Pleasance Courtyard

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

12.45pm. 3 Aug – 15 Aug

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What’s it like growing up with parents who can’t hear. In this poignant and captivating solo show, Joe Friedman, therapist and Child of Deaf Adults (CODA), considers his life to answer the question.

He takes us from his early years to a scary and hilarious face-off with the Chicago police, then to a life-changing encounter with a seriously challenging patient, who helped unblock his deaf ears.

You’ll laugh, be moved and come away with real insight into what it is to truly hear.

“Endearing and thought provoking.”
“Spellbinding storytelling… What Friedman has to impart beyond this is subtle, yet he does it with comic aplomb: an actor’s mimicry that’d have you believe he’s been an actor all his life.”
What is it to hear? BBC Radio 4

This is a heartfelt piece about what it means to really listen to and understand each other’s struggles, this show gives us the chance to walk in another’s life and see how it shaped him. From witty anecdotes to heartfelt recollections this show covers it all through Joe’s experience. His success, failures and why sometimes storming the Bastille on acid works.


About Joe

Born in Chicago, I’ve lived in the UK for over fifty years. In my twenties, I came over to study with RD Laing and his colleagues but I stayed because I love London and the UK.

When my daughter was young, I took up stand-up. But the late nights and smoky pubs were not ideal for a man with asthma and a full-time job…

Tired of reading bedtime stories about pink unicorns, I started to make up my own bedtime stories. These became the “Boobela and Worm” series, published by Orion Childrens’ Books.

The Times chose them as amongst the best books of the year. “Warm, wise and wonderful,” words that are, of course, engraved on my heart!


How did Deaf Ears Come about?

In the first lockdown, I spied “Write Your Own Solo Show,” an online course run by one of my favourite improvisers, Katy Schutte.  I signed up.

The class was brilliant, inspiring me, and others to do the shows we’d always hoped were inside us. To get us going, Katy asked us for the audience reaction we’d wish for. Aiming high, I wrote, “We laughed, we cried…”

Initially, I wrote the most memorable and theatrical scenes from my life. As I looked back on what I’d written, I could see a theme: the show was about how having deaf parents influenced my life, for good and not so good.

I committed to doing Deaf Ears – How I Learned to Hear at the Brighton Fringe, to force me to finish it!

Stand up and improvisation helped me to be comfortable on stage. But I’m not an actor! How do you keep your performance fresh night after night?

I needed help. And it came. In the shape of John Henry Falle. John’s an actor, storyteller and director. A perfect fit. First he helped me to sharpen up my scenes. Then to cut to the required 60 minute length. Gradually, he teased out and honed my ability to make my stories live.

I was better, but was I good enough? The first night in Brighton arrived.  The audience was masked, but I could hear and see their response.  They laughed where they were supposed to!

Then I got THE REVIEW: “Spellbinding story-telling… What Friedman has to impart beyond this is subtler, but he does it with comic aplomb, an actor’s mimicry that would have you believe he’s been an actor all his life.”

I brought Deaf Ears – How I Learned to Hear to the Hen & Chickens Theatre at the Camden Fringe. It was nominated for the Standing Ovation Award at the LondonPubTheatre Review site. I’m not good with praise, so I passed quickly over the contents of the email. It was weeks later that I realised I wasn’t just nominated for the Camden Fringe, but the whole year of pub theatre! I ended up becoming a Finalist. Not bad for my first solo show!

Come along and see me at the Pleasance!




The first performances – at the Brighton and Camden Fringes – were all done under Covid conditions. It was impossible to safely provide access to the deaf community. So I was determined to make my Edinburgh Fringe run accessible.

We will now have two BSL signed shows — the 8th and 14th of August. (We tried to have two captioned shows also, but were told the captioning equipment wasn’t suitable for my venue.)

When I decided to apply for funding to pay the professionals involved, I discovered to my surprise and indeed shock, that though the Fringe and the main theatres all had accessibility policies, there was no funding available to provide captioning and signers. I decided I should try to raise funds for this, first for my show, and then to establish a fund to benefit other shows in the future.

Everything that is contributed to the JustGiving page will go to fund captioners, BSL signers, and captioning equipment. We have fully funding our BSL signed shows! Any additional money we raise will go to set up a fund to be run by the Fringe Society which will improve accessibility for the deaf in the future. If you’d like to read more about this, or even better, contribute something, please go to my JustGiving page.

Press release

If you’d like to download the Press Release for Deaf Ears, here it is!


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