I hear…some truly twisted voices…
The theme of an upcoming show: “So we’re a little different? And you know what? We’re going to laugh about it!!!”
When I saw a post in the “I Love AZ Comedy” Facebook comedy group about a “Comedians With Disabilities” show–I wanted to know more, much more.
“All comedians on this and future shows have what some consider a disability, which is not the same as being disabled,” she stressed.
“Each comedian uses their comedic talent to share their story. They are open, honest and funny as they prove again that having a disability is not the same as being disabled.”
She’s planning this as a series, with the first happening at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 3, at JP's Comedy Club, 860 Warner Road, Gilbert. Tickets are $15 (for groups and people with disabilities email email@example.com for a discount).
Sunday’s show features seven comics, with Mike Bolland leading the way. I got tuned into this deviously funny young man when I was the managing editor of the Mesa Tribune; when I interviewed him, I learned that being born without a right hand didn’t prevent him from being a professional bowler, a child actor and (most impressive to me) a professional tire changer, before deciding to take the plunge into comedy.
You heard it here first: Mike Bolland is going to be a big star, some day...
He was also one of the first performers I featured when I launched HARK Valley last summer. (Read the profile here.)
Daring himself to try to make people laugh, he told me, was a major check on his bucket list at a troubled time in his life:
“In 2016 I found out that I had cancer. Not the type of news you like to hear. But if (and when) I was going to beat it, there were two things I wanted to do in my life after recovery – come out of ‘retirement’ and hit a couple of Pro Bowling events, and try stand-up comedy. About a year after my cancer surgery and radiation, I started to feel like myself again. So I hit the lanes and bowled a bit. But once I hit the stage and tried comedy, I realized I had more passion for giving that my time than going back on tour…”
I checked in with Boland this week, asking him what was new. His reply:
“I’m the subject of the May episode of Match Play TV. Looking forward to that. We talk about my love of golf, how I play with one hand (not saying I’m good), my career at Discount Tire and of course my comedy. Plus we touch on my acting in The Trial of Billy Jack, my time on the Pro Bowlers Tour and my cancer. I’ll let you know more about it when it’s ready to air. I have quite a busy April ahead….” Check out his schedule here.
And how does he feel about being on a lineup of comics with disabilities?
“We don’t always get an opportunity to work with others that are in a sense like us. I think it will be a lot of fun.”
In addition to Bolland, the “Comedians With Disabilities” show features Celia Contreras (bipolar disorder), A J Coulter (autoimmune disease), Johnny Moss (rheumatoid arthritis), Kenny Shade (multiple sclerosis) and show producers Frisius (traumatic brain Injury) and Sandra Risser (essential tremors).
“While all the comics have sustained what some would consider disabilities, none consider themselves disabled and all have a wicked sense of humor,” Frisius told me.
She gave me snapshots of each performer.
“Celia is a bipolar comic, which some might think redundant. Bipolar disorder includes delusions of grandeur, depression, and mania. She says ‘I have trouble with impulse control, and gauging if my moods are justified, or if I'm just angry/happy for no reason.’ Combine that with stage time, and the result is wild comedy.”
Visit her Facebook page for the punchline to one of her jokes with the setup “yeah who's bringing the condoms me, or you?…”
“Comic AJ Coulter has an autoimmune disease called FSGS that caused his kidneys to fail 5 years ago. Currently, on dialysis, he uses his jokes to tell his story and inspire others.”
He is only half kidding when he says that drinking high sugar drinks would kill him, which makes him “the only Black man the Kool-Aid man hated.”
“A regular at the Lounge and on This Week Sucks Tonight, Johnny Moss doesn’t let arthritis slow down his rapid-fire wit.”
“I’m 79 years old,” he says, on stage, “I haven’t always been this good looking…and I can’t remember shit.”
He also jokes, “I’m both oversexed–and undersexed. I think about it all the time…but I can’t do anything about it!”
“Sandra is funny, sexy (for her age). Irreverent, and she has essential tremors. They are not essential for her but are called that as she is the first in her family to get them. Although the majority of people with benign tremors don't get them until they are in their 60s or older, Sandra, being the overachiever that she is, began showing symptoms in her early 40s. Four years ago she had Deep Brain Stimulation surgery (DBS) which eliminated about 90% of her overt symptoms. Of course, most people still don't want to sit in the front row when she does knife skills presentations.”
She describes herself as “a military veteran and veteran of the Nashville and Phoenix comedy scenes. Prior to being injured in a car wreck, Snopes labeled reports of her having a brain ‘questionable,’ but she has an MRI to prove it.”
“...the co-founder and promoter of GrAttitude Productions. After Kenny was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, GrAttitude Productions partnered with MS 4 MS, a non-profit organization affiliated with Johns Hopkins University, whose mission is to provide entertainment and sports events to raise funds for Multiple Sclerosis research.”