Nearly all of the Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall’s 311 seats were full at 8 p.m. on Nov. 14 for a performance by deaf comedian CJ Jones.
“People need to learn to use their eyes for information,” Jones said in sign language. For the first half of his performance, a woman translated from the first row. Yet even when Jones was not talking, he physically embodied his stories, moving energetically across an empty stage.
Naturally, a great deal of Jones’ comedy derives from his physical movements. The second segment of his show was a comedy routine, which began as Jones rapped about life as a deaf person, while signing and beat boxing. His chorus was, “I can’t hear you, louder!”
Jones told stories about his life as a deaf person after having grown up aural. Central to his act was the message that the deaf can do what anyone else can. He explained that there are 30 or 40 brilliant deaf lawyers, and many amazing deaf scholars, corporate heads, doctors and teachers.
He emphasized that deaf children should ask their teachers about deaf history and the struggle for equal rights for the deaf.
Jones taught audience members how to sign “I appreciate you,” “Thank you” and “I love you.” He pointed out that deaf people cherish their language and it is not difficult to understand why. The language is lively and every signer has a style as specific as a speaking voice. It is also a uniquely intimate language as signers must watch the person they are communicating with closely.
During a Q-and-A session, freshman music education major Heather Lemley asked, “How can I teach music to deaf children?” Jones said she should teach music to deaf children in the same way as hearing children, citing deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie.
The most powerful motivational effect of Jones’ performance lies in watching a man flourish even though he possesses a trait most consider to be a handicap. He explained that it is important for everyone to educate themselves as much as possible and show others they have a complete life, especially if they are deaf.