Dear Friends,

I am so loving how my peers have flourished in diverse interests since gaining access to communication! It is so inspiring to me to see how they push boundaries of preconceived notions about what nonspeakers can do. William’s interest in stand up comedy is one of the most unusual that I have encountered among Spellers, and it is absolutely delightful!

You can see some of his stand-up comedy from this 2020 SpellX Video.

I want to thank William and his CRP Giorgena for their time and energy in this interview. I so enjoyed learning more about William’s passion, and also laughing at his clever jokes! Please enjoy!

Your Friend,


Laughter Liberated – an interview with William Tziavaras

With CRPs Tara (with Danny) and Giorgena (with William)

Danny: Hi you two!

William: Hi Danny! I love both your faces!

Danny: Right back at you! So I am wondering are there any tips you have for other Spellers who want to pursue a passion?

W: The first tip: Passions should come easy to the mind, then body will follow with less stress on it. Also, if your passion is time-consuming, get yourself a CRP with a low hourly rate, or better yet, a free one!

T: Hahaha, practical tips!

D: Hahaha!

W: And for comedians, just tell the truth.

D: In response to your earlier joke – that is a real consideration! It is tough to find support for some specialized skills. Our friends and families really step up!

W: I’m lucky like you – we have a big family.

G: William’s got a lot of cousins that live nearby, even though some of them have gone away to school, they’re still a big part of our system.

D: That is amazing and such a model of a kinder world and a place where folks like us are in a loving interdependent community!

W: My heart hurts for families that are isolated and living alone, away from family and Spelling community.

D: Absolutely.

[transition to pre-sent questions with William’s prepared responses]

D: So how did you get into stand up comedy?

W: I was asked to participate in a variety show in 2020. It was the first SpellX. By that point I had developed my own voice through my communication and I always had a tendency to cheer myself up with my dry one liners. Some people took notice and I was gaining a reputation for being a funny guy.  So I decided that I would take a stab at stand-up for the show.  It was the natural realm to express my views in a way that could include nonspeakers in the audience and to let us laugh at this malady called ableism together.

D: Is this something you dreamed of doing before you could communication?

W: I must confess that I am always cracking jokes in my head and I always have.  This is one of the ways I would occupy my mind since I was little and it saved me from my darkest thoughts.  Also my parents watched a lot of stand up comedy.  Since they were told I couldn’t comprehend most things, they let me listen to some pretty fucking funny stuff, with that language. My internal comedian swears like a mofo, ha ha ha. You can censor this for your magazine if the audience is more wholesome.  Back to your original question, I guess in my mind I knew I had lots of material to be a good comedian, however I did not dare dream about such an amazing thing to actually materialize in my future. I mean, what were the chances? That is what is the funniest thing of all.

D: How do you prepare to perform? How do you come up with jokes, practice the motor skills involved, and practice your delivery?

W: I made the commitment to do the first SpellX without thinking it through. I was using a new voice in ProLoQuo4Text that is really cool but the delivery was tough to manage. With the timing being so important in comedy, I felt a monologue in this voice wouldn’t stand on its own and be funny. The moment I asked Giorgena for a muppet to accompany me onstage was a real turning point in terms of setting up the punchlines. It all came together so much easier after that because dialogue is easier in some respects. Managing two voices was a headache though.

The puppetry in the first show wasn’t all mine. My brother did some of the puppeteering for [the puppet] Tom about a week before the deadline to submit [the final video]. I had just received the puppet by courier and I was so hyped. I was laughing so hard at that puppet moving his mouth around while the text-to-speech app read out his lines, that there was no way I was going to be able to coordinate the motor for holding him and making his mouth talk while trying to sit on my stool and maintain some composure.  After a while, I was able to hold him without losing my head. But often the filming can be boring and we try to use some of my inertia as a tool for laughs during the editing. A lot of the funniest parts weren’t planned. Like during The Disabled Ableist, Tom is complaining about his challenges and I just happened to let out a huge yawn.  How ironic.  I couldn’t have acted that if I had planned it. The jokes are the easiest part. The stuff I see around me is the material. I think it’s meant for nonspeakers to enjoy, however I do worry that some may not find some of the jokes funny.  There is an underlying sadness to everything that’s funny and my humour can be self-deprecating and brutally dark. I apologize to anyone that hurts from it and yet I need to express myself or else there’s no point in making the effort.  If I take aim at anyone it’s always going to be outside our spellerverse.

D: How did you first go about making this happen? What supports did you use?

W: The CRP role in making this come together is huge. There is a lot of tech involved, however I am not inclined to do it. I am inclined to tell others what I want done, in great detail. It’s a real treat for them, I’m sure!

I honestly do write the entire script and sit through the sound edits and video editing and direct them.  I even select the laughter sound effects.  It’s a lot of work and man hours.  I would recommend that you don’t use a CRP that you have to pay. You’ll go bankrupt. 

My favourite voices are produced by Acapela Group and I access them on Proloquo4Text by Assistiveware.  Their products are really top notch.  We use WeVideo software and a couple of sound effects sites (Soundsnap is one). The videos can take longer to produce than the writing and filming.  I may one day take up a friend’s offer to help.  She is a professional, and that would be interesting as long as I don’t have to compromise too much on style.  I love having control of it.

D: Can you share something about how pursuing this and other passions impacts your life?  

W: Well, Danny, since you asked, my life can have its ups and downs like anyone else’s. Things like having a comedy show aren’t impacting my life personally with the exception of learning that I have impacted the moments of other nonspeakers lives with my jokes. If I have laughed a lot in my head over the years, and I think that helped me through some dark times, then a little humour might help some of our friends with finding lightness in the shadows.  Let’s say that’s for nonspeakers from me.  Who knows, I may make an impact on someone else’s life for five minutes. 

So far as my own life goes, I feel that presently I am thriving since I started high school in a very great school.  Things are going very well for now. I have made the decision to energize myself with the laughter of my classmates and to walk the walk of a nonspeaker with an option and enough self-regulation to sit in the room with them.  There’s a solid chance that this thriving won’t last long so I have to enjoy every minute of it.  I feel a duty to set an example.

[resuming live interview]

D: So, William, your written answers are so awesome, so I don’t want to use too much more of your time. But I am so curious: what are your future plans for comedy or other passions?

W: Coincidentally, I just answered this question for school – I will share that and I will add more.

[sharing answer for school] I can’t imagine my future. The truth is that I can’t imagine myself having a normal life, getting a normal education and job, so I have to be creative in my planning, like making sure that I can support myself doing the things I am good at.

Here are things I wish to achieve:

  • Competing in an Ironman event. I really really want to do this one day. Might help to train.
  • Studying in university or college
  • I would love to consult on tech for inclusive education after I discover what works for me and others in high school
  • Travelling as much as possible. I love to go on airplanes and see different environments. The world is not that big. We should try to learn about it.

[resuming live] I haven’t a clue what I will be able to do or where I will be, but I love what you are doing Danny. I always imagine myself doing something in and for the community as well as whatever I decide to pursue. I, too, would like to interview you one day!

D: Wow, it would be my honor and pleasure, and I so enjoyed chatting and so appreciate both of your time on this. I am so feeling that your words will really resonate and inspire our peers and allies, and make them laugh! Thank you, Friends!

W: Thank you, and have a great weekend!

About William

William Tziavaras is a high school student in Canada. He publicly shares his unique perspective on matters such as inclusive education and public spaces, effective implementation of AAC and, very regularly, common misconceptions about nonspeaking autistics. Will loves his life.

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