Thursday, December 12, 2013

Perhaps they should have dug up Garrett Morris for ‘interpreter’ duties

It has been some nearly four decades since actor Garrett Morris did his comedy sketches on Saturday Night Live as the head of the New York School for the Hearing Impaired.

Those sketches were actually written into larger sketches when Morris’ face would suddenly appear in the sketch and he would “interpret” for the hearing-impaired exactly what was being said.

THE GAG, OF course, was that all he did was cup his hands around his mouth and scream at the top of his voice. Which usually got bigger laughs than whatever the original sketch was about!

Because we all know that when dealing with someone who is deaf, it really doesn’t matter how loud (or how slow) one speaks. They still can’t hear you.

Although I wonder if Morris would have been a more legitimate deaf interpreter than the man who actually was on hand to perform such duties at the memorial service held earlier this week for Nelson Mandela.

The world was focused on Johannesburg, with leaders from around the globe on hand – including President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle. A man was on stage going through a series of intricate hand gestures that allegedly were supposed to clue-in the hearing impaired as to just what was being said by the assorted world leaders on stage.

BUT THE REUTERS news wire service reported that officials with DeafSA, a South African organization meant to help hearing-impaired in that nation, were upset. Because the gestures the man made were little more than physical gibberish.

They weren’t any form of real sign language. The group also noted that a real interpreter also uses their face to try to convey the mood of an event – apart from what comes from the mouths of the people who speak.

It also seems that no one is really sure just who this man was. The group claims not to have any recognition of him as a legitimate interpreter for the deaf. It’s almost as though a mystery man managed to get on stage and just take over.

So much for the security for the Mandela memorial service.

I SUPPOSE WE ought to feel fortunate that this man merely felt compelled to wave his arms about, rather than commit some serious act of violence during the event.
OBAMA: Did he realize the signing was gibberish?

Although the odd part is that officials investigating the matter of “Who Is He?” have come up with television clips of African National Conference events during the past year in which the same man did a similar routine in the name of “deaf interpretation.”

Some people are more concerned about the fact that deaf people would have trouble comprehending what happened at the event. Television stations broadcasting the service within South Africa had their own sign-language interpreters on hand to translate for the hearing-impaired.

But activists in London told Reuters that deaf people in the rest of the world essentially were excluded from being able to comprehend the Mandela memorial – an event they want to believe was historic in nature.

NOW I’M NOT downplaying the significance of Mandela. Although my own impression of such large-scale events is that unless you’re actually there in person, they don’t mean much.

It just doesn’t seem like being a part of history that many people the world over watched the same television program. Or in reality, had it on their television sets as background noise.

Unless you were among those in the 95,000-seat stadium, what did you really miss? And if you were there, it was most likely that you wouldn’t have been able to clearly see the interpreter and figure out what the gestures were.

Which makes me wonder that if the current incarnation of Saturday Night Live wants to mock this controversy, perhaps they ought to bring back Morris for a redux of his old routine.


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