Montreal Stand-Up Making Comedy Inclusive for Those With Hearing Loss

Lauren Fernandez
Published July 16, 2023

Abby Stonehouse may not take herself too seriously but her cause is no joke.

“When I started doing standup comedy I realized the arts is so inaccessible to so many people. With my work with Hear Quebec my passion for accessibility grew,” she said.

The comedian was diagnosed with hearing loss eight years ago. Fast forward to 2019, and Abby was headlining the city’s first hearing-accessible comedy show, with an ASL interpreter and closed captioning.

Hear Quebec, the only non-profit organization serving Montreal’s English-speaking community with hearing loss, teamed up with Abby to help the organization make stand-up comedy and other performances, more inclusive.

“We dreamed up this idea for our 40th anniversary that we would do this access comedy, show. She was a starting comedian at the time, she had hearing loss, it just made sense for us to do this,” said Hear Quebec executive director Heidy Wager.

It was such a hit, the “Access comedy,” show is back on July 16, as part of “Zoofest,” and “Off JFL” at Montreal’s Just for Laughs festival.

Stonehouse wants everyone to see for themselves what’s involved, “experience an accessible show and witness the magic behind it.”

From punchlines to podcasts, Stonehouse continues to make her art more inclusive with her House of Stone podcast.

“I was very fortunate that I was able to do my first season accessible. So I’m very happy about it,” she said.

Together, Hear Quebec and Stonehouse hope to lead by example so that everyone can get in on the laughs.

“We’re making sure people have the accessibility they need to fully thrive, and enjoy their experiences. Whether that be in their homes or in the community,” said Wager.

“It’s really opened a dialogue among the stand-up comedy community, they ask me questions and that’s all I could ask for, just displaying what accessibility means and looks like when it comes to performance art,” said Stonehouse.

Stonehouse said that her work proves you don’t have to hear a joke – to have a laugh.

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