Comedian Uses Sign Language to Highlight Deaf Issues
Whenever Windell “Wink” Smith Jr. takes to the stage, his goals are to make his audience to smile, to laugh, and, especially, to think. Wink is a comedian and deaf-rights advocate who has performed for deaf and hard of hearing communities across the United States for about five years. His entertaining shows frequently promote discussion about important issues within the deaf and hard of hearing community, such as cochlear implants. Although some members of his audience may have strong opinions regarding these topics, he hopes to address them in a way that will entertain the viewers and make them consider their own thoughts on the issues. Wink says, “When you’re talking about a hot issue, you are not going to change someone’s mind. There’s emotion tied to that argument, but, hopefully, I can at least make them laugh at it. What I really care about are the people that don’t have one side or the other because it forces them to think about it.”
As the hearing son of two deaf parents, Wink has always been deeply aware of the challenges facing members of the deaf community. He says his father taught him to be cognizant of how, intentionally or unintentionally, people with hearing at times act in an insensitive manner towards deaf or hard of hearing people. Once he grew older, Wink first became involved in assisting the deaf community by becoming certified as a sign language interpreter. Today, he always performs his shows in ASL (American Sign Language). He has an interpreter who translates his routines into spoken English for the hearing members of his audience who are not fluent in ASL.
Wink’s lifelong relationship to the deaf and hard of hearing community inform his comedy performances and inspire him to spread awareness about compelling issues facing that community today. He says, “My comedy is definitely informed by my beliefs and what I’ve learned from the deaf community. I like to figure out ways to have commentary on really critical issues in the deaf community, but I compose it in a way that’s not threatening.”
To see Wink perform, click here to access his YouTube page.
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