Roz Laws talks marathons, muscles and moving with comic Steve Day.
Have you heard the one about the deaf comedian? Steve Day hasn’t, but he’s the first to crack a joke about his disability.
The country’s biggest deaf comic – “if there’s another, I haven’t heard of them” he smiles – is based in Sutton Coldfield and looking forward to performing on home ground at the Birmingham Comedy Festival.
His show, Run Deaf Boy Run, is based around his experience running the London Marathon in April, a decision he bitterly regrets.
“I got halfway round and was in such pain, I would gladly have accepted death,” winces the 47-year-old.
“I took up running last year when I moved to the Midlands and by Christmas I had run eight miles around Sutton Park, so I thought ‘Maybe I could do this’.
“I tried running with my hearing aids in, but all I could hear was some fat bloke wheezing. I took them out but then it wasn’t safe to run on the roads, as I couldn’t hear cars coming.
“So I took to the canals and loved it. I went up to Aston and all the way to Spaghetti Junction. It was a great way to get to know Birmingham.
“But then I got injured six weeks before the race. I pulled a muscle in my leg and was told not to do the marathon. But I was running for charity and couldn’t let them down.
“I thought I would walk it, but in the end I ran and I put my hip out. I never thought I would finish.”
You’ll have to watch his show to find out whether he did.
Former IT consultant Steve moved to Sutton Coldfield from London with his wife and family. With Olympic athlete Georgina Oladapo, who competed in the 400m relay at the 1996 games, he has three sons – 12-year-old twins Leo and Cameron, and Dan, 10.
“It was pretty horrid in Lewisham for the kids, so we wanted to move out. I work all over the country so we chose somewhere central. And we have friends in Sutton. It’s lovely here, we have a great quality of life.”
Steve began to lose his hearing as a teenager. “I got a bang on the head playing football. I knew my hearing had gone a bit iffy so I played music very loud on headphones, which made it worse.
“I’ve lost 80 per cent of my hearing but I lip-read and my hearing aids are very good.
“Comedy has been very cathartic for me. I couldn’t speak in public before. I was angry then, but I’m not now. I’ve come to terms with my deafness.
“People’s openness to someone talking about deafness is much better than it was. I used to imagine, from the panicked looks on their faces, that people were thinking ‘Oh God, I don’t want to listen to this, will there be dribbling?’.”
Some people still object to him turning his deafness into a comedy act.
“Politically correct people still go ‘Ooh, don’t make jokes about that’. But if people don’t like it, tough.
“I never set out to offend someone, but it’s a poor comic who offends no-one.
“I’ve been told my show should be called Run deaf boy run with a small ‘d’ as I’m not completely deaf and I’m not really part of the deaf community – I’m not a signer. A deaf guy came up after a gig to harangue me and say ‘You’re not deaf with a big D!’.
“I did a sign language course but I was really rubbish at it. I only passed because I cheated. Lewisham is really hard to sign, so I said I lived in Bromley. The sign for that is that same as baked beans.
“And my family set-up is complicated. My wife is black and we have twins, one of whom is black and one is white. Plus I have two step-kids.
“So I lied and said I was gay! All I can remember how to sign now is ‘I’m gay and I live in baked beans’.”
Steve first dipped his toe into the comedy waters when he went on a stand-up workshop in 1998. Open mic nights followed and he even beat Russell Brand in a contest in 2000.
“For all his success with women, I could see the look of disappointment on his face that he’d lost to me,” chuckles Steve, who started making a full-time living from comedy in 2005.
After his London Marathon ordeal, Steve has given up running for good and is opting for gentler pursuits.
“I’ve signed up for an allotment. I can’t wait!”