Life is funny at times — we should all roll with it!
PHOTO: Comedian Ahren Belisle from his second Kill Tony appearance with Brian Moses and Thai Rivera. (Via YouTube)
On Saturday night, I attended a fundraiser for Camp Merrywood at Yuk Yuk’s. Camp Merrywood is a fully accessible campground for kids with disabilities.
For more information about Camp Merrywood, please visit: https://www.eastersealscamps.org/
And while you are there, please consider donating.
Now, back to the show.
Saturday night’s show featured a fantastic lineup: Cesar Makhoul & George Assily, AKA The Lebanese Weightwatchers, Karen Joy, Michael Lifshitz, Steve Love, Ahren Belisle, and MC Jenn Hayward.
The show was amazing. Each comedian killed it.
I do need to mention the headliner, Ahren Belisle.
Ahren Belisle was born with Cerebral Palsy. Due to his specific type of Cerebral Palsy, he is physically unable to speak. The way he communicates is through his smartphone. Ahren uses his finger to type out programmed words and sentences, and the phone says them aloud. That, alone, is amazing to me. I’ve been surrounded by technology my entire life and still am. I know how frustrating technology can be, especially if you’re a person with a disability who relies on it.
All that aside, Ahren Belisle is hilarious. Whether you’re a person with a disability or not, you will relate and laugh your butts off. I promise you.
Check him out on YouTube, and go see him live. You will not be disappointed.
I also want to thank the staff at Yuk Yuk’s and the owner for being so welcoming and helpful. My friends and I had a great time, and we will surely be back.
While I’m on the subject of comedy, this week, I’ll be talking about comedy and people with disabilities.
Not many people these days know that I used to perform stand-up comedy several years ago. I believe it was in 2005 or 2006, and I did it for two years. I primarily performed at Yuk Yuk`s, when they were located on Albert Street.
Back then, the club was tiny. On a busy night, it was nearly impossible to move. The stage didn’t have a ramp. On the nights I performed, I did my set right in front or beside the stage. Some nights, I would do my set at someone’s table near the stage. The mic stand would be right in front of me, and the mics would be right by my mouth, and I’d do my best to not only be heard but also have the audience understand my voice enough for them to laugh.
The other tricky part about the microphone was having to try to situate it in a way where it wouldn`t pick up the sound of my breathing,
As many people know, I’m ventilator-dependent. The ventilator tubing connects to a tracheostomy tube that’s in my throat. To be able to speak, there needs to be air going to my vocal cords, which also means that a certain amount of air needs to escape around the outside of my trach tube.
I sound like Darth Vader in a wind tunnel if any microphone isn't properly positioned.
I really hope you’re laughing if you’re picturing that.
Some nights, the microphone's position was perfect, and other nights, not so much. Regardless, I always had a great time performing, and for the most part, audiences loved it.
However, there were times when people in the audience were uncomfortable laughing at a person with a disability or when I poked fun at myself and living with a disability.
In many people`s minds, it’s wrong to laugh or make fun of people with disabilities. While that’s certainly true in some cases, it isn`t always true — laughing is encouraged if you’re at a comedy show and see a person on stage. You are sitting in a comedy club, after all.
Comedy is subjective, and people will react differently to jokes.
This has always been the case and forever will be the case. We’re all different, and we all have different tastes.
When it comes to people with disabilities, and comedy, my opinion has always been that people with disabilities are human, just like everyone else. We’re not perfect or “special.” We have our quirks, unique experiences, and different perspectives on the world.
What better way for us to share our experiences than by making others laugh and, at the same time, teaching others that we’re not that different than you?
Each week, through this weekly column, I do the same thing. Mind you, most of my articles are about serious topics; I do sprinkle in some humour from time to time.
Or, at least, I like to believe I do.
I can’t tell you what’s funny and what isn`t. That’s up to you to decide. I can tell you there are times and places when it’s ok to laugh at people with disabilities.
And that’s my time.
Thanks for coming. You’ve all been great,