Punchline Magazine presents the yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s greatest stand-up underdog story: After his Last Comic Standing victory, the wise-beyond-his years comedian releases his first live concert film, is booked into next summer and preps for a lifetime in the laugh business.
By Jessica Agi
Since winning the latest season of Last Comic Standing, and ultimately scoring himself a half-hour stand-up show on Bravo and a development deal with NBC, Josh Blue has rarely stopped moving.
It’s a Friday afternoon and Blue has just landed in Florida for a headlining spot he’s doing that evening. But the sky-weary yet chipper stand-up comedian is happy to talk. “I work pretty much every day of the week and I’m in a different city every night, which is really crazy,” the 28-year-old comic says. “I’ve just been working all the time. [Last Comic] changed my life, because now I’m really famous,” he jokes. “It’s cool that so many people want to see what I have to say, but it’s also a head trip.”
Calling it a “head trip” is a huge understatement. Blue was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that permanently affects body movement and muscle coordination, at the age of 1. Normally, it’s no laughing matter, but for Blue, CP has been the backbone for
a lot of his jokes. Stand-up, known to rip the honesty from performers’ mouths, makes perfect sense to Blue, who has no reservations about talking about his condition onstage or off.
“The thing is, it’s all I’ve ever known, you know? Cerebral palsy. If I didn’t have palsy, I’d just be some other geeky white guy,” he says. “Now at least I have something to talk about.” Blue is so honest, it’s painful sometimes. So it’s no surprise that he admires Chris Rock, a comedian known for his “no BS” approach.
“I just think he’s very educated, a very smart man,” explains Blue. “The stuff he talks about, if you think about it, should not be funny, but the way he puts it makes you not only laugh but also think about the situation.”
Blue calls his own stand-up style self-deprecating. “Some of my friends call it ‘reverse teasing’ because I make fun of myself,” he says. “I make fun of you by making fun of myself by making fun of you if that makes any sense at all.”
Sad but true, people are bound to stop and look, “so I want to give them something to stare at,” he says. “No one would deliberately be a jerk about someone with a disability, but you know if they are — fuck them. If people have negative things to say, usually it’s just that they’re ignorant. You’re afraid of what you don’t understand.”
This attitude came shining through for Blue even when his career in stand-up was just fledgling. Though he started hitting the country’s stages in earnest in 1999, Blue first did stand-up as a sophomore at Evergreen State College, a liberal-arts school in Washington. He used the confidence he gained from those informal shows to start at open- mics. During his last year of school, he was doing time every week at
a local coffee shop.
It’s been an upward climb ever since. Two years before he beat out 11 other contestants on Last Comic Standing, Blue won the Bass Ale New Talent Contest as well as $10,000 for being tops at the Las Vegas Comedy Festival’s Royal Flush Comedy Competition. He’s also just released his first live concert film 7 More Days in the Tank! and is already booked to headline clubs across the country well into the summer 2007.
Wise beyond his years and continually active, Blue has never let his condition ground him from doing much of anything – even off the comedy stage. He’s an avid soccer player, and in fact, went to Athens, Greece, to play as a member of the 2004 U.S. Paralympic soccer team. He’s also been known to occasionally play the slide guitar for Denver band Zebra Junction, and he’s an enthusiastic painter and sculptor.
“I had a big art show at a gallery opening four days after I won Last Comic Standing,” he says, adding that the gallery experience was one of his most rewarding accomplishments, even with all his newfound fame.
“Things are still good, but it definitely takes getting used to,” Blue says. [It’s]“Like you’re on a date and somebody comes at you, like, ‘Hey man, can I get your autograph?’ It’s hard to keep her feeling special because all these people want my attention so much. It’s a weird dilemma to be in.
OUT OF AFRICA
Blue is no stranger to adjusting to an ever-changing life. He was born in the central African nation of Cameroon, where his father, Walt, a French professor, was teaching English in the small rural country. Although he left when he was very young, Blue returned to Africa when he was 15 and has been to the continent four times since.
“The last time I was in Africa, I was doing an internship,” he says of his time at the Dakar Zoo in Senegal. “I’ve been attacked by more animals than most people know the names of. The cool thing about Senegal is that I knew if I got the internship there, the laws and rules were a little more lenient. So the first day I got to the zoo, they gave me a broom and put me in a tiger cage to clean it — holy shit!”
But since the summer of 2001, when Blue took a job at an Easter Seals camp, the comedian has called Denver, Colo., home. By 2002, he quit
a steady paycheck — this time working with developmentally disabled adults — to pursue stand-up full time.
He and his family get good mileage out of their passports. His brother lives in Korea, one of his sisters lives in Mexico, and his other sister and his parents live in Minnesota. Perhaps it’s that Midwest culture that keeps Blue out of the sometimes toxic Hollywood scene. Don’t get him wrong, he’s still good friends with fellow Last Comic Standing contestants. It’s just that his aspirations lie beyond the stand-up stage.
“There’s a ton of stuff on my plate. I’d like to be in movies, write a sitcom, and maybe direct eventually,” he says. “I have a book that I’d like to publish. I started writing it in college — just a bunch of short stories about my life. I gotta work more on it. And I’d like to have a big house out in the woods somewhere and raise some kids.”
Blue continues to entertain and inspire comedians, comedy fans and those living with disabilities. “With comedy, the only way you know you’re good at it, or to figure it out, is to do it — you have to try it and see what happens,” he says. “The way I learned comedy is just by watching other people — watching many other comics, see what you like and what you don’t like. As for living with a disability, watch as much comedy as you can. Don’t take things too seriously. I won’t ask for help but I’m not afraid to ask for help. There’s a fine line between asking for too much help and just being stubborn.”
Blue is no doubt a brave man. He uses something that stops so many others as fuel for success. He has every right to be on cloud nine but has somehow stayed grounded throughout it all. It makes sense that when asked about his biggest fear, nothing comes to mind: “I know when to be afraid of situations,” he says, “and I know when not to be.”