Why should comedians use Auslan interpreters?

28 May 2015, by Auslan Stage Left in Articles

This year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival (MICF) ran from the 25th of March to the 15th April 2015. Over those five weeks, Auslan Stage Left worked with over ten different comedians to provide access to a range of different shows, from stand up to sketch.

But why should comedians work with Auslan interpreters? Here’s just five of our top reasons why we should be seeing more Auslan interpreters on comedy festival stages.


1. Access


Interpreter Julie Judd onstage with Em Rusciano, MICF 2015.

It’s an obvious reason, but one that is often overlooked. When you provide an Auslan interpreter for your show, you are allowing the deaf community to access and enjoy your performance. While live captioning and subtitles are options that work for some people, for the deaf community who’s first language is Auslan (not English!) it is often preferable to have an interpreter on stage.


2. Variety


The Chaser presents ‘In Conversation with Lionel Horn’, with interpreter Paul Heuston, MICF 2015.

When MICF season hits, it’s so exciting to be able to leaf through the season brochure, circling shows and planning your schedule over the five weeks of the festival. But for the deaf community, the options can be far more limited.

While Auslan Stage Left endeavours to provide access to every show the community expresses an interest in, it is also up to comedians to come forward and express their interest in working with an Auslan interpreter. The more options we can provide the deaf community, the more opportunity they have to find something they really enjoy and have a rewarding comedic experience. Not all hearing people like the same comedy, and it’s the same for deaf people — so why should we limit their choices?


3. Broadening your audience


Deaf audience members take post-show selfies with Dave Hughes and interpreter Adrian Priem, MICF 2015.

By providing an Auslan interpreter for your show, you are welcoming in an entirely new audience.  One with the same enthusiasm for comedy, the same capability to laugh and enjoy your performance, and the same ability to appreciate you as a performer and want to see you again and again!  The deaf community is a vibrant and colourful one, and by providing an Auslan interpreter you are giving yourself the opportunity to get to know more about them.


4. Inclusion

Imagine you are the only deaf person in an entirely hearing family. You may have experienced going to a comedy show with your family before, but how would you feel watching your family laugh with along the whole audience laugh while the joke goes straight over your head?

Now imagine going to that same show with an Auslan interpreter provided. Being able to understand the jokes, laugh with the rest of the audience, and be able to retell and share the experience with your family for weeks and months after the performance has finished.

This is an example of just one audience member’s experience after watching MICF 2015 shows with an Auslan interpreter. For once, they said, they were able to be ‘in’ on the experience that their family had shared, and it lead to a closer connection for the weeks that followed.  It’s not just about access — supporting a deaf person’s right to be included in the same way as a hearing person can have a huge impact on a person’s confidence.


AUSLAN VIDEO: Watch Caitlin talk about her MICF 2015 experience by clicking here.


5. Adding that ‘special something’


Auslan interpreter Adrian Priem onstage with comedian Dave Hughes, MICF 2015.

Having an Auslan interpreter work with you on stage is a unique experience for any comedian. We’ve been told that it adds something special to any performance for both the comedian and the audience. But don’t just take our word for it — here’s what international performer and home-grown legend Dave Hughes had to say about having an Auslan interpreter (Adrian Priem) work with him on his ‘Pumped’ tour:

“I love having an Auslan interpreter. Adrian [Priem]’s been to many of my shows around Australia and it’s always added something special to the night. I’ll certainly keep doing it…for as long as people want me to do it.  Absolutely love having an Auslan interpreter, and [Adrian] does a great job, and I’m sure all the others do as well.  Great fun.  I recommend to any comedian, put an Auslan interpreter one night of your show, at least. [It’s] well worth it. Adds to the show.”

Watch the full interview between deaf audience members and Dave Hughes by clicking here.

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