Rochester deaf comedian pushes through challenges – Spectrum News

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Making people laugh is not the easiest job in the world. Anyone who’s tried standup comedy quickly realizes that’s the case. 
To succeed on the stage, it takes a commitment. Comedy success is built on jokes.
It also takes a thick skin. Something Tom Willard has developed over the past six years. He started doing standup at age 58.
“Through hard work and perseverance, I’m now 64,” he joked.
Willard is one of a small number of deaf comedians. Deaf since his early 20’s, Willard got his start at a funniest person in Rochester competition.
“I didn’t win the contest, but it was a good experience,” said Willard. “And I decided once I started, I was going to keep going.”
Willard put together a recent show at Lovin’ Cup in Henrietta — with help. He can’t hear the jokes from the other standups.
“I mean, I go to the open mics all the time,” he said. “But I have no idea who’s good.”
Being deaf, Willard says it’s challenging — making a connection with the crowd, and with other comedians.
“People laughed when I said I was going to do standup comedy,” he said during his set. “But nobody’s laughing now.”
Making it in comedy is a grind. Aside from open mics, Willard hasn’t really had many opportunities. He says he’s tired of the rejection.
“I was actually thinking this was going to be my last time,” said Willard.
If that’s the case, he’s already done more than most. Willard has played some great rooms and made more than a few people laugh and smile. 
The true work of a standup comic.
“I just want to make people laugh,” he said.


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