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 V.23 No.34 | August 21 - 27, 2014 

Arts Feature

Blue Is the Funniest Color

Comic Josh Blue talks disability, Denver and radical honesty

Josh Blue likes to defy expectations.
photos courtesy of the artist
Josh Blue likes to defy expectations.
There’s a belief in comedy that goes a little something like, “Comics are tragic people who are sad and lonely and probably on drugs or booze because of their sad loneliness.” Sometimes that’s true, and sometimes it’s not. Leading a tragic sad life is not a prerequisite to being a comedian, but there is a certain ownership of life that occurs in the comic brain. They feel completely responsible for the outcome of their lives, whether positive or negative. If comics are sad they look for why, and then they tell a room full of people. Comics even feel responsible and take credit for things that are out of their control, like death, disease and disability.

Enter Josh Blue. The comedian, who won “Last Comic Standing” in 2006, headlines at Santa Ana Star Casino (54 Jemez Dam Rd., Bernalillo) on Thursday, Aug. 21. His competition win was a feat in its own right, but with his appearance on a nationally televised show, Blue became a spokesperson and very public face of people with cerebral palsy. His new role was difficult for him to accept at first. But by taking ownership of this part of himself, Blue says his palsy has become a vital part of his stage presence and career in profound ways.

As a regular touring comedian, Blue has carved out a unique space in comedy for himself. He has a way of making very personal things universally funny by using his life as the source of his comedy, and as such his comedy appeals on a wide scale.

“It took me a while to embrace it, but I guess I’ve gotten enough emails and fan mails from people saying doing what I do makes them want to pursue something,” says Blue. “[Palsy] doesn’t change how I go about doing my stuff because I didn’t get here thinking about that shit.” Although sometimes the topic of his comedy, Blue doesn’t dwell on his palsy as a negative on stage, and he is steadfast in how he represents disability in the public sector. “People just have such low expectations for people with disability,” says Blue, sarcastically adding, “so it leaves the door wide open for me.”

It’s this salt-of-the-earth pragmatism that's helped Blue in his career as a comedian and informs his way of thinking about disability issues. “There have been a lot of disability movements, but nothing gets accomplished unless you say crazy shit,” says Blue. “You gotta slap them around and show them you’re more than that. And really me being up there talking about having a normal life is great for a lot of people.” This belief is evident in his standup. In a recent set for Ron White’s Comedy Salute to the Troops 2014, Blue walks on stage and says dryly, “I know what you guys are thinking, ‘I hope that guy didn’t drive here. I thought the first comic had cerebral palsy. I don’t know what this is.’” The audience laughs uproariously, and Blue goes straight into a story about his time as a paralympian on the US soccer team. Comparing it to the able-bodied Olympics, Blue says, “Oh it must be so hard to run with two legs. Just a bunch of bitches to us.”

Blue is a pleasure to watch. His unassuming, self-deprecating and honest approach lulls the audience into laughing at topics that later linger, touching deep nerves rarely felt. “I want people to leave with a sore gut from laughing, and I want people to return,” says Blue. “I want to blow any expectations audiences have out of the water.”

A transplant to Denver, Blue has taken his brand of comedy all over the country but considers himself a Colorado comedian. “I’m proud of our scene here,” says Blue. “I think we have the best scene outside of New York and LA. It's cool to see them doing their thing.” With the internet, the way comedy is produced and distributed has changed in a lot of ways over the past few years, which is one of the reasons, despite being so far from Hollywood and NYC, why Denver talent has been in the spotlight lately. “The idea of a special is changing,” says Blue, “as in more people are doing specials now. You don’t need a big auditorium. You can record them and get them out there in new ways.” His most recent special, called “Sticky Change,” can be found on Netflix, and his forthcoming movie, 108 Stitches, hits theaters Sept. 12. With his broad-but-edgy appeal, Blue is positioning himself for great things.

As a regular touring comedian, Blue has carved out a unique space in comedy for himself. He has a way of making very personal things universally funny by using his life as the source of his comedy, and as such his comedy appeals on a wide scale. “I have a pretty diverse fan base,” says Blue. “You see old ladies and young guys laughing at the same shit. Which is pretty cool. And I bring a lot more disabled people out than most comics, and I think that’s awesome.” He could have perceived his diagnosis as tragic, but as a comic, Blue saw the humor and humanity of it all and instead took ownership of his life. Despite the fairy tale, not all comics are sad or lonely—but they are brutally honest, self-aware and unapologetic.

Josh Blue performs

Thursday, Aug. 21, 7 and 9:30pm

The Stage @ Santa Ana Star
54 Jemez Dam Rd., Bernalillo

Tickets: $15-$35, 21+
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