Interview: Lara Ricote on Confidence as a Deaf Comedian and Storyteller (BSL) (2023)

Ahead of her appearance at a benefit event for Nerve Tumors UK at London's Union Chapel next month, comedian Lara Ricote speaks with Liam O'Dell about the control of comedy, confidence and the relationship with her sister, who has helped her discover her hard-of-hearing identity to accept

"I think I jumped on the joke too quickly before I could process what it means to me," Lara Ricote tells me on Zoom. He's at home in Amsterdam and we're chatting before he flies to Australia for a month of shows. "How do I really feel about this thing people call disability? There are many feelings and emotions associated with it. There's a lot of resistance behind the scenes, a lot of wanting to be normal, and a lot of trying to fit into society when I joke about how my headphones make noise during sex."

The 26-year-old Mexican-American comedian, who won Best Newcomer at the Edinburgh Fringe for her debut single show in AugustGRL/LATNX/DEF— says she's currently explaining what it means to be hard of hearing and thinks she'll add something new to her comedy.

"I think I've always thought of it as an adjective," Ricote reveals. "I haven't given that much thought to how my personality and the person I am literally bounce off this hard-to-hear thing. I made up a personality for myself, or whoever I wanted to be, and not listening became something new, and now that's my personality.

"I'm really happy about that because I'm not fighting it at all. I wouldn't want it to be any different. I'm happy with how things are, but I haven't really gotten into the process of figuring things out yet."

Another part of her personality is that she is a light-hearted person, which she credits to her family. "My mother is very stupid," he explains. “Everything goes through the comedy filter and I definitely got that. I think it made everything easier, there would never be the reaction if I didn't hear something, it would never be "oh", it would always be "ha ha ha". It's a pattern I just followed."

Although Ricote is now open about her experiences, and at times even asking me about my own journey, there was a time when the entertainer wasn't so sure of her hearing. When she removed her hearing aids for three years in her early teens, her hearing loss – which is degenerative – worsened.

He changed in high school. "I thought I'll just wear them and if people say something, I'll understand it," explains Ricote. "I just put them on, nobody said anything and I was like, 'Oh my god, I can't believe nobody said anything.' Then I told my friends and said, "This is an issue for me." Everyone was cool about it.

"They got me birthday cards saying I can't hear. It was a nice joke that made me feel like I was in control of who would make it fun and comfortable."

The identity hearing test and its connection to her comedy were further strengthened earlier this year when Ricote received new hearing aids from a sponsor and realized how much she was missing from the crowd.

"When it falls like a glass," the comedian gives as an example. “Comics are great on glass drops. Add a little comment and now I'm back in control. I take the tension created in the room and make it my own and then break it the way I wanted and that gives people confidence in your comedy. I can't do that, it was always a great loss for me.

"The same goes for lovers," he continues. “Everyone knows what they said. I don't know what they said. It's uncomfortable. I say, "Hey, can you repeat that?" You won't do it again. I just have to keep saying, "I'm hard of hearing and this is a hate crime," and then it's fine for a moment. Everyone can laugh about that.

"It's never about what's going on in the room because I'm really out of control in that situation. There's joy in that too, I've found out now. It used to make me angry and sad, but also the fact that I don't have to deal with it is kind of a gift because sometimes I don't want to."

Ricote presents another example to illustrate her point. When someone is very drunk and making a mess, she says, it's like putting a bag on top of having something in your pocket that you can use in response.

"They say 'look' and then they say they're not going on because I'm not listening! It's literally wrong to continue and people want to hear comedy, and when they don't, people get upset, you know," says Ricote. "That's nice."

It's something she's only recently started liking and is more comfortable with.

"Luckily, I'm in that position and I think every time I do anything with comedy, I'm like, 'Oh, okay, yeah, that's unfortunate, but I'm going to tell a story about it, and I probably will.' make some people laugh, and they'll make me laugh," he says. "Suddenly it's not an unfortunate thing anymore. I'm in this room so much, it's true that I don't think about what the consequences are of how this happened.Reallydo i feel like this

"I'd like to swap 'how it made me feel' for 'ha, that'll be fun later.' But I'll get through it, and I think when I get through it, I'll have the tools because I've been able to talk to other people."

One of those people is her older sister, who is also hearing impaired, and a trip together when they were 19 brought them together.

"It was the first time it was just the two of us, with no one else," Ricote recalls. “She carried my hearing aid batteries for me and I carried hearing aid batteries for her and we helped each other a lot. We sat down and talked about how we feel about it. We're talking about this now because we're writing a series about two sisters who are Latinas and hard of hearing.

"It's a sitcom, so we draw ourselves as comedy characters and we're like, 'What makes us who we are,' and then the conversation started and we were like, 'Oh yeah, why are you so hard of hearing? like me, but that's your personality and that's my personality."

"It's a very loving, supportive relationship now and I'm so lucky to have it, I think if I didn't have it I wouldn't be as comfortable."

Ricote is displayedStand up for nerve tumors in the UKComedy fundraiser at London's Union Chapel on May 17th.

Doors open at 7pm, tickets are £22.50 (including booking fee) and the event will be accompanied by translation into British Sign Language (BSL).

Photo: Gala Ricote.

By Liam O'Dell. Liam is an award-winning deaf freelance journalist and activist from Bedfordshire. You can find him speaking about disability, theatre, politics and moreTwitterand in his ownwebsite.

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