Emily Howlett meets… Brian Duffy, organiser of touring BSL comedy show

Posted on August 28, 2012

It has been a while, but the time has come around for yet another patented Limping Chicken interview, complete with name-calling, insults and possibly the odd interesting snippet of information. Today’s victim is here to tell us about an exciting new Deaf Comedy event, and as he is rather infamous among the British Deaf community it makes sense to let him introduce himself…   

Victim. who are you?  

I wish I could answer, “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, Commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions yadda yadda”… but I have a feeling people won’t buy it. I’m Brian Duffy. Of Scotland.  

And, dear readers, that will be the last time I allow anyone to introduce themselves. We move swiftly on to the Random Question from last time – How would you catch a chicken and what would you do with it?  

I’m glad you asked that question. I would put an advert on Deaf Jobs UK stating ‘Chicken Required’, and then I would set up a phony interview with it (without an interpreter, of course). Eventually I would phone its mother saying, “We regret to inform you that you were not successful on this occasion”. I’ll probably throw in a copy of ‘Snakes On A Plane’ on DVD to soften the blow.  

So, Brian Duffy, tell me a little more about you that isn’t related to your overthrowing of the Roman Empire.  

I come from a hearing family and I’ve somehow made my way down south across the border in search of wealth and fame. I have a terrible addiction. I try to hide it but… Everyone can see that I love my Irn-Bru. I also consider myself to be an activist. I will have my revolution, in this life or the next.   

Yes… And what’s this we’ve been told about this exciting new Deaf Comedy event?  

I’ve organised a comedy tour, with a selection of familiar faces from the wider BSL community – it’s going to be a sign language version of the US show ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’   

I am not old, Brian Duffy (cough cough). Please tell me more about this ancient show, ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’…  

It was a game show in the 90s and my father always had it on the TV. It was great! The style of comedy they did was improvisation. The performers had to act out whatever was commanded by the host of the show – anything from blind dates to translating from a fake language into English, or creating a song!  

I’ve always wanted to do a sign language version of this since I was a kid. I loved the guys that took part – Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie. There were no subtitles at the time but I understood it because of their facial expressions and body language. Geniuses.   

And why are you putting on these events?  

The nights are to raise money for Deaf volunteers going to Sri Lanka with the organisation SL Volunteers. They’re sending out six Deaf volunteers in October and Stephen Collins and I are going to be work partners in a Deaf school there for two months. Stephen is loaded. I think. He’s gotta be. He’s done Love’s Labour’s Lost, and Reasons To Be Cheerful (9th Sept at Queen Elizabeth Hall)and I am poor. So I am counting on the BSL community to help me out here!   

I’ve asked some of the guys I worked with during Deafintely Theatre’s production of Love’s Labour’s Lost if they could work with me to raise money; specifically them because I’ve worked with them recently and know they will be good at this sort of thing. We did improvisation games as our warm up before we rehearsed for the play, and they had me in fits of laughter… I thought the BSL community should get a taste of this too. I’ve also invited special guests to each local area, so you can’t quite be sure who will pop up until you come along and see!  

The Comedy events should be successful, and hopefully I will be creating a second tour – so I am keen to hear from other Deaf performers daring to have a go. There are talented Deafies out there we do not know of.  

Again, being the activist that I think I am, I hope to get these shows happening in Deaf clubs or centres as nothing makes me happy more than bringing Deafies together in one place. I used to go to the Glasgow Deaf Club, and it saddens me to see it’s not the same as before. Many places are not the same. Most Deaf Clubs are struggling. Times are changing I know, but we all need a place to call our home.  

Excuse me while I wipe a small tear away. Very well said, young man. Who will the shows be aimed at?

Anyone with a sense of humour. Open-minded people… and you should probably appreciate sign language. Even if you don’t, come anyway; there’ll be a raffle too! Although, I should say; the shows aren’t suitable for under-18s.  

How did you get involved with Sri Lanka project?  

I’ve travelled a wee bit. This time I want to actually contribute something Deaf-wise. I was told that in Sri Lanka there are 25 Deaf schools. This is an incredible contrast to here where Deaf schools are in decline. Are we really a ‘First World’ country in that respect? If Sri Lanka has that many Deaf schools, then it is our responsibility to raise the awareness of the services within SL Volunteers and send more Deaf volunteers there. You never know, we could end up shaking up the Deaf education in the UK. I strongly believe we all should do something for our people, wherever they are.

The reason that I’m going with SL volunteers is that they are the only organisation that offers a BSL Interpreter for the duration of the training, and that person is experienced in Sri Lankan sign language too, having volunteered in Deaf schools in Sri Lanka many times. 

SL Volunteers has so far has sent four British Deaf volunteers to Sri Lanka. And though over 200 hearing volunteers have been to Sri Lanka in the last two years, the projects at the Deaf schools are still very much in their beginning stages. I want to make sure my placement is a success so that SL volunteers can keep on recruiting British Deaf people to go to Sri Lanka, and have a positive effect on the Deaf community there.  

Sounds excellent. And you might be able to steal the remaining Collins fortune while he’s asleep…   

Aye, I am hoping I’ll get the same flight at him and I’ll, er, do exactly that. After a few drams of Irn-Bru flavoured whiskey.

Can you give me a random question for the next person, please.

What excuse would you come up with if you were friends with a chicken and it spotted you in Nando’s…?

Excellent stuff. Thank you, Brian Duffy and I feel sure your audiences will soon be flocking in their thousands.

For more information or to book seats at any of the event nights, please use the contact details below -:

London – 31st August, email:

Preston – 7th Sept, Deafway, email: philippa.merricks@deafway.org.uk – £5, pay at door.  

Birmingham –  8th Sept, Ladywood Social Club, email: BDCG@gmx.com – £5, pay at door.

Derby –  14th Sept, Derby Deaf Club (Rycote Centre), email: deafcomedy@gmail.com – £5, pay at door

For more information on volunteering with SL Volunteers in 2013 please contact sophie@slvolunteers.com



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