Ray Bradshaw on how having deaf parents inspired his comedy career, ahead of Perth sign language gig

Comedian Ray Bradshaw
Comedian Ray Bradshaw is sharing his family story ahead of his Perth show. Image: Multitude Media

When Scottish comedian Ray Bradshaw was just six years old, he was in charge of phoning the bank for his parents – who are both deaf.

Ahead of his gig in Perth, Ray spoke to The Courier about being a child of deaf adults (CODA), why he performs all his shows in sign language, and how his upbringing got him to where he is today.

Growing up with deaf parents gave Ray experiences as a child others didn’t have – and he credits his upbringing as one of the main things that got him into comedy.

Ray, who recently gigged with comedian John Bishop, says: “I’ve done stand up for around 14 years, but it was only more recently I realised about the massive gap in accessibility.

Ray with fellow comedian John Bishop
Ray with fellow comedian John Bishop. Image: Ray Bradshaw/Facebook

“So, I started doing shows in sign language and have done for the past six years. The show was far and away the most enjoyable, successful thing I’ve ever done.

“I don’t think I’d do what I do today without the upbringing I had. When I was six or seven, I would phone the bank for my mum and dad.

“I’d interpret in certain situations when I was a kid. So, speaking in front of people has never phased me.

‘Everyone’s upbringing is so unique’

“I remember at school when people would be really scared of doing talks, I found that mind-blowing because it was so natural to me.

“Also, when you grow up with parents with a disability, you learn empathy straight away because you see some people treat others a way you’d never want to be treated.

Ray Bradshaw with parents David and Jill, who he says are 'the true stars'
Ray Bradshaw with parents David and Jill, who he says are ‘the true stars’. Image: Ray Bradshaw/Facebook

“I remember being about seven in the playground and signing to one of my mates. They had no idea what I was doing.

“I thought they were an idiot because you don’t realise how weird your family are until you get a bit older. Everyone’s the same – everyone’s upbringing is so unique to them.”

‘Memories of Perth’

Ray is bringing his new show, Deaf Com 1, to Perth next year, which will be performed in both English and British Sign Language (BSL).

He explains: “My main memories of Perth are watching Partick Thistle lose at McDiarmid Park repeatedly and being absolutely freezing the whole time! It’s a fun city.

“One of the most enjoyable things about my show is when I do it in sign language or have a sign language interpreter, I see people in the audience who look like my family.

Ray with sign language interpreter Karen performing a gig at Oran Mor in Glasgow.
Ray with sign language interpreter Karen performing a gig at Oran Mor in Glasgow. Image: Ray Bradshaw/Facebook

“When I was growing up, we never went to the theatre, we rarely went to the cinema.

“If my mum and dad came, you’d hope there were captions, otherwise they’d be staring at a screen for a couple of hours trying to lip read.

“So, the fact I can see a CODA bringing their whole family out to my show means so much.”

‘I didn’t want it to be a gimmick’

So, what do mum, Jill, 66, and dad, David, 69, think about what Ray does?

“They were really sceptical at the start, especially when I told them I was doing a show in sign language about them,” Ray says.

“They thought it would be like a comedy roast and it is, at points.

Ray’s shows raise awareness of deaf issues and are also a great night out. Image: Multitude Media

“It was probably six or seven years before I mentioned on stage my mum and dad are deaf, because I didn’t want it to be a gimmick.

“It’s something that’s important to me and I wasn’t good enough at stand-up then to write jokes that could lead to someone learning something.”

‘We can have a laugh’

Through his shows, Ray is raising awareness of deaf issues, and improving accessibility for those with hearing impairments.

He says: “It’s hugely important to me for personal reasons. But also, I don’t want to exclude people who want to go to comedy shows.

I’m a certainty for Dad of the Year 2022.

Posted by Ray Bradshaw on Tuesday, 18 October 2022

“March 2017 was the first time I did a show in sign language. I thought it was going to be a disaster.

“Three young deaf guys travelled down from Dundee to Glasgow to see the show, because they’d never seen comedy in sign language before.

“I love it when there are deaf people in the audience because for hearing members, this might be the first time they’ve met a profoundly deaf person.

“I think that’s the great thing about my show – I can make people aware of deaf issues, but we can also have a laugh.”

  • To buy tickets for Ray’s show in Perth, and other Scottish dates, click here.

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Lifestyle – The Courier Dundee