In her recent memoir, East Bay comedian and stutterer Nina G describes herself as a unique entity, like a “pooping-rainbows-while-doing-the-macarena-level-of-rare unicorn.”
In 2000, when she started doing standup, she was the only woman stutterer in the field, but things have changed.
“The first stuttering female comedian in India popped up after me; I’m not the only one anymore. I’m so thrilled,” says Nina G, 46, during an interview to promote the funny book, called “Stutterer Interrupted: The Comedian Who Almost Didn’t Happen.”
Also an advocate for people with disabilities and community college counselor in her day job, Nina G — who appears at a reception on Thursday for the San Francisco Public Library’s Disability Pride exhibit of portraits —-says she wrote the book to share nuances about stuttering and the disability experience in a manner she can’t use on stage or social media.
“I wanted to tell my story in a way that has depth and authenticity, and use my own comedic voice to talk about this stuff,” she says, adding, “I did not want inspirational porn. I wanted to say the F word and asshole, and my publisher gave me that freedom.”
Given that she also has dyslexia, she calls the process of writing the book “even more of a process.”
She relied on friends and colleagues to help her edit the chapters, which expand on material from storytelling events and her act. She also shares anecdotes about her family, from childhood, middle- and high-school years and college, and describes how, when she was in her mid-30s, her life changed dramatically after she attended a National Stuttering Association conference.
Connecting with other stutterers gave her the confidence to try her first love, standup — something she’d studied since she was a kid fascinated by comics from fidgety Emo Philips (she wrote him a fan letter when she was 8) to “Saturday Night Live” stars.
She went to San Francisco Comedy College, and within six months was onstage at Brainwash, The City’s beloved café, laundromat and open mic, which, sadly, closed in 2017.
Today she can point to intersections between standup, being an activist and public speaker, and her career in disability services counseling students. (She has a graduate degree in psychology.)
“When you work in the world as a person with a disability and in the world of disability,” she says, “There’s a lot of absurdity in the things you see and stories you hear, like how a friend who saw a psychologist who told him that once he started having sex, his stuttering would disappear.”
In her book, Nina G amusingly name drops, too. Howard Stern’s cable show, with Stuttering John — the first time she’d seen a stutterer out in the open, except for the Oakland Raiders’ Lester Hayes — had a big impact on her, as does Dave Chappelle, who, thrillingly, made fun of her on two occasions: once when she heckled him at hip hop show, and later when they performed at the same gig.
Although she’s dedicated to comedy, Nina G is OK not doing it as a full-time vocation: “I don’t have to chase the dream that would compromise who I am,” she says, mentioning that she doesn’t have dream place she’d like to appear now, but would have liked to have played The Other Café in The City, or New York’s Catskills, in their heyday.
About to attend her 11th open mic in less than a week, she says, “I love comedy. I will do s—- shows, I will do great shows. I just love the art form and am very happy to be part of it.”
And she’s ready for the jerks who come her way: “I’ve been heckled for most of my life; I have a black belt in karate. I’m totally good. I’ve been training for it, so bring it on.”
Stutterer Interrupted: The Comedian Who Almost Didn’t Happen
Written by: Nina G
Published by: She Writes Press
SELECT UPCOMING APPEARANCES
Jan. 13: Dyslexia and Disability: Comedy family-friendly talk; Pacifica Sanchez Library, 1111 Terra Nova Blvd., Pacifica, free
Jan. 15: Art Boutiki, 44 Race St., San Jose, 8 p.m., $15
Jan. 16: Change Makers Bay Area Disability Pride reception, 4 to 6 p.m., Main Library, 100 Larkin St., S.F., free