I Define Me — Josh Blue

Josh Blue - I Define MeJosh Blue makes fun of people with cerebral palsy.

Since he also happens to have it himself, no one seems to mind.

Blue is a very successful comedian who delivers stand-up performances across the country and world. What started out as a hobby in college has turned into something with a much larger reach than the open mic nights where he honed his craft.

Blue won the fourth season of the reality show Last Comic Standing, which airs on NBC. He’s also appeared on several television shows, including The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Late Late Show.

“People ask me if I get nervous coming up here on stage,” he said in his opening monologue on Last Comic Standing, according to an ESPN profile. “I say heck no. I’ve got this many people staring at me all day.”

As Blue defines himself with his self-deprecating comedy routine on stages from San Francisco to Iceland, he also manages to define cerebral palsy in a way that shows it is a disorder of the muscles, first and foremost, not the brain.

For the way he breaks down stereotypes attached to disabilities and for his ability to make anyone laugh as he fearlessly clears his own path through life, Oshman & Mirisola honors Josh Blue as this month’s I Define Me recipient.

‘A Normal Thing’

Blue was born in the West African nation of Cameroon. His father was a professor in Africa when he met Blue’s mother. Blue talks about his cerebral palsy at different points throughout his comedy sets. He jokes that state-of-the-art medical procedures were not part of many hospitals in Africa in the 1970s.

Blue was first diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age one. He has said that he didn’t receive special treatment from his parents or sister as he was growing up.

“My parents treated my disability like a normal thing; that I have some special needs. It’s something that exists – I’m going to do things a little differently than others. It wasn’t a big deal.”

His family later moved back to the U.S. and he grew up in St. Paul, Minn. After graduating from high school in 1997, he began attending The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash.

‘If laughter is the best medicine, shouldn’t I be better by now?’

It was in Olympia that Blue set his eyes on stand-up. His friends encouraged him to give it a go, as he was always making them laugh. He began appearing at open mic nights around town, and audiences were laughing from the very start. It was in these small rooms and comedy clubs where he perfected his comedic timing and continuously tried to improve his act.

Humor has a way of bringing people together. A person can watch a stand-up comedian who is a different gender, different ethnicity or from a different continent than them, but as long as they are funny, an attachment can be felt. Blue believes humor is one of the best ways to teach people about disabilities.

“I believe people who come to see the stand-up show will leave my show with a different understanding of disability,” he says. “My goal is to change people’s perceptions, especially before people say something stupid to a disabled person.”

In Blue’s routine, he sometimes touches on one of the most frustrating parts of being disabled.

“A lot of times when you have a physical disability…people will also assume that you are mentally disabled. That’s really annoying.”

What better way to show them than with a biting wit and hilarious jokes from someone with an obvious physical disability?

‘Why Do You Want the Disabled Person on Your Team?’

Blue played sports throughout his childhood, almost exclusively with able-bodied children. He says he was often the last kid picked for the team, but usually by kids who didn’t know him. His friends knew he was actually one of the better football players. Blue attributes this to the idea that the other kids had no idea which way he was going to run, so he often found himself wide open in the end zone.

“My friends would say, ‘We want Josh on our team,’ ” he told ESPN. “And (others) would be like, ‘Why do you want that disabled person on your team?’ And then five touchdowns later they’d be like, ‘Oh, maybe we should start covering that guy a little harder.’”

The first official Paralympic Games was held in Rome in 1960 and included nearly 400 athletes. Since then, thousands of athletes have competed across the world with nearly 4,000 athletes competing in the most recent Paralympic Games. Blue joined the U.S. Paralympic Soccer Team and competed in the 2004 Athens Paralympics.

He’s always had fun playing sports. Blue uses his sense of humor to make light of his athletic deficiencies, but don’t think for a second he doesn’t know how to also use them to his advantage.

“My role on the team is sort of to boost everybody’s energy. I come in and I play hard,” he says.

Television Star

His comedy career has been steadily growing since college. He won the fourth season of NBC’s reality series Last Comic Standing and has recorded multiple comedy specials for Comedy Central and Showtime. In 2009, he recorded “Seven More Days in the Drunk Tank” at the Gothic Theater in Denver. It was shown in theaters nationwide.

Married with two young children, Blue is still on the road performing comedy up to five times a week. It’s just who he is, and he’s really good at it. Sure he uses his disability to his advantage onstage, but if he wasn’t funny, his career never would’ve gotten off the ground.

“Regarding having cerebral palsy, I know realistically that I can’t go up there on stage and ignore it. But the feedback that I get after a minute or two has nothing to do with cerebral palsy.”

Josh Blue is a husband, father, athlete and comedian. He also happens to have cerebral palsy. Consistently showing the world who he is through his humor and wit, he also shows the world what it means to be disabled. It is just as foolish and stupid to judge a disabled person before you know them as it is to judge an able-bodied person before you know them. Blue proves this night after night and on stage after stage.

For adding humor and truth to an ongoing conversation about what it means to have cerebral palsy, and for fighting for those with a smaller voice, we are proud to highlight Josh Blue as this month’s I Define Me honoree.

 

Photo credit: “Josh Blue.” Bryce Boyer, for Comedy Works. Josh Blue by Bryce Boyer. CC BY 3.0.

Ted Oshman

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Ted Oshman has been with Oshman & Mirisola since 1988 serving clients for over 25 years. Learn more about Ted's background and featured practice areas here.

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