Welcome to Mornings with Mickey - Coffee with a CODA, a series where guest contributors will answer questions to provide insights and lessons to readers.
This week’s interview is with Brad Klein, The CODA Comedian
Brad, welcome to Coffee with a CODA.
Q: Who is Brad Klein?
A: I'm a proud CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) from Chicago, IL. I perform standup comedy in both English and American Sign Language (ASL), all about my life growing up in both the Deaf & Hearing communities. I've performed all over the world, including Laugh Factory, Comix Roadhouse, and the Floodwater Comedy Festival. I also make funny videos with my Deaf parents and they have generated millions of views online. Fun fact, my childhood dream was to own a s’mores factory so I could eat them whenever I wanted.
Q: What is the most common first question you get when people find out your parents are Deaf? And how do you reply?
A: By far, the most common first question I get is "So what was it like to grow up with Deaf parents/in a Deaf house?" I usually reply, "Same as your life just with more lights flashing, cabinets crashing, and I got to talk with my mouth full at the dinner table."
Q: What advice would you give younger KODA/CODA’s? Conversely, what advice should they ignore?
A: My advice would be to enjoy the ability to be part of two unique and wonderful cultures in the Deaf and Hearing worlds. Both are rich in culture, style, and diversity. Being a CODA gives us a unique perspective on life that not many people have. Embrace it! Enjoy it! Celebrate it! Don't lose your connection to the Deaf community - keep up your ASL skills.
The worst advice I got as a CODA was "Pick a side. You have to either fully embrace the Deaf community or the Hearing community. You can't be in both at the same time." Such bad advice - and I heard this from people in both communities! Being a CODA is amazing and wonderful but it's not always easy. We grow up in both the Deaf & Hearing cultures and our identity is often split as we navigate honoring both. We may be Hearing but ASL is often a CODA's first language. The Deaf community will always be our home - has been since the day our parents first signed ILY (I love you) to us.
Q: What has been your most memorable performance as The CODA Comedian?
A: I've got two performances that I always look back at fondly. My day job is in digital marketing and I had the unique experience of performing for my entire 200 person company last year at a summit. Our leadership team rented out a comedy club one night and hired a well-known professional comic to come perform for us. My team convinced our CEO to let me open for him. When I finished my set, my company gave me a standing ovation. And don't worry, my set didn't get me sent to HR.
I also got to perform at DeafNation Chicago last November, a huge expo event focused on the Deaf community. It was special because I was able to do my set 100% in ASL, and tell jokes that only the Deaf community would truly understand/laugh at, and it was my first show where I could pull my parents on stage with me. Warmed my heart to see the audience loving my parents as much as I do and giving them the accolades and applause they deserve.
Q: What is one leadership, life, or love lesson that you learned from your parents?
A: I grew up surrounded by people of all shapes, sizes, and abilities. My parents instilled in me empathy, equity, and equality for everyone, especially those who are not what the world calls “normal”. The biggest life lesson my parents taught me was that our goal in life should be to lift each other up and help one another whenever we can. I heard a quote recently that has stuck with me - “We never know what battle people are facing in their lives, so if we can be anything in this world, why not be kind?”
Q: What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?
A: On the comedy side, I've given The Comedy Bible by Judy Carter to several friends and family members who tell me they want to be funnier in their everyday lives and maybe even dip their toe into comedy. I also really like Humor, Seriously: Why Humor Is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life (And how Anyone Can Harness It. Even You.) by Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas as it walks you through how humor in the workplace can diffuse difficult situations, elevate presentations, and help you rise in your career.
On the CODA side of things, I'm excited for your book to come out so I can give it to several people I know. Loved all of your stories and the leadership lessons you learned from your parents. Highly recommend everyone reads your book, Mom Dad Not Hear, no matter if you have a connection to the Deaf community or not.
The Mom Dad Not Hear Lightning Round
Q: Safest driver?
A: Mom for sure
Q: Most flavorful cook?
A: Both. My mom is an awesome cook but my dad is skilled with flavors too. The Marry Me Chicken video was my dad's idea, after all
Q: Who is the funniest?
A: Both are hilarious in their own ways. Just watch my videos and you'll see what I mean
Q: Who is more likely to step up as a leader?
A: Mom. She is a born leader
Q: Deaf School?
Q: Mainstream Public School?
Q: Lastly, you’re all over social media and not hard to find, but please do tell the readers where they can connect with or follow you.
A: I'm on all major social media platforms. Links to my pages are below
This week, we are sharing the books Brad recommended in this interview.
Mom Dad Not Hear: 30 Powerful Stories and Lessons about Leadership, Life, and Love from My Deaf Parents by Mickey Carolan (hey that's me)!: Pre-order YOUR copy here!
The Comedy Bible by Judy Carter: Order your copy here!
Humor, Seriously: Why Humor Is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life (And how Anyone Can Harness It. Even You.) by Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas: Order your copy here!