…and we are baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!!! I’m super happy to be rolling again with the Cool Cat series. I missed it last week.
Today I am delighted to introduce you to David Roche, who is a friend of my dear friend, Liane Yasumoto. His responses had me laughing out loud and I’ve just purchased his book The Church of 80% Sincerity, because he is hilarious and I need something funny to read. And it’s $6.99 on kindle (Book Club: I’m going to add it to our wall for consideration for a monthly read!).
Please enjoy. David Roche.
Getting to Know You
Your name: David G. Roche
What’s your connection with disability? I am a good example of the social model of disability. I was born with a facial difference (a vascular anomaly) that was enhanced by surgery and radiation therapy when I was a one year old in 1945. I am from the generation of denial and never knew what I “had” as a child. I have dysfunction in swallowing, breathing and sleeping but none of the traditional disability “markers.” But because of my appearance I am judged as disabled. Hence the social model.
Star Trek or Star Wars? Both, please.
If you could live in any other country for 2 years, where would you go? Portlandia.
What dish would your bring to our community picnic potluck? Waffles.
Now That We’ve Been Introduced…
What do you do: I call myself an inspirational humorist. (OK, people might not like the inspirational part. More about that below.) I work as a keynote speaker, a solo performer, actor, comedian, storyteller and storyteller coach.
How did you come to doing what you do? How has your career trajectory flowed?
I found my soul mate Marlena when I was 44. Our relationship was complicated (i.e., she was married to someone else). From time to time in the early part of our relationship, I would wonder what exactly I was doing.
At one of those times I decided I needed to follow my own path. I took a comedy class. I had never done anything like that before. In addition, I had never talked about my face, even to the extent that after six months of us being lovers, Marlena did not know what had happened to my face. True denial.
I took to comedy and I began talking about my face. At first I was self-deprecating. Audiences did not like that, but they liked everything else. I was off and running. My first comedy appearance was at Romantasy, an erotic boutique in San Francisco.
I quit my day job in 1996, put up my signature one man show “The Church of 80% Sincerity” in San Francisco and since then have made a living on stage and at the podium.
It has been an intense personal and artistic journey because a lot of my material, especially in the early years, was about facial difference and being stared at. And there was an audience staring at me.
I found that if I called myself a keynote speaker I would make about three times as much money for doing my show.
I’d say now that I am kind of a symbolic persona. I love performing, especially being funny. I love teaching storytelling because everyone has an incredible story to tell. I love working with kids, especially in middle schools when they are trying to figure out who they are and what appearance has to do with it.
Now I find that, when I say that my face is a gift because I have been forced to find my inner beauty, kids will say, “Good for you, but how exactly do you do that?” So my artistic vision is to try to be part of answering that question through the David Roche School of Beauty, with the mission of redefining the world’s standards of beauty. I know that will involve social media.
And yes, I am inspirational. I can live with that. Yes, there are negative aspects to that. But it is not the only thing about me. It took me a long time to realize that everyone needs inspiration, including myself.
For me, it was sports figures when I was a kid. Now it is often performers with disabilities who inspire me (sorry! sorry!). People like Sandie Yi, Mat Fraser, Julie McNamara, Liane Yasumoto, Judith Smith, Leroy Moore and many, many others. I cannot do without their example. So there you go.
Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years? I would like to have the David Roche School of Beauty operational.
Not to be morbid, but what do you want people to remember about you when you’ve gone?
What I want on my tombstone: “He encouraged people.”
Who or what inspires you? See above.
If you could say something to yourself in the past – that is, the you that was really struggling with something related to disability – what would you say?
David, your face is unique but your experience is universal. Everyone feels that they are disfigured in some way. Many people feel it is about appearance. Others feel they are evil sinners, or fat, or dumb or have bad karma.
(But I do not think I would have listened to myself.)
What do you like about your particular disability?
After I learned to see myself as a person of value, as beautiful, the door opened for me to see the beauty of other people. Even when they are flawed in all sorts of ways. I can’t tell you how wonderful a gift that has been for me.
Any one thing that you wish people would *get* about disability?
People with “disabilities” are not victims. We are not survivors. We are teachers and leaders who understand a great deal about the human condition and have a lot to bring to the world. And we are doing so.
What single piece of technology makes your life easier? The waffle iron.
Where else can we find you online? FaceBook, YouTube
Don’t Forget! His book!
The paperback edition of his book, The Church of 80% Sincerity, published originally by Penguin, is now available on everything: Amazon, iTunes, Nook and Kindle. Yay!
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.