Since she was 11 years old, Nina G wanted to become a comedian. There was just one problem. Nina was born with a stutter, and the speech impediment affected her aspirations.
For many years, she believed achieving her dream was not possible.
“My dream eventually died because I never saw someone like me do stand-up comedy in the ’80s and ’90s,” said Nina, who is now 46.
Her mentality changed when she, along with more than 800 others, attended the annual National Stuttering Association conference. It was there she realized she wasn’t taking advantage of her full potential. Determined to take back the things that her speech had impeded, at age 36 she got on stage for the first time to pursue her stand-up career.
Nearly 10 years later, Nina G, which is her stage name, is a nationally renowned comedian. But she’s also a vocal leader for others like her. Not only does her comedy reflect her experiences with disabilities, she uses it to highlight current educational issues in a refreshing and impressive manner.
Nina’s new book, “Stutterer Interrupted: The Comedian Who Almost Didn’t Happen” is her memoir. It offers insights from her childhood and performing as a comic with a disability. She read passages from her book and spoke at the Half Moon Bay Library on Saturday. It’s one stop on her tour of San Mateo County libraries, which received a $250,000 federal grant from the Library Services and Technologies Act last year.
Nina lives in Oakland and performs across the Bay Area on a weekly basis. She tours the country as a conference keynote speaker, highlighted by a TEDx talk at San Jose State University. In 2015, Nina co-produced the Comedians with Disabilities Act, the first-ever tour featuring disabled comedians. Her previous book, “Once Upon an Accommodation: A Book About Learning Disabilities,” was a children’s novel published the same year.
She wrote her latest book to provide an unfiltered perspective that speaks directly to the reader about her experience.
“I see in the media the voice of those with disabilities is often misrepresented or filtered through a non-disabled lens,” Nina G explained. “I wanted to have a book that represented every aspect of me.”
Some assumed her stutter was purely for comedic effect at first. While she incorporates it into her routine, it’s not meant to be the punchline. When she began her stand-up career, she wasn’t anxious about performing with a stutter. She was focused on making people laugh.
Nina hopes to spread awareness of disability issues, overturn the internalized stigma and change people’s attitudes through comedy. She referred to the medium’s powerful ability to resonate with all types of people.
“I think comedy is a great way to connect with people,” she said. “In the same way Richard Pryor connected around race, and how Wanda Sykes connected on race and the LGTBQ issues. And I think we have an opportunity to do that with disability issues.”