To laugh or not to laugh?

Laugh: (lăf, läf) to make the spontaneous sounds and movements of the face and body that are the instinctive expressions of lively amusement and sometimes also of derision.

Media will do anything these days for money and this advert by LiveLens is the latest insult to the deaf world. Why? Thamsanqa Jantjie appears in it. He is the one who managed to fool the South African Government into thinking he was a qualified sign language interpreter. While I and others do not wish to give him any more publicity, I feel saddened and extremely frustrated for my South African friends because I can see and feel the extent of these insults it is having on them. It is a complete mockery of their precious language, culture, their loyalty and shows the extent or rather lack of, understanding and empathy the companies and “comedians” have for them (and us) whilst making money out of it all.

I would like to seize the day by voicing through this medium to show my support, for my friends. One of which exclaimed “Unbelievable, today is our election day and now #fakeinterpreter spoilt the important day like he did to Mandela’s funeral!! He has no respect. We will keep fight and stop him!” hence their new campaign called “#stopfakeinterpreter”.

Braam Jordaan
Braam Jordaan

Here is why:


Captioned version here: Mandela’s sign language interpreter’s return to fame: Livelens

Extract from Huffington Post UK.
Extract from Huffington Post UK.

Oh please?!…. Choose someone who did not mar Nelson Mandela’s service for Deaf people worldwide as described by Limping Chicken who broke the very first story. Jantjie claims to be suffering from a mental illness such as schizophrenia. I for one never bought this claim as it seems to be a “get out of jail” card. It is the only way he managed to get so far in fooling those he could sign because others “vouched” for him. If so. they wanted him there on the stage, for a reason – was he a plant? It is feasible this has all been orchestrated (for his safety) but who really knows? A political conspiracy is my theory and I am not alone with this train of thought.

However, by making a mockery the first time around, this has encouraged other comedians to try the same tactic. USA knew not to go down this route and apologized for one of their shows making a remark. Yet several UK comedians have sadly got away with it for example Paul Whitehouse who was apparently praised for making the “funniest joke of the night” at the British Comedy Awards after bringing a fake signer on the stage. His video, ironically once again is not subtitled for the deaf audience to be feel included on.


Captioned version here: Paul Whitehouse’s fake signer in British Comedy Awards acceptance speech.

Some people would be inclined to feel as a member stated on our group, that only South African deaf people (and probably only signers) should be able to mock the whole Jantjie thing and it’s still too raw. We should focus on the issue of access and quality of communication professionals and how deaf people CAN insist on change. But, when they are using fake signs or being “comical” about our language or ability not to hear, it is more of insult not to caption, is it not? To be excluded totally… Adding captions would have gained them that bit more respect instead the respect goes to the one who actually spends their time to get some made to include us… Thank you to Sara of Subtitle YouTube for helping to source the captioned version of the Livelens video and for transcribing/captioning Paul Whitehouse’s video. Gratefully appreciated.  🙂

Most definitely.

Meanwhile…. another member commented that we should not take ourselves too seriously, or we lose perspective. Yet it is the hurt he (Jantjie) has caused our friends and potentially the deaf world by making a mockery. Humour of this nature is extremely controversial and rather subjective to each and every one’s own interpretations and personal experiences. Comedy which suggests one rule for themselves and another for others along the lines of… “Comedians using racism as potential comedy material because it isn’t their oppression and possibly isn’t their place to laugh at that… All too often comedians will make poor jokes which are oppressive and then claim “It’s comedy” as an excuse for why it shouldn’t be challenged” – This comment was made on our Facebook group and I wholeheartedly agree with that perspective. Yet, is this not a form of bullying at somebody else’s expense and/or misfortunes?

Here is a video by an American comedian, Brad Williams which is captioned:

“READ MY LIPS” Comedy, or Deaf-Bashing? You be the judge. (As stated on the YouTube page)


I was asked if I found this video above offensive. I was unsure simply because I had seen this video before and the first time I watched it I think I was offended and could empathise with his frustration at the derogatory sign for his height. That video actually reminded me of a time when I volunteered with a charity who one night had a comedian. The whole room went silent and I could not understand why… It was not until afterwards when a hearing friend kindly explained to me, the comedian was making jokes about the deaf (because he knew I was there with a couple of other deaf friends) and the jokes just weren’t funny, I then understood the reason behind the silences. I felt rather embarrassed yet supported knowing other hearing people there did not encourage this nature of humour.

There is a lot of signs still which the younger generations find offensive so most of the signs have in time evolved to be PC (Politically Correct). It is the same for spoken language, different generations will speak different regional dialects or street languages.

 “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

by Mahatma Ghandi.

I would prefer to laugh with respect. Not laughed at, without respect. As it is not impossible for one to be funny and kind without hurting anyone’s feelings.

To laugh or not to laugh? That is the question.

~ SJ (Sara Jae), dedicating this post to her South African friends who also happen to be deaf.

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