Creator of the “Palsy Punch” is still swinging that “arm”
In my love of all things standup, near the top of my favorites list is the sterotype-defying Josh Blue, who rose to fame on NBC’s Last Comic Standing. Cerebral palsy may have its grip on Josh, but his audiences see only the spirit and soul of a hundred three-legged horses rushing the corral gate.
Josh works to change our perceptions of people with disabilities by shoving, ‘er shaking, them into the spotlight and relishing the discomfort the rest of us must get past as a result. If you’re not familiar with Blue’s comedy, you’re in for an uplifting surprise – and not like, “oh look, the boy in the wheel chair made a funny!” His bits are as relevant to fans as airport TSA screenings. (His proposed “No Ham, No Fly” screening policy is brilliant.) Blue’s no Zach Galifianakis, which is good, especially since million-dollar paychecks don’t really measure comedic success when your stock-in-trade –an awkward physical presence– isn’t an act. And for the record, no material Galifianakis offers is nearly as original or free of artificiality.
If you subscribe to cable’s Showtime, you can catch Josh Blue: Sticky Change running ’til the end of this month. It’s workman-like, practiced comedic craft. And though no Internet clips can match “Sticky Change” for irreverence and hilarity, YouTube has no shortage of Josh Blue samples for you to check out. The best of ’em, I think, are those that challenge people’s comfort zones, like when Blue pretends to be homeless or approaches a random gangbanger on the street for help with opening a popsicle. “It’s hard to look hard when you’re opening a Popsicle!”
It’s reverse teasing, as he calls it: “I’m makin’ fun you, makin’ fun of me, by making fun of me –again– and somehow cripple comes out on top!” Ah, but don’t confuse Josh Blue’s self-deprecating humor with some condescending “It’s okay to laugh!” tour of your own stereotypes of physical disability. That element is there for those who need it, but everyone is first required to get over their pity reflex. This stuff is funny; not just funny-from-a-guy-with-palsy.
Josh Blue was meant to lead by example and lead he does, sometimes with a middle finger in the air. I can think of no comedian working a microphone today who brings together audiences more diverse than Josh Blue. He’s clever, witty, and tremendously admirable – not least of all for his refusal to make excuses.