Years ago, I thought I’d have a crack at being a stand up comic! I ‘performed’ on a number of open mike nights at various rowdy open-mike nights with varying degrees of success. It’s a merciless profession, which few have truly mastered. But how do you go about taking the stage, if you can’t even speak?! This is the challenge faced by one comedian who has been entertaining the crowds at this year’s Fringe Festival.
Lee Ridley is by no means the first stand-up comic with cerebral palsy. Francesca Martinez, Laurence Clark and US comic, Josh Blue are good examples of comedians with cerebral palsy who have established themselves as regular fixtures on the comedy circuit. More recently, young Jack Carroll rose to fame on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ with his own brand of cheeky humour. The disability affects them differently, but in comparison to the latest comedian with the condition, they seem to have one clear advantage: They can speak!
Lee Ridley is 32 and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at six months. The disability deprived him of speech. Thanks to advances in technology, however, he has been given a voice. Now, he is able to communicate by means of his ipad and a voice synthesiser, allowing him to express himself in a way that previously would have been impossible and unleash his own brand of dark, yet highly entertaining satire.
Writing for ‘The Independent’, Paul Fleckney described Ridley’s ‘Lost Voice Guy’ routine as “laugh-out-loud funny” and Lee has already performed at a long list of venues throughout the country. You can catch excerpts of his material on ‘You Tube’ and some of it is nothing short of hilarious. Not surprisingly, his gigs focus on his disability and the humorous ups and downs he has experienced over the years.
Given he has been performing for just a year, Ridley’s rise to fame has been meteoric to say the least. His story is not just one of triumph over disability, but one which shows that it is acceptable to laugh at ones physical peculiarities, provided it is handled in the right way. Lee is by no means the first disabled comedian with cerebral palsy, but given his success over the last twelve months, it seems he is bound to take the stand-up world by storm.
Technology, guts and a wicked sense of humour have given this young man the voice he’d never thought he’d have and I am in no doubt we’ll be ‘hearing’ a lot more from him in the years to come!