Josh Blue walked out from stage left of the Lory Student Center Theatre Wednesday evening to a ovation by about 600 students and university community members — a normal response for a comedian of his stature.
Like many comedians, Blue followed an opening act, Denver’s Chuck Roy. And like many comedians, Blue worked the crowd, thanked Roy and dove into his material, which is largely impromptu, he told the crowd. He doesn’t use notes, or really know what he will say before he gets on stage.
His tales are a compilation of pop-culture references and sarcastic self-deprecation. Unlike many comedians, Blue, the winner of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” tells jokes with a bit of a twist.
“About my arm . I’m aware,” he joked as the audience erupted with laughter. “Frankly, I’m just as scared as you are.”
Blue looked at his right arm flailing at his side, illustrating to the nearly sold-out theatre the bulk of his comic material: Making light of his disability, cerebral palsy — a brain development disorder.
Then, looking at the American Sign Language interpreter, Blue said his arm, with a mind of its own, caters to the deaf as well.
“Your services are not needed,” he said. “The arm’s got it down.”
To ‘diffuse an already awkward situation’
According to Blue’s Web site, the Denver comedian “uses his incredible sense of humor and likeability to defy stereotypes and encourage others to overcome their preconceived notions about people who are considered ‘disabled.'”
“I’m able to diffuse an already awkward situation with something funny,” Blue said in a post-show interview.
Despite a scattering of political and cultural jokes, most of Blue’s stories poke fun at his disability. For example, he said, “If you’re allowed to talk to me like I’m retarded, I’m allowed to act like a retard,” giving retort to people who react badly to his condition.
Allison Adler, an administrative assistant for Resources for Disabled Students, said her office had been abuzz since Monday as students and staff had been “pulling up YouTube clips” of Blue.
But Adler said such excitement wasn’t garnered because of some sort of inspiration created by the disabled comedian, but rather because “he’s just a funny guy.”
Terry Schlicting agreed.
The alternative testing coordinator for RDS and chairman for the Fort Collins Commission on Disabilities said, “He?Proxy-Connection: keep-alive
0?s not just another comedian because he has a disability, but he’s no better or no worse than anyone else.”
Blue, who called comedy “a day job” in his act, said he knows people take his comedy as inspirational but just wants to make people laugh.
“That word gets thrown around a lot, but I’m just making people laugh, and that’s really what I’m trying to do.”
‘The biggest minority’
Next to a silver platter of cheese and crackers, squished between merchandise booths and hoards of hungry students sat a Resources for Disabled Students display reading:
“RDS recognizes that disability reflects diverse characteristics and experiences, and is an aspect of diversity integral to society.”
The excerpt serves as the first sentence of the mission for the advocacy office, which aims to “collaborate with students, instructors, staff and community members to create useable, equitable, inclusive and sustainable learning environments” according to it’s Web site.
Behind the table, which also presented handouts and pamphlets, stood RDS members helping to spread awareness about disabilities.
“I’m in a minority group, just like any other minority group,” said Schlicting, who, like Blue, lives with cerebral palsy.
In a post-show interview, Blue agreed.
“(Disabled people are) the biggest minority group in the world,” he said.
Both Alder and Schlicting said the mission of the advocacy office is to “normalize” disabilities.
“RDS wants to normalize disabilities. It’s part of the human condition,” Alder said in a phone interview.
ASAP, CSU’s student activity planning organization, which worked to bring Blue to campus, often pairs with advocacy groups like RDS when presenting a show or lecture.
“It just depends on what kind of program we’re doing, but ASAP as a whole, we definitely co-program with a lot of advocacy groups,” said Melissa Burrows, comedy coordinator for ASAP.
The show formulated solely out of the ASAP office during the summer, sparking a five-month, $9,400 journey to bring Blue to the Student Center stage.
But in finalizing plans for the program, Burrows said from the get-go the organization took into consideration, “Who can we co-program with? Who else can benefit from this program?”
“We automatically said ‘Resources for Disabled Students,'” Burrows said. “We talked to (RDS), and they were so excited about it.”
She said that people may garner inspiration from Blue’s performance, adding that both she and RDS were excited to work with the comedian.
“He’s hilarious. That’s No. 1,” Burrows added. “And not only that, he does break down barriers, and he never ceases to overcome obstacles with his disability.”
In his act, Blue poked fun at people calling him inspirational, ending a story with, “I’m on my way to the liquor store, you inspired?”
Entertainment Editor Johnny Hart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.