing red lipstick
Produced for the Disability Visibility Project™ by Geraldine Ah-Sue and Alice Wong with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the story of our lives. For more: www.storycorps.org and www.disabilityvisibilityproject.com