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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Comic Opening Eyes

I stumbled on to The Last Comic Standing last week, and was amazed to finally see a person with a disability on prime time television. Even more shocking, it wasn’t just someone in a wheelchair who otherwise looks normal. Josh Blue, one of the comics, has cerebral palsy complete with slurred speech and spastic motions.

I felt like one of the many black people I’ve heard talk about watching TV years ago, and waiting all week to watch that one show they found with a black character. I couldn’t believe there was finally a guy with CP on television!

A quick search of the internet revealed plenty of discussion on Blue, some disheartening, but discussion nonetheless. I was reminded that the last person on primetime TV with CP was on The Facts of Life for maybe one season — in the ‘80s!

I was also reminded (not that I needed it) that prejudice is alive and well. My favorite comments were from the idiots who try to mask their prejudice by being “honest enough” to raise the question of him possibly getting the sympathy vote. It never occurs to these people that the question instantly enters their minds because they’re incapable of just judging him as a comic. Other dumb comments were on the level of “how many CP jokes can there be?” (Gee, do fat comics doing fat jokes get asked that? Or black comics doing race jokes?)

The real question was quite simple — was he funny? To be honest, I wasn’t overly impressed by the little of him I saw on the show so far, although he was ok. Then I found some of the earlier clips of him on the show from YouTube. The guy is at least the third best, behind the black guy and the one who won the roast.

But, the bigger point is, he’s on the show and people are getting to see a real guy with CP. People are discussing him and his disability. People are getting to see that we exist, can do things — sometimes better than others — want success, and on, and on.

Go ahead, roll your eyes. Then think about what the discussion would be like if the first [fill-in your group] in two decades appeared in primetime.

Regardless of what happens on the show, Blue has done something important and deserves our applause. Fifteen years ago a statement like that would have made my stomach swirl. Then I faced the ignorance of society day after day with my own CP. I’m just now starting to truly realize that guys like Josh Blue help erode that ignorance, even though others who are “honest enough” to worry about the sympathy vote, sadly, never seem to fade.


  1. I'm surprised that you are such a civil rights advocate for a comic with CP and yet you have no empathy for people who can't order a cheese steak using the English language.

  2. Anonymous: Why? One has NOTHING to do with the other. You're merely trying to lump together what you incorrectly (on both counts) view as situations calling for empathy. One is a group perfectly able yet unwilling to adapt AND expecting the world to adapt to them. The other is a guy not only adapting, but overcoming prejudice -- a lot of which gets disguised as "empathy" -- and merely asking to be treated like everyone else.


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