I’m a stand-up comedian who happens to have cerebral palsy. My comedy thrives on breaking taboos. Disability still seems to be considered a taboo which is why you get so many comics doing material about it. But because I’m disabled I think sometimes there’s a preconception that my act is going to be worthy in some way and not particularly funny. Sometimes people say to me “you don’t do comedy about disability do you?” as if they think it’s going to be really depressing. However no one would dream of telling a Chris Rock to not do material about being Black. All stand-up comics use aspects of themselves and their experiences to create material and I don’t see why disabled comics should be any different. So I tend to use uncomfortable, socially awkward past experiences as inspiration – it’s very cathartic! Oh yes, and funny! Very, very funny!
My show Independence which I did at the Edinburgh Fringe in August is in Liverpool as part of DaDaFest this weekend. It’s about how I live my day-to-day life as someone with cerebral palsy who has to rely on other people to help me with things like dressing and shaving. I talk about what it means to me to live independently. However along the way it covers my 8 week stint in Scottish physical dance theatre (not an obvious career choice for a wheelchair user!), being impersonated by Daniel Radcliffe and what to do when 500 incontinence pads get mistakenly left on your doorstep!
For a long time now I’ve really wanted to make a show about what it’s like to go through life relying on others to do personal tasks for you. Oops, as I typed that last sentence and read it back I realised how dodgy it sounds! I mean the kind of things I can’t do for myself. When I came up with the title ‘Independence’ back in January I had no idea just how topical it would turn out to be come the summer! There is a bit of politics in the show, but mostly I think this show is very personal to me.
It’s a very funny show told from a unique perspective but it was initially difficult to find an angle to sell it. I guess the title I eventually settled on was more than a little ambiguous! As Edinburgh Fringe loomed I had nightmares about front rows of expectant SNP supporters with faces painted like Braveheart: or bitterly disappointed back rows of UKIP-voting pensioners hoping for a show about kicking out immigrants. In actual fact, in the end my flyerers seemed to spend most of their time convincing people the show had nothing to do with European or Scottish independance as they were sick to the back teeth of hearing about it!
See the trailer here:
Needing help from other people quite naturally leads to some very funny situations which I cover in the show. For example, one major task I struggle with is fastening buttons. When I was young my mum replaced all my shirt buttons with Velcro, which worked great until some smart-ass kid discovered the joy of ripping me open whilst shouting “don’t make him angry, you won’t like him when he’s angry.” Of course, the big disadvantage to this is I can’t fasten my jeans either. There’s not always someone around to fasten them for me, but as I’m sat down all day that’s not a problem. In fact I’ve grown quite used to going round the house all day with my pants wide open. It’s handy for getting rid of nuisance doorstep callers like Jehovah’s Witnesses!
Laurence Clark’s show Independence is at the Unity Theatre this weekend on 25 & 26 November as part of DaDaFest International 2016.
For tickets, click here.