American Sign Language comedian Keith Wann performs at Xavier

By: Katherine Colborn

To the delight of many individuals who are Deaf, hard of hearing or friends of the Deaf community, Keith Wann performed two comedy shows in Gallagher Student Center Theatre on Saturday at an event hosted by IDEA@X, the Deaf culture club on campus.

Wann is a comedian who performs primarily in American Sign Language (ASL).

Although he is hearing, he is the child of two Deaf adults (commonly referred to as a CODA) and sign language is his first language. Xavier provided two professional interpreters to voice for Wann through both shows so that it was accessible to those who are not fluent in ASL.

Wann performed twice throughout the course of the day, giving his PG-rated version of the show at 4 p.m. and his R-rated version at 7 p.m., each show running almost two hours.

A dinner was provided in between shows and served nearly 80 people.

The two audiences consisted of people from around Ohio and Indiana, including ASL students and instructors from University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati State and Sinclair University.

“Each show nearly sold out,” Michele Bailes, IDEA@X advisor and director of Deaf studies, said. “We sold over 325 tickets to each performance.”

Wann’s performance was sidesplitting. Wann’s comedy focused on stories about growing up as a hearing child in a Deaf family, doing entertaining impressions of his parents, his classmates and ASL students.

The show was by nature very visual, and Wann utilized word (or rather, sign) play in many of his jokes.

“It took so much planning. The (IDEA@X club) board’s been working really hard on this all semester,” Paula Vogelpohl, a member of IDEA@X, said. “He really bridged the gap between the hearing and Deaf communities.

He said some things that only hearing people might be able to enjoy but also used signs and gestures that I know we did not enjoy as much as the Deaf community did.”

IDEA@X hopes to bring Wann back to Xavier again next year to do a workshop that would focus on ASL and the arts available to ASL students and teachers in the area.

“He was a really nice guy, even though he was exhausted from the two shows.

Afterwards, we all went to Max & Erma’s and hung out. That’s just how the Deaf community is — very close-knit and social,” Vogelpohl said.

If you have any interest in joining IDEA@X or in the new Deaf studies minor, contact Michele Bailes at

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