From the archives: ‘DeafGeoff’ in The Post-Standard, 2006

From The Post-Standard archives: Feb. 27, 2006, by William LaRue

‘DEAF GEOFF’
HOT 107.9 SIDEKICK EMBRACES HIS HEARING LOSS, AND SO DO HIS FANS

deafgeoff_2006

WWHT-FM (Hot 107.9) morning producer Geoff Herbert has trouble taking calls from listeners. Sometimes, he misunderstands what hosts Marty and Shannon are saying to him.

“Recently, Marty said something about Duke University and I thought he said something about Jewish people, ” Herbert says. “Sometimes, it’s so off-base, it’s funny.”

Even if he didn’t call himself “DeafGeoff” on the air, there would be little doubt that Herbert is bringing something quite exceptional to Syracuse morning radio.

Herbert, 21, was born with a hearing loss so severe that music often sounds to him like his head is under water. Some notes he can’t hear at all.

And yet, despite a speech impediment caused by his severe hearing loss, he is finding early success in a broadcast profession that usually values people with a good ear for hit songs or with a clear voice for announcing.

Herbert has become a listener favorite on the Top-40 station’s morning show, where he regularly joins the hosts in on-air banter and comedy bits. The station in the fall gave away 250 copies of a Christmas album, “Deaf the Halls, ” in which Herbert sang holiday tunes, including off-key versions of “Do You Hear What I Hear” and “Silent Night.”

Allowing the hearing-loss humor to flow easily on the morning show is something Herbert says he encourages.

That, plus asking people to call him “DeafGeoff, ” are his ways to let others know he embraces his hearing loss and wants others to do the same.

“It’s a good characterization of who I am. My name is Geoff and I’m partially deaf, ” Herbert says. “Of course, with the disability, being hearing-impaired, the least likely job is probably radio. But that’s one of the things I love about it. It excites me to be able to do something people don’t expect. And if I can do it well, people can kind of go, “Wow!”‘

He also embraces the local fame that goes with it.

A few weeks ago, at the drive-up window of a fast-food restaurant, some employees inside recognized his voice.

“They were like, “Are you DeafGeoff?’ And they go, “Ah, man, I love the show. You’re so awesome. You’re so funny, “‘ Herbert says. “I’ve even been asked for my autograph.”

Technically diagnosed as “hard of hearing, ” Herbert says, he was born with the ability to pick up only about 10 percent of what an average person hears. He uses lip-reading, two hearing aids and an eye for visual cues to understand most of the time what people are saying, although over the phone he often has to ask callers to repeat themselves.

Herbert began working at Hot 107.9 two years ago as an intern while he was studying communications at Syracuse University.

He performed so well as a volunteer that he was hired in fall 2004 to become Hot’s morning producer. It’s a job that involves getting to the station by 5 a.m. to edit audio clips and coordinate that day’s music, comedy bits, contests, games and other content.

On a recent Tuesday morning, shortly after 8:30, Herbert is carrying on a long chat about TV with Marty, who, like Shannon, doesn’t reveal his last name publicly.

Marty asks Herbert if he heard about “American Idol” auditions in Boston last summer, hinting that he should have considered trying out for the Fox talent series.

Herbert tells Marty he “heard about it plenty.” Then he adds, “Let’s be honest. My singing was not going to get me very far.” They both laugh.

Marty and Shannon often make references to his hearing loss, Herbert says, although they draw the line at doing anything smacking of ridicule.

When one listener called up to ask why the show didn’t “just get that retarded guy off the air, ” Herbert says, Marty and Shannon quickly “ripped into him.”

“They are very protective, ” Herbert says with a smile.

Interviewed off the air, Marty says Herbert is a talented morning producer who does his job well.

“I think it’s cool he puts his disability aside and says, “I’m going to do this, ‘ instead of being embarrassed by it, ” Marty says.

In addition to his part-time job at Hot, Herbert works nights and weekends at a Blockbuster video store, and is also a disc jockey for private parties and dances.

Herbert, who grew up in Acton, Mass., was manager of his high school radio station for 2 years. He was also general manager at WJPZ-FM (Z89), the student station at SU, where he already has met requirements to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in radio, television and film.

He says his dream is to eventually get a job in radio in Boston or another big city.

For what he has done already, Herbert can be seen as an inspiration, especially by young people with a disability who worry some occupations are closed to them, says Anne Costa, director of communications for Aurora of Central New York, an organization that serves people with hearing and visual impairments.

Although he’s a rarity, Herbert isn’t the only one with hearing loss working in Syracuse radio. Aurora in November presented an excellence award to WVOA-FM and WSIV-AM general manager Jim Wall, 68, who still does occasional on-air work, despite losing most of his hearing in the mid-1980s due to disease.

“I would certainly congratulate the young man, ” Wall says when asked about Herbert. “I encourage him 100 percent.”

Costa says Herbert probably has strong support in the deaf community, although she says some might be offended if they thought on-air bits were making fun of him for his hearing loss.

Herbert says some aspects of living with his disability are funny. He says he’s not afraid to share this or to show that, like anyone else, he excels at some things and struggles with others.

“I want to let people know my hearing disability is part of who I am. I’m comfortable with it and you should be as well, ” he says.

Note: This article appeared in The Post-Standard in 2006, years before Herbert started working at the Syracuse newspaper.

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Adventures in Google: DeafGeoff appears in book ‘The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane’

Yours truly appears on page 12 of the new book 'The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane' by Kelly Harms. Well, sort of.

Yours truly appears on page 12 of the new book ‘The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane’ by Kelly Harms. Well, sort of.

What happens when you Google yourself? It’s a fun exercise that does little to reveal what people are saying about you (unless you’re Kim Kardashian) but sometimes you find other people with the same name or nickname as you — in real life or in fiction.

Geoff “DeafGeoff” Herbert is a former radio guy turned entertainment reporter for The Post-Standard and syracuse.com. I also work as a DJ, motivational speaker and dabble in writing independently. But if you search for my name on the Internet, you’ll also find a British politician named Geoff Herbert, an IMDb page for a Geoff Herbert who worked as a rigging key grip for The Hunger Games, and a “Deaf Geoff” Garbage Pail Kids trading card. There also was a “Deaf Jeff” in Arliss Howard’s 1988 movie Plain Clothes and a late ’80s rapper named Def Jef, who found better success as a producer for artists like Nas, 2 Pac, Snoop Dogg and Shaq.

Now there’s a “Deaf Geoff” in a new book called “The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane” by Kelly Harms. Published in summer 2013, it’s the debut novel from a Madison, Wisconsin, resident who previously worked as an editor and agent. A Google preview of the story’s first 30 pages reveals one of the “Girls” is living with her boyfriend Geoff, who’s a bit of a drunk slob who watches TV too loudly because he’s losing his hearing playing in a band. His favorite TV show is “South Park” and he’s painted as a jerk who Nean is waiting to leave as soon as she wins a contest for a house in New England.

As much as I got a kick out of seeing my nickname in print, I doubt I’ll buy/read the book as it seems to be targeted towards the same readers of “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” or “The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.” I also doubt I can relate to my namesake character, who likely won’t make it to the final chapter, as I was born mostly deaf, I rarely drink and I would watch reruns of “Seinfeld” over “South Park” any day.

But still, it’s fun to occasionally Google yourself and see what comes up. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve found when searching for your name?

29 things that will make you feel old

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Ferris Bueller knew what he was talking about, and I always get a kick out of taking a moment to look at what’s happened — and how long it’s been since they happened. For example, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off came out when I was just two years old. In honor of my 29th birthday (that’s right, Geoff Herbert has been turning it up as “DeafGeoff” since Feb. 20, 1984) here are 29 facts that will make you feel just as old as I am. Enjoy!

1. Kids born in the year 2000 become teenagers this year.
Whoa.

Britney kisses Madonna

Britney and Madonna locked lips during the 2003 VMAs. 10 years ago!

2. Madonna kissed Britney Spears a decade ago.
The two pop stars made out on stage during the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. Madge also kissed Christina Aguilera, but no one remembers that.

3. Elijah Wood and Macauley Culkin are both 32.
“The Good Son,” starring both of the child actors, came out 20 years ago.

4. Magazines now out of print: Spin, Newsweek, Blender, The Sporting News.
Apparently people read stuff on this thing called the Internet nowadays.

5. Metallica’s first album came out 30 years ago.
James Hetfield is now 49 years old with three kids.

6. Cory and Topanga from “Boy Meets World” have a teen daughter now.
The TGIF couple married in 2000 (on the show, not in real life) and are coming back to TV with a 13-year-old child for “Girl Meets World.”

7. Every player on the 2012-13 Syracuse basketball team was born in the ’90s.
Senior James Southerland was born in April 1990 and the youngest player, freshman guard Jerami Grant, is younger than the “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam. (Jerami was born in March ’94 and the song appeared on Eddie Vedder and co.’s 1991 album Ten.)

8. Nintendo Entertainment System
The first NES was released in Japan in 1983 — 30 years ago — and Nintendo launched the iconic video game console in North America beginning in ’85.

9. 50 Cent’s “In Da Club”
Fiddy’s first massive hit came out in January 2003. That’s more than 10 years ago.

10. Curly Sue is married and the Spy Kids girl is divorced.
Curly Sue star Alisan Porter is 31 now and tied the knot last year, even welcoming a baby boy in the summer. Alexa Vega first played ‘Spy Kid’ Carmen Cortez in 2001 and she’s not only old enough (24) to play a slutty badass in Robert Rodriguez’s Machete Kills (coming this year), but also had her first divorce last year.

11. “Teletubbies” has been off the air for more than a decade.
Dipsy, Laa-Laa, Po, and Tinky Winky last appeared on TV in January 2002.

12. The Nirvana baby is old enough to legally drink alcohol.
Spencer Elden, who showed the world his penis on the cover of Nevermind, turns 22 this year.

The Nirvana baby!

The Nirvana baby!

13. The Mighty Ducks turned 20 last year.
Emilio! Estevez played triple-deke inventor and youth hockey coach Gordon Bombay for the first time in 1992. Kind of surprised a D4: The Mighty Ducks hasn’t happened yet at this point.

14. The New Kids are now in their 40s.
All of NKOTB (or New Kids on the Block, however you refer to them) are 40 years old or older. Jonathan Knight is 44.

15. Maggie from “The Simpsons” would be 24 years old today.
If she aged, that is. The first episode of the longest-running cartoon aired on Dec. 17, 1989.

16. ‘N Sync’s last televised performance was 10 years ago.
Justin Timberlake is busy with his “Suit & Tie” these days, too busy to get back together with Lance Bass, Joey Fatone, Chris Kirkpatrick and JC Chasez. The boy band went on hiatus in 2002 but sang together at the 2003 Grammy Awards in a tribute to the Bee Gees.

17. Jurassic Park came out 20 years ago.
The first dinosaur epic came out in 1993. Jurassic Park IV is on the way, due in theaters in 2014.

18. ’90s bands are now playing nostalgia tours.
Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth, Gin Blossoms, Vertical Horizon, Fastball are touring together (if this was 1998, this would blow your mind!) this summer.

19. The final episode of “M*A*S*H” aired 30 years ago.
More than 100 million viewers tuned in for the Feb. 1983 finale — still the most-watched ever.

20. Eminem’s daughter turns 18 this year.

Don’t be a creep about it, but Hailie Mathers was born in December 1995.

21. McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” ad campaign started a decade ago.
Remember JT even did a song about it? Holy 2003.

22. The top songs 15 years ago include “The Boy is Mine,” “Truly Madly Deeply” and “My Heart Will Go On.”

Next’s “Too Close” and Will Smith’s “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” also came out in 1998.

23. New TV shows in 1993: “The X-Files,” “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” “Frasier,” “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” and “Beavis & Butt-head.”
They just don’t make ’em like they used to.

24. Kids today have no idea what a floppy disk or a diskette is.
Yet they click on a picture of one to save files in Microsoft Word.

25. “1999” was 30 years ago.
Prince wanted to party like it’s the end of the millenium (which was technically Dec. 31, 2000) in 1983.

26.Brad Pitt turns 50 years old this year.
Speaking of Prince, he and Michael J. Fox, Ellen DeGeneres, Madonna, Colin Firth and Antonio Banderas are all in their 50s already.

27. The dancing baby has been around for more than 15 years.

First an Internet phenomenon in 1996, you may best remember the baby cha-cha-ing to “Hooked on a Feeling (Oogachaka)” in 1998 on “Ally McBeal.”

28. You can’t buy Surge, Crystal Pepsi, Hi*C Ecto Cooler or Squeezit drinks anymore.
I’m thirsty.

29. Michael Jordan first retired 20 years ago.
The now 50-year-old legendary athlete quit basketball in 1993, played baseball briefly, and then thankfully brought us more hoops greatness (and Space Jam).

Video: Geoff ‘DeafGeoff’ Herbert speaks at TEDxBuffalo about hearing loss, listening

Geoff 'DeafGeoff' Herbert at TEDxBuffalo

Geoff “DeafGeoff” Herbert speaks at TEDxBuffalo in October 2012 about being a deaf DJ, growing up with hearing loss, and the importance of listening versus hearing.


I spoke at my first TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) event on October 9th at Canisius College in Buffalo, and I’m happy to share with you the final video cut (in HD! See my face for radio in crisp pictures!) from my TEDxBuffalo speech titled “Listening is More Important Than Hearing.”

As an adult who was born with a profound binaural hearing loss, I was happy to share my experiences growing up hard-of-hearing and how I pursued the careers that I’ve succeeded in, including more than 10 years as a DJ (including six years as a morning show producer at a Clear Channel radio station in Syracuse, perhaps as the only deaf on-air personality in the country). I talked about speech therapy, my love of music, and the importance of listening versus hearing.

I’m now an Entertainment Reporter for Syracuse Media Group, the home of syracuse.com and The Post-Standard newspaper, but also still work as a disc jockey for parties, dances, weddings and other events. I still embrace and advocate the value of listening because I still do the same thing at my job — listening to what the audience wants, responding to them and continuing to inform and entertain.

Thank you again to Kevin Purdy for inviting me to speak at TEDxBuffalo and much appreciation to all who attended, watched and/or tweeted me their thoughts afterwards. It was a fun experience and I’m always happy to share my experiences. If you have any follow-up questions or would like to know more, please feel free to contact me.

Watch: Geoff ‘DeafGeoff’ Herbert speaks at TEDxBuffalo about being a deaf DJ

Geoff 'DeafGeoff' Herbert talks at TEDxBuffalo on Oct. 9, 2012

Geoff ‘DeafGeoff’ Herbert talks at TEDxBuffalo on Oct. 9, 2012 about being a deaf DJ and the importance of listening over hearing.

I was humbled and honored to be invited to speak at TEDxBuffalo, my first TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) event, about being a deaf DJ and the challenges I’ve faced in my life growing up mostly deaf. The event was held Tuesday, October 9, at Canisius College in Buffalo to an invite-only crowd and was also live-streamed online and recorded for future events.

In a speech titled “Listening Is More Important Than Hearing,” I shared how I was born with a profound binaural hearing loss and learned how to communicate through years of speech therapy. I demonstrated some of the challenges that come from lipreading, such as how “V” and “F” look identical but the sound is different by how much air comes out of your mouth and whether your voice box vibrates when saying it. I then talked about falling in love with music, and its transformative power that led me to pursuing a career in radio — and never once letting my “disability” stand in the way. I learned to appreciate music by listening to it, not just hearing it, and worked hard at radio stations in high school and college before landing a job at Clear Channel’s HOT 107.9 in Syracuse as a morning show producer and sidekick known as “DeafGeoff.” I worked with “Marty & Shannon in the Morning” for six years as possibly the only mostly deaf on-air personality in the country and our show was rated No. 1 in its target 18-34 demographic.

I’m now a producer/entertainment reporter at syracuse.com, the online affiliate of The Post-Standard newspaper but the challenges I face today are the same. At a radio station disc jockey (or as a club DJ), you have to listen to what your audience wants and respond to it. Social media users and website readers will often comment and/or share stories, and it’s the same thing — listening to the audience, responding to them, and continuing to inform and/or entertain.

I’m also still a DJ for parties, dances, weddings, events, etc. and I’m constantly listening to music and studying it, watching audiences to see how they react to songs. It’s amazing how hearing a favorite tune can change a person’s mood — or force them to start moonwalking (or shuffling or Gangnam-Styling or whatever) because the music is that infectious.

You can watch video of me speaking at TEDxBuffalo here, but please check out the other speakers as well. All had great, unique thoughts to bring to the event and I was happy to be a part of it.

Thank you to all who watched and tweeted me their thoughts afterwards, and thank you to Kevin Purdy for inviting me to speak at TEDxBuffalo. If anyone has any follow-up questions or would like to know more, please feel free to email me.

Deaf The Halls: DeafGeoff’s hilarious album of Christmas songs and holiday parodies, revisited

Deaf The Halls, DeafGeoff's holiday parody album

'Deaf The Halls' is a holiday album featuring Christmas and Hanukkah songs, plus parodies sung and rapped (badly) by DeafGeoff. Be careful when listening in the car, you may drive off the road laughing.


In my radio days at HOT 107.9, I recorded songs as DeafGeoff on my own holiday albums called “Deaf The Halls.” I sang and rapped so badly that everyone seemed to get a kick out of it (and I enjoyed having fun with it), so I couldn’t resist doing it for four years straight. I did my own versions of some Christmas classics, a couple tunes for the Hanukkah crowd, and even wrote a few parodies of popular songs by Kanye West, Mystikal, and Bing Crosby. I put together a sort of “greatest hits” in 2008, and for those that would like to hear it again — or have never heard it! — here’s the track listing, a free .zip download of the mp3 files, and four music videos from Deaf The Halls. Enjoy!

Deaf The Halls: The Deaf-initive Collection
1. Toy Lockdown (parody of Kanye West’s “Love Lockdown”)
2. Deaf The Halls, Part 1
3. Deaf In A Box
4. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
5. Party Like Santa Claus (parody of Shop Boyz’ “Party Like A Rock Star”)
6. Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree
7. I Have A Little Dreidel
8. Ho Ho Ho f/ Marty & Sugarcane Chris (parody of Hurricane Chris’ “A Bay Bay”)
9. Jingle Bell Rock
10. Deaf The Halls, Part Deux (parody of Mystikal’s “Shake Ya Ass”)
11. The Chipmunk Song f/ Marty & Shannon
12. Deaf Christmas
13. Santa Baby
14. Do You Hear What I Hear?
15. Cholla At Ya Boy (Happy Chanukah) f/ Jus Mic
16. Baby It’s Cold Outside w/ Marty the One Man Party
17. The Christmas Song
18. Last Christmas
19. Silent Night
20. Auld Lang Syne

» Click here to download the “Deaf The Halls” collection in mp3 format [.zip file]

Deaf The Halls, the music videos:




Merry Chrismukkah and Happy Festivus (for the rest of us)!

All I want for Christmas is the ‘DeafGeoff’ poster from a Garbage Pail Kids tribute art show. Seriously.

Deaf Geoff by Ryan Brinkerhoff

This is a poster by Ryan Brinkerhoff from a Garbage Pail Kids tribute art show at Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles

Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles hosted an awesome Garbage Pail Kids tribute art show in September. It consisted entirely of GPK-inspired art, including remakes and reinterpretations of the famous trading card set (and TV show, and movie) that grossly parodied Cabbage Patch Kids, with characters like “Adam Bomb” and “Dire Rita.” The Hundreds posted photos of the gallery’s opening, which featured celebrity guests like Hayley Williams from Paramore and Chad Gilbert from New Found Glory.

My favorite was a piece by Ryan Brinkerhoff, an electro-inspired remake of “Deaf Geoff,” which was an actual Garbage Pail Kids trading card in 1986. (Yes, I have the card.) His design is similar to the original, showing a character literally blowing his ears out by blasting music from a boom box on his shoulder. But Brinkerhoff changes up the colors for a funky interpretation that would have looked cool on the walls of any ’80s dance club.

It’s currently on sale as an 18″ x 24″ poster for $30 on the Gallery 1988 website.

I want it. I want it for Christmas, my birthday, “just because,” whatever — and I’ll totally frame it and hang it in my apartment. It’s too awesome not to have it, especially since it’s a modern art twist on the GPK card inspired my namesake*.

» View a slideshow of the best art from Gallery 1988’s Garbage Pail Kids tribute art exhibit

Here’s what the original “Deaf Geoff” Garbage Pail Kids card looked like, No. 206a from the 1986 set:

***Final Update: Someone wonderful got me the poster. :) Thank you to everyone who offered. Happy holidays!

*A few people have asked me over the years where I got my name “DeafGeoff,” and if it has anything to do with the Garbage Pail Kids card or the ’80s rapper Def Jef (who later produced Shaquille O’Neal’s first album). There’s also an obscure ’80s movie called ‘Plain Clothes’ (starring Arliss Howard, who played grown-up Scotty Smalls in ‘The Sandlot’) that had a character named Deaf Jeff, but my name came from none of those. No, I simply came up with the name myself when I was 12 years old — before I know about any of the other versions of the name — and made it my first screen name on AOL. It’s my DJ name, too, and it’s an easy introduction to the fact that my name is Geoff Herbert and I’m mostly deaf.