Zap stories: Deaf humor

Deaf people are a cultural-linguistic minority. To deal with oppression by the hearing (phonocentric) society is through humor. Deaf jokes, zap stories, and other literary genres help them deal with oppression through humor. A "zap" story is another category of humor.

Deaf people have had experiences of being mocked at, being made fun of, being harrassed at, or having bad experiences with hearing people in life (e.g. coercion of oralism, including painful speech therapy, cochlear implants invaded into their bodies without their permission, and so on). Zap stories are often about getting even or outwitting hearing oppressors often with justice.

There are so many zap stories; a plenty of them are true stories. Enjoy some of several zap stories below.

One classical zap story is the public telephone. Among its variants, Mj Bienvenu wrote, telling that it's a true story:

"A group of Deaf people was at a restaurant, chatting away when a group of non-Deaf people at the next table began to rudely mimic their signs. One of the Deaf women decided she'd had enough. She walked to the public telephone, inserted a coin, and making sure she was being observed by the hearing group, signed a complete conversation into the handset, including pauses for the person on the other end to respond. When the Deaf group left the restaurant, they were amused to see the hearing people run over to insepct the phone." (Bienvenue, 1989)

55 miles per hour

Storyteller Conrad Baer first learned this joke told by his grandfather when his brothers and he were little. This joke explains how a Deaf driver outsmarts a hearing policeman and his speed detector. Kissfist.

Nabil's Zap Story

Nabil told me his story in circa 1997 and it's deeply ingrained in my memory.

At the end of this true story, Nabil not only outwitted his hearing enemy but also earned their respect. He did a very fair, respectful way of zapping them.

The Kiss

"The Kiss" (2014, 7 minutes) by Charlie Swinbourne. Sometimes making fun of hearing people in a somehow mild way is a resistance to the oppression by hearing people. They are sometimes doing it, out of experiencing frustration and dealing with disrespect of the hearing people. This is their way of releasing pain, anger, and/or resentment.

The Hearing Test

Hearing tests are often monotonous and they can be quite tedious for many Deaf. This storyteller's particular experience with her hearing test and her audiologist was unforgettable. There are cultural aspects in this story.

Recommended readings

Bienvenue, MJ (1989). "Reflections of American Deaf Culture in Deaf Humor." Deaf World: A Historical Reader and Primary Sourcebook. Chapter 13, pp. 99-103.

You may love this true story Deaf or Dead.