Jokes and Jokes

By Levi Traxler

I love jokes and awful puns! My appreciation for jokes increased tenfold when I became a dad. I think it’s very important to have a sense of humor as long as it’s appropriate. I can see that humor can help alleviate the pressure sometimes, especially as a parent or a professional! Life can be stressful enough as it is. 

I grew up developing a sense of humor by watching a lot of spoof movies with my family. I especially remember my dad laughing a lot at particular movies ( The Princess Bride, Airplane!, Blazing Saddles, Police Squad) and it left a very strong impression on me. I learned a lot about puns and how sounds can influence the jokes when I don’t get it as a Deaf person. 

Then I went to Gallaudet University and I learned about Deaf jokes. Deaf humor is very blunt and straight to the point! Deaf jokes often rely on handshapes, movements, and facial expressions. As you probably can imagine, deaf jokes are very visual in nature. There are some linguistic differences between Deaf and hearing jokes, and usually one kind of joke doesn’t translate well into the other kind. For example, sound-based jokes don’t work well on the Deaf folks. I wonder why? I noticed that hearing jokes rely on auditory cues such as timing, delivery, and word play. 

Another major difference is the cultural references. The Deaf community is smaller and Deaf people usually share similar experiences with each other. Deaf jokes also usually use signs or reference to signs. Hearing jokes usually make references to mainstream culture, popular media, or common social situations. You can open any social media and almost immediately find memes on it. It’s a lot more accessible and relatable to hearing individuals but Deaf individuals can benefit from it as well. 

Deaf jokes may highlight the experiences, challenges, or stereotypes faced by Deaf individuals in a humorous way. They may involve situations where communication barriers or misunderstandings arise between Deaf and hearing people, or they might explore the unique aspects of Deaf culture and identity. Hearing jokes may draw on experiences related to sound, music, or auditory perception, often using these elements as a basis for humor.

It’s essential to approach jokes about any group with sensitivity and respect. When it comes to Deaf and hearing jokes, it is crucial to be mindful of potential cultural, linguistic, or communication barriers that can affect how these jokes are perceived. While some jokes may be appreciated within their respective communities, it’s important to avoid jokes that perpetuate stereotypes, demean individuals, or make light of people’s experiences. I have seen plenty of Deaf jokes that demean the Deaf individual and I think it’s important to know the context of the situation. 

Due to the differences in communication modalities, Deaf jokes may not be accessible to hearing individuals unless they are specifically translated or explained. I usually find myself having to explain the Deaf jokes to a hearing individual and often they still don’t get it. Hearing jokes, however, can be readily understood by hearing individuals, given the dominant use of spoken and written language in society.

Remember, humor can be subjective, and not all jokes will resonate with everyone. It’s crucial to be respectful, considerate, and aware of the diverse perspectives and experiences within the Deaf and hearing communities when engaging in humor.

If you are interested in learning more about Deaf jokes, you may want to check out this famous King Kong joke:  This is another good place for Deaf jokes:

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