Reel NW

About the Film

About the Film

Stephen O’Keefe takes to the stage at the comedy club, and soon the audience is pealing with laughter. But he can't hear their reaction to his stand-up routine. He was born deaf.

Comedy is an unusual pursuit for someone who is hearing impaired – Stephen must work as hard on his pronunciation as he does on his material. “Of course I talk funny ... I’m a comedian!” he jokes. Still, the lawyer-turned-comedian never shies away from a challenge. Capturing footage of Stephen in the comedy spotlight, at home and at work, "Between the Laughter" interweaves lively snapshots of a complex but extraordinary life.

Since receiving a cochlear implant in his early twenties, Stephen is no longer completely deaf, but it’s a struggle for him to adapt to the new sounds he hears. Through interviews with family, friends, his comedy coach, doctor and former teacher, the film explores Stephen’s fierce determination to succeed. It also reveals some of the unexpected conflicts and pressures of everyday life, whether it’s being unable to hear his wife on a morning jog or trying to follow conversations when more than one person speaks at once.

This intimate portrait was shot over a period of nine months. Filmmaker Barbara K. Lee immerses viewers in the heart of the comedian’s demanding life, observing him as he spends time with his young son, runs a business with his wife, prepares to move into a new home, and nurtures his blossoming comedy career.

Many deaf people can find life to be isolating, but Stephen embraces the spotlight, choosing to stand out and entertain. This is an inspirational and humour-filled profile – from life in between comedy acts to the realities of being caught between a hearing world and a silent one.

Director's Biography

Director's Biography

"Between the Laughter" is Barbara K. Lee’s first documentary. She is a winner of the 2004 NFB Reel Diversity Competition.

"Between the Laughter" was produced as part of the Reel Diversity Competition for emerging filmmakers of color. Reel Diversity is a National Film Board of Canada initiative in partnership with CBC Newsworld.

The Reel NW Connection

Reel NW focuses on the very best of independent film from the Northwest. Every week, Reel NW airs intriguing films from, or about, our own community. Stephen O'Keefe lives in Vancouver, BC.

Between The Laughter


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Can we access closed captions for channel 9 programs? How?

Thanks so much. We both hear but are aging and find it difficult to follow the dialogue in many of the KCTS special programs, especially those from the UK.


If you are OTA viewer try this:
You can enable closed captioning by using your remote to change the audio setting on your television. The button that controls audio may be labeled Stereo, Mono, Audio Mode, Audio B, ST, SAP, SA, MTS, or Menu. Make sure CC or Closed Captions are set to "On". The instructions that came with your television will include information on Closed Captions as well as the Second Audio Program.
If you are a cable or satellite subscriber try this:
When using an HD box provided by a cable or satellite company, the only reliable way to get captions to display on all channels and all programs is to set the cable box NOT the TV to decode captions. Since you use channel 109, you are watching the KCTS 9 HD channel on Comcast. The Motorola box that Comcast provides needs to have captions enabled on it and disabled on the TV.

Turn on your TV and cable box.
Turn off CC on your TV.
Turn off your cable box, but leave the TV turned on.
Press the Menu button on the cable box remote control.
Use the down arrow on the cable box remote to scroll down to closed captions.
Use the right arrow button to enable closed captions.
Press the Menu button on the cable box remote control.
Turn the cable box back on.

If these instructions don't work for your particular box or if you need further assistance please contact us via phone at 206-728-6463


Thank you for your interest in KCTS 9.

Most of our programs have closed captions. The means of activation depends on whether you're using cable, a converter box, or a digital television. Normally, it's a feature located on your remote control if you're using a converter box or digital television. It may be different if you're a cable or satellite customer. Please feel free to contact us at

KCTS 9 Viewer Services


My Mother was deaf from the age of 5 after suffering from scarlet fever. I really could relate to this film, though my Mother was deaf my Father and 5 siblings were not.

We had so many of the same challenges Stephen's wife is dealing with.

Is there a way to contact Stephen and his wife through you? She mentioned there is no deaf persons anonymous to call. Boy, I know exactly what she means.


I would love to talk to mrs. o' keefe. I have so much in common with her- being a hearing woman married to a deaf man who reads lips very well. I feel exactly the way she was explaining! (i also agree-should have c.c.)
Great program! Good job and thank you!
God bless you!


Where is the captioning? A film about a deaf person should be accessible to deaf people.


Hi AmyRuth,


Speaking personally, I absolutely agree with you. I have been working on making processes to turn the closed captioning we use for KCTS 9's broadcasts into a file format that will work with our video player. It's gone more slowly than I would like, given the limited resources available, but I have made it one of my own personal goals to get this done very soon. I regret that we didn't have it in place for "Between the Laughter."



KCTS 9 Staff

Post new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.
  • All comments are subject to approval.
  • reserves the right to remove posts, at our discretion, which include inflammatory comments, comments that are off-topic, personal attacks or obscene language, or that are otherwise deemed objectionable.
  • By submitting your comment for publication on, you agree to abide by our terms of service: