ByBrooke Geller, writer at
Awkward nerd, aspiring shieldmaiden and friend to all doggos.
Brooke Geller

Jimmy Fallon has a reputation for hysterically laughing at absolutely anything and anyone. However, the talk show host may come to regret laughing during a recent promo with guest Jamie Foxx after an incident that's sparked outrage across the deaf community.

During the video, can be seen gesturing in a way that vaguely resembles sign language as gives guests the rundown on what to expect on the upcoming Tonight Show. Fallon then collapses in hysterics over Foxx's gestures, almost falling off his chair.

Nyle DiMarco, who is actually deaf himself, captured the footage and posted it to his Twitter. Apparently Foxx wasn't using real sign language at all, but made-up "gibberish"— and DiMarco is not laughing:

Who Is Nyle DiMarco?

If you're a fan of reality TV then you're probably already familiar with Nyle DiMarco. The model/actor won both America's Next Top Model and Dancing with the Stars, and also had an ongoing role on Switched at Birth.

As a high profile deaf person and self-proclaimed deaf activist, DiMarco has continuously campaigned for causes that help the deaf community, including the importance of teaching sign language to deaf children. DiMarco was outraged by Foxx's behavior, tweeting, "how was this allowed?"

DiMarco reached out to both Fallon and Foxx on Twitter to voice his concern about the "joke", which he called "straight up disrespectful". Neither celebrities nor The Tonight Show's network, NBC, have responded on social media, though Entertainment Weekly have reported that NBC have contacted DiMarco.

Why Is This Offensive?

While Foxx's fake sign language stunt may have been intended as a spontaneous joke, the people replying to DiMarco's tweets are far from amused. Many agreed that it was unacceptable to mock the disabled community, while others claimed that it was just as bad as a foreign language or accent. Simply put: impersonating someone who belongs to a marginalized community is basically just mocking that person for what makes them marginalized in the first place.

DiMarco later posted a longer statement on why he felt Foxx's actions were unacceptable:

This isn't the first time this has happened, either. Earlier this year, comedian Ross Browne faced criticism from the Irish Deaf Society after he feigned sign language during Irish prime minister Enda Kenny's Brexit speech. Browne posed as an interpreter for the event as part of a prank, despite not knowing any sign language.

Over in South Africa, another man was caught feigning sign language— but this time, it was during an official memorial service following the 2013 death of Nelson Mandela. Thamsanqa Jantjie "interpreted" speeches from the likes of South African president Jacob Zuma and even Barrack Obama. It was later revealed that Jantjie's "sign language" was completely faked.

As alarming as it is that someone could be hired as an official interpreter without proof of actually knowing any sign language, this wasn't even the first event where Jantjie had worked as an interpreter. Jimmy Kimmel brought an actual sign language interpreter onto his show to translate the imposter's gestures, which were revealed to be "complete gibberish":

Sure, it may be funny to laugh at the shocking absurdity of someone like Jantjie working as an interpreter for so long without anyone realizing he lacks any qualifications whatsoever to do the job. But it's a whole other matter to perform a crude impersonation of the official language of an entire disabled community for the purpose of a laugh.

Do you think Jamie Foxx's fake sign language was offensive?

(Source: Entertainment Weekly, Irish Times, Telegraph)


Latest from our Creators