OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Jimmy Mitchell speaks volumes, but he never says a word.
Jimmy is deaf, but has become famous lately for his sign language prowess during Gov. Kevin Stitts’ news conferences about the state’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
How does he do it when he can’t hear a word of what the governor is saying? He relies on his teammate in the audience, Jacob Alexander, who signs the governor’s words to Jimmy, who then signs them to the television audience.
So why doesn’t Jacob just do the signing?
“Because it’s never going to be what I learned at sign language school, but it is for Jimmy. This is his whole life,” says Jacob. “This is how he communicates with his deaf wife and at his job. So, what I bring to the table is never going to be what a deaf person would bring. It’s like if I went to Mexico, my Spanish is never going to quite be like someone who grew up in Mexico City, living that language, working in that, going to school in that. So, it’s just a level of native fluency that Jimmy can bring to the table.”
Through interpreter D’Andra Parsons, News 4 anchor Kevin Ogle asked Jimmy about all those facial expressions he makes while signing at the governor’s media events.
“If I’m looking very stern and very serious, then that tone is conveyed to the audience,” responded Jimmy. “If I’m showing that I’m angry because the speaker is angry, then that is what is conveyed. Because all of those emotions are really equal to what a spoken person language person would use in inflection.”
And what about all that newfound fame Jimmy is experiencing because of his emotive and expression-filled signing during the governors events?
“My social media, I mean it has just blown up!” Jimmy responded. “People have made memes of me, which is hilarious, and I love it. They will cut a loop of me signing and they will add music to it, so it looks like I’m dancing while I’m signing. So, it’s been pretty cool. I think it’s awesome. I’m not offended. I’m in on the joke. I think it’s great, and I’m just along for the ride.”