Comedian Josh Blue talks comedy, living with cerebral palsy

Lee Herald Favicon 16The Last Comic Standing on NBC’s fourth season reality comedy show, Cameroon-born Josh Blue will be bringing his hilarity to Southwest Florida on Friday, Nov. 10 and Saturday, Nov. 11.  Appearing exclusively at “Off the Hook Comedy Club” in Naples, the multi-talented comedian shares his unique, self-belittling, off-beat banter regarding his own experiences with Cerebral Palsy.

A neurological disorder occurring as a result of malformation or injury within the brain, Cerebral Palsy results in the impairment or complete loss of motor function.  Cerebral Palsy is currently incurable and those afflicted will struggle with the symptoms for their entire life.

With a replete understanding of how uncomfortable the general public is regarding neurological and anatomical disorders, Josh dissolves barriers and evokes laughter regarding his personal experiences with Cerebral Palsy.

Politically correct?  Not so much.  Uproarious?  Oh, yes.

Josh has appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Comedy Central, Live with Regis and Kelly…he’s performed on all of the major networks, has appeared in films and has won numerous comedy contests.  Blue has appeared, multiple times, on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” “The Mancow Show” and has had his successes featured in the New York Times, People Magazine, and many other publications and periodicals.

A member of the 2004 United States Paralympic Soccer Team that competed in Athens, Greece, Blue played Forward.  Of the 88 total medals won by the United States during the 2004 Paralympic Games, you can thank Josh Blue and his teammates for NONE OF THEM!  LOL!!

Josh was kind enough to wake early in the morning to chat with us regarding his career, his upcoming visit to Southwest Florida and a whole bunch of other stuff.  As likeable and friendly as one can be, Blue is the dude that you want living next door…the perfect beer-companion.

Gary Levine:  OK, Josh…let’s start at the beginning.  You were born in Cameroon.  I’ve never interviewed anyone born in West Africa.  I guess when your family came to the states, you first resided in St. Paul.  And I believe, as is often the case with young comedians, you began performing at open mic events.  Can you tell us at what age you came to the United States and, I guess this is a two-part question, but what prompted you to take a shot at open mic?

Josh Blue:  “I was really young when we moved back to Minnesota…back to the states.  I was probably like one, so I don’t remember Cameroon really.  But when I was 15, I lived in Senegal for a whole year, so, I definitely remember Africa.  You know, part of my time in Africa actually was what prompted me to start doing stand-up.  Just seeing other parts of the world and realizing that just because I’m disabled doesn’t mean that I don’t have a bunch of other great [expletive] going on!”

We laughed…

“Like fooooood!  And water!  I didn’t start doing open mics until college, which was pretty young in the grand scheme of things.  I did open mic on my campus.  It was for like music and poetry.  And I went up there…I was like ‘What’s up?  I got Palsy!'”

Describing the sound that emanated from my nose would be difficult.  I’m grateful that only sound came out.

Gary Levine:  Your material is a blend of observational comedy, blue-humor and issues related to Cerebral Palsy…and it’s freaking hilarious.  Would you tell us how you believe that jokes about this disability function to make people recognize that their preconceived notions about the disorder are inaccurate?  And, have you ever been approached by others, living with CP, and what types of reactions have you received from them?

Josh Blue:  “Well, you know, as far as reactions from others, it’s been 98.99% positive, with people very happy that I’m out there giving disability a new way for people to look at it.  I think there’s such a low expectation of disability that when anyone that’s disabled does anything, it blows people’s minds.  When you’re actually really good at something, I think it takes it to another level…because people misunderstood what that disability is.”

And Josh goes far beyond “really good.”  In addition to his blossoming comedy career, Blue is a talented artist, public speaker and a father of two.

“Occasionally, I’ll get a little push-back…here and there.  But, usually, what it is is people that are ignorant.  Any push-back that I’ve gotten is like (as Josh reverts to a nasal, dorky voice) ‘You know, I have a friend in a wheelchair and I don’t appreciate what you’re saying.’  I’m like…’Ask your friend in the wheelchair what they think…’cause I’m pretty sure they would agree with what I’m saying here!’

Gary Levine:  While we’re on the subject of Cerebral Palsy…and I really don’t want this to dominate our conversation because we need to talk about your amazing work and your ingenuity and how much we enjoy listening to you…but I do want to chat briefly about the breakthroughs using stem cells in treating the disorder.  What have you heard?  What do you think we can expect over the next couple of decades?

Josh Blue:  “Well, I mean as far as stem cells stuff, I think that’s great for a lot of people.  There aren’t a lot of people that can really benefit from that type of thing.  You know, I’ve had people ask me before if I could fix it, would I.  I would not.  This is what I’ve known my whole life and I would feel like I was abandoning my people.  And, let’s say the amount of Cerebral Palsy that I have…sure it’s an inconvenience for some things…but it’s the right amount.  I have the right amount of Cerebral Palsy…if that makes sense.  It’s not too much, it’s not unnoticeable.  As far as stage goes, I have the exact right amount where it’s bearable.”

The statement sort of caught me off-guard, a bit…yet was thoroughly understood.

“You have the ability to pick change up off of the floor,” I remarked as this is one of Blue’s favorite activities.

“Yes,” Josh quipped.  “I still have the dexterity to pick those nickels up!”

We laughed.

Gary Levine:  You’re a man of many talents.  I read online that you’re an artist…you competed with the United States Soccer team in the Paralympics in Athens, Greece in 2004…done films…and, of course, have an incredibly successful comedy career.   You won the 2006 season of “Last Comic Standing,” you’ve appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “Live with Regis and Kelly,” “Comedy Central,” “Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” and on have appeared on all the major networks.  What haven’t you done, to date, that remains on the Josh Blue bucket list?

Josh Blue: “I’d really like to do my own sitcom.  I’d really like to have a show based on my life.  I just feel like there is a lot I can…I have a show that I’m working on, but it’s an arduous process to write anything, as I’m sure you know…let alone a hit TV show.  I feel like I’m never going to be satisfied in this career or this life.  I’ll never stop trying to add to that list of things.  But, I do art and acting and poetry and music and all that [expletive]!  But, I really feel that if I had my own show, that would be pretty major on the old bucket list!  I also want to do “The Tonight Show.”  I haven’t done that.”

What about writing a book?  Have you thought about writing a book?” I inquired.

“You know what?  It’s funny that you should ask that.  I am about, I’d say, 20 pages away from finishing my book, finally.”

Gary Levine:  Last question, Josh.  I was reading an article about you in the Denver Post and, incorporated in the title was the sentence “At first, you don’t know whether to laugh with him or at him.”  In your case, how do those differ, and, in a perfect world, what do you want the audience to leave with?

Josh Blue:  “I mean, the ultimate things that I want you to leave with are a sore gut and sore jaw from laughing.  You know…and I think it’s been happening in my career…I want you to leave with a different perspective on disability.  I don’t want to hammer you over the head with this concept, but I just want you to laugh so hard, throughout the whole show, that maybe the next day you go ‘Wow, that dude was so funny and he came from a place of difficulty…and he just did it.’  You know, I never want people…how should I say it?  I want to do motivational speaking, but I think it’s such a cheesy, [expletive] form.  I hate that motivational ya-ya [expletive].  But, I also feel like you can do it in a non-cheesy way.  So, I want to get to that point where I am comfortable talking about it more directly.”

Josh paused.

“Again, jokes are jokes.  You can joke about it…I find jokes to be very educational.  I think that humor is one of the last places where you can speak the truth and everybody can hear it…if that makes sense.”

In a world strewn with tension and fear, hatred and disrespect, Josh Blue is a calming and peaceful breeze.  His comedic persona, while both gut-busting and self-deprecating, emits a plea for friendship and compassion and consideration.

“It feels good to make people laugh.  When you’re laughing, you’re not thinking about your [expletive] life!”

Southwest Florida is extremely fortunate in that Josh Blue will be appearing for two nights at the Off the Hook Comedy Club located at 2500 Vanderbilt Beach Road in Naples.  For tickets, please click here.

For those wishing to learn more about Cerebral Palsy, or who wish to offer assistance, please visit the United Cerebral Palsy of Southwest Florida website.

© 2017 Lee Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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