Deaf comedian Hayden Kristal visits UK

Logan Stivers

Deaf comedian Hayden Kristal came to the University of Kentucky Cat’s Den on March 2.

Kristal is from Colorado and grew up in a non-signing family, which was a challenge for them. When it came time for them to choose a career, they decided to give zookeeping a try in Brooklyn but explained that they ended up giving up “a lucrative career in salamanders to pursue comedy and public speaking.” They are also a queer activist.

They were also diagnosed as autistic in the fourth grade, which made things even harder for them on top of being hard of hearing.

Kristal also wasn’t shy about their autism diagnosis, making jokes about it.

“If you were born with it, that’s type one, OK. If you were homeschooled, that’s type two,” Kristal said. “If you have a legitimate neurological difference, type one. If you have larping experience, that’s type two.”

The University of Kentucky is not the first university or college where Kristal has spoken as they have previously performed at Harvard, Yale and Columbia. As well as doing shows at universities and colleges around the country, Kristal was also on “Stand-Up” on NBC and made it to the semifinals. They have also opened for Maria Bamford, a major figure in the comedy world. They gave a TEDx talk in 2016, discussing accessibility activism. Kristal explained how they don’t have to deal with issues such as race but rather being deaf.

“I don’t have to think about my whiteness everyday, when I enter a space, I don’t have to think ‘Am I going to be put in an uncomfortable position? Am I going to experience pain?’ because of my whiteness,” they said. ”I don’t have to think about that everyday, but I do have to think about ‘How am I going to navigate the access barriers?’ because of my deafness.”

Confused glances shot across the Cats Den when Kristal first took the stage, as they were only signing for almost a minute. I think there was a mutual “oh no” moment before the silence was cut with Kristal’s voice. “No, I’m totally kidding,” they said.

From then on out, it was only laughs throughout the Cats Den as Kristal covered everything from their dogs, who are also deaf, to their horses, which have gained them over half a million followers on TikTok.

Kristal went into more depth with their love for horses and growing up around horses, describing themselves as a “horse kid.” They have seven horses: Odin, Squidward, Dexter, Donkey Devito, Grace, Dr. Fauci and Chicken Nugget.

Kristal also poked fun at the abundance of cat statues around campus at the University of Kentucky. When they first arrived, Kristal said they were told to “meet by the cat statue.” They came back with, “Which one?” which they said doesn’t come off as funny in writing as it did in person.

To close, Kristal got into a running stance, explaining that what they were about to say next might be controversial, especially in Kentucky. With a slow look around the room, they said, “Vaccines don’t cause autism.” They flinched, like tomatoes were about to be thrown at them, but they instead were met with applause.

Dates for upcoming shows in April include Anchorage (4/5-4/11), Oneonta, New York (4/13) and Kansas City, Missouri (4/18).