First published in the January 2012 edition of The Hearing Times.
Matt Daigle is a deaf cartoonist, designer and illustrator who lives in California. He and his wife produce a hilarious comic strip called That Deaf Guy, about a deaf man who, like Matt, has a hearing wife and son. The strip is laugh-out-loud funny, original, and true to deaf life. They recently picked up thousands of fans after becoming a hit on Facebook, so I thought it’d be a good time to interview the man himself and find out more about his life, family and work.
What inspired you to become a cartoonist?
I started drawing cartoons as a kid. Being born deaf, cartoons communicated to me at a time when television and other media were not accessible. Then when I was 12, my mom took me to an exhibition by Gary Larson (creator of cartoon strip The Far Side) at the Smithsonian Museum and I was hooked for life!
Where did the idea for That Deaf Guy come from?
The idea came from my wife! She is hearing and has always been a big fan of my cartooning. We were on the way to a cartoon festival in Missouri when the idea came to her. I am the artist but my wife is the writer. We knew that in order to go more mainstream, we needed to incorporate humor and language that crossed two cultures, so it is a hearing/deaf collaboration. We both come up with ideas and aim to find a happy medium. If the humor is too deaf, hearing people will not understand it and vice versa!
What’s the response to That Deaf Guy been like?
The response has been surprising and inspiring. It was online for a year and literally no one knew about us. Then we hired a marketing person who has deaf parents. He told us we had to get on Facebook and within a week we had over 1,000 fans. We were jumping up and down when we had 200!! Now a month later we have nearly 3000 fans. We love the idea of our comic strip creating a forum for people to talk about their experiences and laugh a little.
Do you have a favourite That Deaf Guy story – and if so, why?
It’s really hard to say which one is my favorite. Many of them are based on our lives with our son and on my own deaf experiences, so each one is special or funny to me in different ways. I do get a kick out of the ‘Be Deaf-Wise’ strips because I think they educate in a funny way.
Is That Deaf Guy published anywhere, or just online?
That Deaf Guy is published in SIGNews – a newspaper in America for the signing community. It has also been published in several books that relate to deaf culture and of course, we have our webcomic. I really want the strip to go more mainstream. I think that there is so much more we can feature. Deaf stories aren’t always about oppression and lack of access. Many of us live successful lives and I would like to show that version by becoming nationally syndicated, publish books, and even take the concept to prime time television.
Tell us about your home life. You have a son – how do you combine your career and being a Dad?
I work with my wife on That Deaf Guy so I love having time with her to be creative but when it comes to my son I really have to balance my life so that I don’t one day turn around and he is grown up and I missed everything! My wife is a VRS interpreter and works late at night. I work from home, so we are both here during the day. We make it our motto to create everyday. Our creations can be hours of writing or drawing That Deaf Guy or it can be an hour of constructing something out of Play Doh!
To see more That Deaf Guy comic strips, go to http://www.thatdeafguy.com/
You can check out Matt’s website by going to http://www.mattdaigle.com/
Follow Matt on Twitter: http://twitter.com/deafcartoonist