Ray Bradshaw: Deaf Comedy Fam

If you think you’re good at multitasking, Scottish comedian Ray Bradshaw will quickly put you to shame. His new show Deaf Comedy Fam isn’t your standard stand-up.

Ray tells the hilarious true stories of what it was like growing up with deaf parents, but he doesn’t just share these tales in English. He’ll also be regaling you in British Sign Language. Yeah. Impressive, right?

And he’s been suitably praised for his show – as he received a Commendation at the Scottish Culture Awards (the first comedian to do so) for his contribution to Scottish comedy. We were lucky enough to have a chat with Ray, as he prepares to bring his show to The Basement, York. Here’s what went down…

You’re getting quite a name for yourself as a person of firsts, being the first comedian to receive the award at the Scottish Culture Awards and the first person to perform comedy in both spoken English and British Sign Language!
Ray: Thank you – I wish I’d done this show years ago! It took me about eight years of doing stand-up before having the confidence to do it because it’s so tricky to do – but it’s so much fun. You get lots of deaf people coming to comedy for the first time, and you get people who are just very intrigued. Someone recently passed a Level 1 in Sign Language after coming to see my show and deciding they should learn. It’s so positive.

“York’s a cool place to be. In chip shops, you sell ‘scraps’. I was like ‘what is this, and can I have two of them please?'”

I’d ask you what it was like growing up with deaf parents, but that would give everything away! When did you realise your childhood would be the perfect subject for your next show?
Ray: I don’t know if I actually realised myself. One of my best mates said I should do it and I wasn’t sure. So I wrote some jokes about it and everyone was like “that’s gonna be amazing, you should definitely do that”. No one realises how weird their own upbringing was. It’s only when you realise that no one else phoned the bank when they were eight years old that you think ‘actually, it’s quite interesting’.

Have you ever been to York? Ray: Yes – I’m looking forward to coming to York because I used to gig there. One time, a gig got delayed because a boat was on fire right outside the venue! York’s somewhere I used to go as a kid. We’ve got family in the East Coast, so we’d go to York Minster and I went to see York City play football. It’s just a cool place to be. In chip shops, you sell ‘scraps’. I was like “what is this, and can I have two of them please?” – they’re definitely a Yorkshire thing I think.

What impact are you hoping you’ve made, and continue to make, with Deaf Comedy Fam? Ray: So far, we’ve had over 400 people come to their first comedy show. I love that deaf and hearing people are able to come to the same show and not have to check if there’s an interpreter. Sometimes, the hearing people laugh and then the deaf people laugh maybe five or 10 seconds later, and vice versa. So it’s cool watching people react, thinking ‘there must be a joke coming up here’ and they’re looking out for it. It’s a really nice atmosphere. People can come and learn more about deaf people and the deaf culture. I think one of the biggest problems with disabilities is people are afraid to ask questions because they’re scared of offending. So we’ve done Q&As at the end, and it’s been really cool seeing the kind of questions you get asked.

How’s the tour been going so far?
Ray: I did Ipswich recently, and all the staff in the theatre had learnt basic sign language – so when deaf people came in they could sign to them. When I did the Edinburgh Festival, a 14 year-old came with an entirely deaf family – he was the only hearing person. It’s cool for him to be able to go out with his family to a comedy show for the first time.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to learn British Sign Language?
Ray: Go do it. Straight away. It’s a fun language to learn. [Scotland] has become the second country in the world to have a Sign Language Plan. By 2020 it could be taught in schools, and hospitals will have access to more stuff. If you sign a little bit to a deaf person, it can make what could potentially be an awkward situation so much easier. So I would say yes – if anyone’s interested in learning, go do it. There are lots of classes all over the UK and you’ll really enjoy it.

Want to see it for yourself? Catch Ray in full multitasking action at The Basement, York on Saturday 20th October at 8pm. Click here to book tickets!

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