Charlie Swinbourne: What it’s like to record a podcast when you’re deaf

Posted on January 27, 2015

I first got to know Simon Minty and Steve Best – the chaps behind the Abnormally Funny People comedy show – a few years ago.

When I worked at Soho Theatre in London, part of my job was booking a sign language interpreter or palantypist to make their show accessible to deaf people in the audience.

All of the comedians who are part of Abnormally Funny People (AFP) are disabled (except for Steve, who they call ‘the token non-disabled one’) and their shows were not only funny, but also gave me a real insight into different disabilities.

Among their various projects, AFP also now make a monthly podcast (which is a lot like a radio show, with people talking to one another, except that it is put on the internet as a file for download).

A few months back, I felt honoured when they asked me if I’d like to appear on it.

Charlie recording, with Simon Minty (left)

Over the years, I’ve contributed to several radio programmes and I’ve also done several live radio interviews (which really had my heart thumping).

I can do this because the sound of radio presenters speaking is usually very clear, without any background noise.

But doing something that might involve also having to try and be funny didn’t fill me with confidence (anyone who’s ever heard or seen me tell a joke will understand the reason why).

And, I wondered, what if they made a joke a bit too quickly for me to hear it? Or laughed over the punchline?

But then I thought, since it’s pre-recorded, hopefully any major mistakes could be edited out.

And the team make a transcript of each episode for deaf people, which is brilliant.

So, to cut a long story short, I said yes.

Eshaan Akbar, Simon Minty, Charlie and Steve Best

Eshaan Akbar, Simon Minty, Charlie and Steve Best

I was fortunate that the other guest on the show was also deaf, a very friendly and funny comedian called Eshaan Akbar.

At least if I missed something, he’d probably miss it too. If it came to it, we could be confused together, like deaf brothers in arms.

One thing I hadn’t anticipated was that when I put my headphones on,  it made one of my hearing aids whistle, which could have ruined the entire recording.

So I had to take that one off and ask for the volume on the headphones to be increased to make up for it. Apart from that, once the sound was loud enough, everything went smoothly.

Although I could hear most of what the other three said, I found myself peeking over or under their microphones so I could also lipread what they were saying – hopefully that didn’t make them feel too self conscious!


As I left, I forgot everything I’d said on the recording, and to be honest, I’ve spent the last week worrying that I’d said something offensive or plain wrong.

Having read the transcript and listened to it, I can now reveal that I told a deaf joke (which interpreters might not appreciate – sorry!), explained what I’d do with my hearing aids if I woke up hearing one morning, and also told them about a signing choir at an Irish Deaf school that was featured on this site recently.

Oh, and I also tried to sum up the tricky area of the difference between the little ‘d’ and the big ‘D’ ways of describing people in the D/deaf world.

The strangest thing about recording it was realising everything I said would go out just as I said it – I couldn’t edit or rewrite what was coming out of my mouth.

One thing did go wrong. When talking about getting song lyrics mixed up, I managed to confuse the Beatles songs Eleanor Rigby and Paperback Writer.

Unfortunately – for me – they left that bit in the final show.

Appearing on the podcast was a great experience. While I don’t think I have a future in comedy, I hope I get to do it again one day.

I’d like to thank Simon and Steve for inviting me on the show – although I haven’t entirely forgiven the rascals for leaving my mistake in!

You can listen to the podcast here:

Or read it via the transcript here:

Charlie Swinbourne is the editor of Limping Chicken, as well as being a journalist, director and award-winning scriptwriter. He writes for the Guardian and BBC Online, and directed the award-winning short film The Kiss and the BSL Zone comedy Four Deaf Yorkshiremen go to Blackpool last year. 

The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s most popular deaf blog. 

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