Comedian Nina G. to discuss disability at the UI

Stand-up comedian Nina G. is headlining the Obermann Center symposium, “Misfitting: Disability Broadly Considered,” with her one-person show that discusses her life as a stuttering professional speaker.

Katie Ann McCarver, News Reporter

Since the age of 11, comedian Nina G was discouraged from pursuing her dreams. After all, skeptics told her, someone who stutters and has dyslexia can’t communicate for a living.

Now, Nina G is renowned nationwide as a professional speaker and writer. Nine years after her start in standup, she is well-known for incorporating her aforementioned learning disabilities into her late-night shows and symposiums, as well as her coming memoir, Stutter Interrupted: The Comedian Who Almost Didn’t Happen.

“It’s definitely a big part of my act,” Nina G said. “The primary thing is to be funny, and the one-person show allows me to explore more of the things that I find important that aren’t necessarily talked about.”

Featured in the 2018-19 Obermann Humanities Symposium, “Misfitting: Disability Broadly Considered,” Nina G will visit the University of Iowa at 8 p.m. today in the IMU Hawkeye Room. Her show will begin with comedy and ends with a Q&A from the audience.

Nina G said people ask her if she is trying to spoof her own disability, but she said that’s not her intention. On the contrary, she wants to show audiences how some people treat her stutter, the reactions they have, and how she responds.

“I hope that people who don’t stutter or don’t have disabilities, that they find the information helpful, so they have some understanding there,” Nina G said. “But for people who stutter, I think that they think for me. Part of my story is finding community.”

Much of the show that she typically performs at colleges includes a deeper look into her childhood experiences and the struggles she faced finding a mode to express herself.

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“I think there is an expectation in our culture that we have to be fluent. We have to talk like everyone else, and that’s not true,” Nina G said. “There is diversity in how we speak, and this is one way to speak.”

Growing up, she said she believed everything people told her about stuttering. As a writer, she explores what it’s like to be interrupted constantly by others and also by herself. She interrupted her own dreams because she accepted the stigma surrounding learning disabilities.

As an organizer of Nina G’s performance and a former director of the residential campus-therapy program for student teens who stutter, communication-science Professor Emerita Patricia Zebrowski said she has been active in the self-help movement for people with stuttering.

“I’m really excited to see [Nina G] give students an example of how someone who experiences challenges in communication lives a fulfilling, productive life and who uses stuttering as a way to help people to understand things about themselves,” Zebrowski said.

Campus Activities Board comedy director Lillian Ahlgren said Nina G was a natural choice to headline the symposium and accomplish this goal, because her comfortable stage presence allows the audience to connect with the conversation around disability.

“Disability studies is one of the fastest growing interdisciplinary fields, because it recognizes that every person is affected by disability and what is recognized as ‘normal,’ ” Ahlgren said. “I am most excited for Nina G to provide a refreshing take on disability.”