While comedian Troy Hammond doesn't ignore his disability onstage, the standup veteran aims to be much more than a one-note performer.
Having lost his sight due to glaucoma at 14, he has still made audiences laugh around the country with his humorous observations based on the Ohio native's life on the road, growing up in New Lexington, his college days at Ohio University and anything else of cultural interest that allows him to string together a series of funny stories and punchlines.
Asked if he feels that there's a need to deflect his situation he said, "It all depends on how I feel before the show. If people are talking to me like a normal human being, I will just jump onstage and start talking about my college days or something like that.
Photo by Catherine Murray
Comedian Troy Hammond performs Saturday at Warren Comedy Club at Sunrise Inn.
"But, if they're talking slowly or loudly to me or making a point of touching me when they're addressing me, then I'll kind of work in stuff at the beginning like, 'My bank has Braille buttons at the automatic teller, which is a pretty convenient feature for the drive thru, don't you think?' just to set them at ease and make 'em realize that I'm just some guy. I can't drive. I'm horrible at darts, but I've been to 32 states for work. So, I think I'm ahead of the game."
Hammond refers to himself as 'blind' rather than the politically correct term 'sight-impaired.'
He explained, "I was never fazed by words. I talk for a living and I realized that it's the intention behind what you say more than what you say a lot of the time.
WHO: Troy Hammond and Chris Cohen
WHEN: 9 p.m. Saturday
Comedy Club at Sunrise Inn, 510 E. Market St., Warren
HOW MUCH: $15
"I do talk about sex, drugs, politics and religion, but there's nothing that I find profane in my show but I wouldn't say it's a place to bring the kids or grandma."
In the end he wants to make a connection. "I've seen a lot of aggressive shows where the comic is in your face and yelling at you. I would rather share thoughts and ideas with an audience and have everybody go away having had a good time for an hour and, hopefully, remembering a little bit of what I've said and maybe even buying one of my Braille t-shirts."
He's referring to a t-shirt from his tour merchandise that has Braille letters at the top with the translation below, "If you can read this it's sexual harassment."
Pursuing his communications degree at Ohio University in the early 1980s, Hammond auditioned for the popular accredited class, "Humor Writing for Fun and Profit."
"I was looking into radio production so I could guarantee myself a half a possibility of making minimum wage until digital came along. Basically, I took the course for journalism credit."
Hammond was "fascinated" by the transformation that went into making jokes, long form stories and characters.
What really changed his life was the class' final exam, which involved a five-minute set in front of an audience at the student union pub.
"I was hooked."
Getting into the specifics of why he's stayed with the roller coaster ride of the standup comedy world he said, "I enjoy the creativity that is needed. I enjoy working out an idea into something that other people are going to find entertaining and funny and maybe a little bit disturbing. The laugh, even a groan, is a payoff because it's a reaction."
Like all comedians he paid his dues with thousands of miles traveled, alone or with a traveling companion. Eventually, Hammond polished an act that moved from prop comedy that included a purposefully bad attempt at juggling to his quick-witted remarks on living in the 21st century.
Looking back on those early days, he starts laughing and then said, "I really feel bad that I took people's money."
But, he waxes philosophical about the bad times. "Failure is a learning experience. That's one of the jokes that I've gotten in trouble with. 'A friend of mine has a kid who has to repeat the fifth grade. And I think it's unfair. He already proved he can't do it. Fail with something new. That's called learning.'"
Turning serious again, Hammond, who has also done motivational speaking, continued, "That's life. We skin our knees. If it was easy you wouldn't appreciate the good times."