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Comedian learns celebrity impressions growing up in a deaf family

Comedian Craig Gass (center) with a couple of celebrities: Dana Carvey (left) and Steve Carell (right).

Craig Gass does an uncanny Tracy Morgan. He can do Adam Sandler and Christopher Walken with the best of them, and there’s a good chance his breathless Mark Wahlberg would fool the actor’s own mother. Listen to them now above.

What sets him apart from other impressionists, though, is how he learned them: by growing up in a family as the only member with hearing.

“Growing up in a deaf family, I couldn’t learn how to speak from my family," Craig said. "I learned to speak by copying all the voices I heard on TV.”

Craig got his start in comedy in Seattle, but he grew up in the Bronx. He says he managed never to develop a Bronx accent, because he was learning to talk from TV shows.

Raised by deaf parents with a deaf sister, Craig says people often tiptoe around the subject with him, afraid to offend.

“The most inappropriate jokes I’ve ever heard in my life about deaf people were from my deaf family. A couple years ago at dinner, my sister is sitting across the table from me, and she’s signing to me in sign language. And she said, ‘do you want to hear a good joke?’ And I said, ‘sure.’ And she said, ‘me too!’”

Craig says growing up in that environment has taught him about how to approach people with lives very different from his own, especially people with disabilities and others that society treats with kid gloves.

“There’s always a sensitivity that people have that’s unnecessary,” he said. “You end up seeing the world in a different way than other people do. And I learned how to laugh.”

Craig Gass, now an Angelino, will be performing two shows Dec. 30 at the Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort. Ticket information is available at his website.


Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.