Marlee Matin Calls ‘SNL’ Deaf Signing Skit ‘Dumb’ (Video)

Deaf actress says "SNL" shouldn't have invented signs

Last Updated: November 5, 2012 @ 12:14 PM

Marlee Matlin criticized a "Saturday Night Live" sketch that imagined New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie working with a sign-language interpreter brimming with Jersey attitude.

Getty ImagesThe Oscar winner says it was "just dumb" of the show to invent fake signs for the skit over the weekend.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's interpreter fascinated viewers last week as she helped him explain the city's hurricane recovery efforts. "SNL" imagined a Garden State interpreter — played by Nasim Pedrad — whose exaggerated hand gestures were barely distinguishable from those of countless of stereotypical Jersey characters. If she had spoken during the skit, she might have said, "Whaddayawantfromme?"

See also: 'SNL': Louis C.K. as 'Lincoln,' and Chris Christie's Sign Language Interpreter

In the skit, both Bloomberg and Christie's interpreters used made-up signs — such as pantomiming big ears to represent President Obama.

Matlin, who won the lead actress Oscar for 1987's "Children of a Lesser God," didn't specifically call out "SNL" in a series of tweets Saturday. But her timing strongly hinted about which show had earned her ire.

"Millions of deaf people use sign. Why poke fun/fake it? Poke fun at ME but not the language. Would they do that to Spanish or Chinese? FAIL," she tweeted. "Sign is not mime; it is a legit language."

She noted that she has developed her own app, Marlee Signs, to teach signing. It was released last month.

"Here's my point," Matlin added. "Deaf people HAVE a sense of humor. Ever see me on 'Family Guy' or 'Seinfeld'? But faking signs that we use isn't the same … Imagine if a show started making fun of Spanish (using fake Spanish) or Japanese. Do you think they'd actually get away with it? Uh, no…"

"SNL" has been criticized before for mocking the disabled, notably for Fred Armisen's portrayal of former New York Gov. David Paterson, who is legally blind.

Watch the interpreter sketch: