Sound Seekers by Fateema Sayani is published weekly at OttawaMagazine.com. Read Fateema Sayani’s culture column inOttawa Magazine and follow her on Twitter @fateemasayani
And My N-N-N-Name Is… Peter Joynt stutters — and people reply in kind — or in jest
MC Peter Joynt — you likely know him from his love-letter rap to Ottawa — has a stutter and says he was teased about it as a kid, but not in a really bad way. “I was a pretty big kid, so it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been. Only the brave would really bully me when I was younger,” the 34-year-old recalls.
Now that he’s all grown up, he still gets teased about his stutter — in ways that are perhaps not openly menacing, but come off as obtuse all the same.
“Whenever I meet someone for the first time, I’m bound to stutter on my name,” he says. “You can imagine being at a party where you have to introduce yourself. I go ahead and stutter over my name. The most common response I receive is, ‘Are you sure?’ A lot of times, people will also repeat their name back and stutter through it.”
Really? Seriously? Yes. Yes, they do.
“I think people just want to show that they’re being observant to notice that I said my name in a funny way,” Joynt explains. “It’s a way of being ‘playful’ or showing some personality in making their first impression.
“I’ve learned to just come out with it and tell them I have a stutter. It usually gives me time and space in the conversation, and has them apologizing profusely. You see, I don’t think they are intentionally trying to be mean,” Joynt says. “It’s more of a natural reflex to react like that if you encounter something ‘out of place’ in your daily life. You want to remark on it, and point it out. I think it’s just the way we’re built.”
That’s one story Joynt has about his stutter. He also explains that, because of the way the brain works, he doesn’t stutter when rapping, or aping foreign accents and the like. His work as an MC has led to work with Ottawa Tourism and the Sens hockey team and, in order to achieve that success, it’s super important to stay focused and positive.
That’s a hyper-short summary of what Joynt will say to school kids at assemblies and in classrooms, starting Tuesday. That’s when this year’s edition of the #NoMoreBullies tour begins. He’ll be at classes once a week from October-December.
The tour is an initiative of O-town super brand/media personality Stuntman Stu Schwartz. Two years ago, after reading too many stories about bullying, Schwartz tweeted that, “If he had to visit every school in Ottawa to speak out against bullying, he would.” The hashtagged title was created and the tour was launched.
Recently, Schwartz — a radio host with Majic 100 — approached Joynt to join the tour. He saw the “Capcity” video online and was familiar with Joynt’s Senators song, from his work at the palladium. (Schwartz is a PA announcer for the Ottawa Senators).
“Peter is incredibly talented and has a strong anti-bullying message for kids,” Schwartz says.
Some of that message can be heard in Joynt’s new video called, “What I Do.” Joynt is “the closer” of the hour-long #NoMoreBullies presentation and the video plays just before he gets up to tell his story.
“I talk about being teased — even to this day — but that I refused to let anything stand in my way,” he says. “I talk about the success I’ve had with my music, my involvement with the Sens, and of course, my Tim Horton’s RRROLLUP win.” (Last year, Joynt won a car after rolling up the rim. Not a stale doughnut, not a timbit, not a free friggin’ coffee. But a hybrid Toyota. The odds are 1 in 7.2 million).
Sound Seekers fired off a few questions to Joynt on the issue of bullying.
There is a lot of talk about bullying in the news — most recently in our city where the Catholic school board wants to launch a bully-reporting app. What do you think about this initiative?
“That’s a tough one. While the initiative means well, I could see it causing even more problems. People could misuse it or perhaps get caught using it. That would turn into a whole other set of circumstances.
“I also think bullying is very different for different people. People are targeted and affected in different ways. I think you have to address each situation individually. It’s a sensitive topic, so I’d recommend a more hands-on approach.”
A lot of people will say that bullying is part of the experience of growing up. What would you say to that?
“It sounds bad, but I agree. No matter how you slice it, kids are mean and bullying and teasing is bound to happen.
“The latest anti-bullying movement is a great initiative to get it out in the mainstream. It might help reduce the amount of bullying that takes place, but I don’t know if there will ever be wiped out.
“I think the key thing is to continue to tell all the stories of the people who overcame bullying, or even more profound and impactful, are the stories of people who weren’t able to overcome it. There have been enough stories in the media lately to make your heart melt. I think those kinds of stories hit home the hardest, and provoke the most change.”
How does your story provoke change?
“My story often says enough on its own. People can easily recognize there’s something different about me when I talk. Yet there I am — up in front of an entire school, doing the exact thing that a stutterer would avoid at all costs — speaking out loud. It’s this conquering of fears, or getting on with it, that is important for these kids to see. Above all else, I think my role is to inspire these kids. It’s to show them that they can do anything they put their minds to.”
Peter Joynt’s new video will be screened at the Ottawa International Film Festivals’ Ottawa Music Video Challenge Sunday, Oct. 6 at Mansion Nightclub.
Joynt plays a gig for the grown-ups October 24 at Babylon.
If you want the #NoMoreBullies tour to come to your school, email them at: NoMoreBullies@BellMedia.ca.