Imagine being dumped in the drunk tank because you have cerebral palsy and the cops think you’re drunk. Comedian Josh Blue, winner of the fourth season of NBC’s Last Comic Standing, has dealt with that kind of ignorance his entire life. With his stand-up comedy career in high gear, the 29-year-old has turned the spotlight onto cerebral palsy, and has become an activist and poster boy for the physically handicapped in the process.
This Thursday, Blue will perform alongside Last Comic Standing Season 1 alum Ralphie May at The Comedy Festival at Caesars Palace.
If you don’t recognize his name, you probably know his face. Blue’s signature look consists of crazy light brown curls held back with a headband and some shaggy facial hair. He calls it the “homeless guy look,” and, along with his sharp wit, it has made him a memorable figure on the comedy circuit.
Blue’s path to comedic stardom has been a slow climb. After years in comedy clubs, he was recognized at the first Las Vegas Comedy Festival in 2004, where he won the $10,000 grand prize at the Royal Flush Comedy Competition. Post-award he went back to hitting the clubs full force and eventually tried out for Last Comic Standing, the reality show/comedy competition that pits comedians against each other in weekly challenges until just one comic remains. Blue made it into the Last Comic house after auditioning two years in a row, and provided serious competition, eventually edging out veteran performers like Chris Porter and Kristen Key, with whom he still keeps in touch. “That’s the coolest thing about the show, that we all maintained a level of friendship,” Blue says.
As part of Last Comic Standing, the contestants challenge each other to stand-up showdowns, after which the losers have to leave the show. However, Blue made it through the preliminary rounds without receiving a single challenge.
“No one challenged me ‘til the end. I guess I had made a big enough noise at first that people decided ‘I’m not going to mess with that dude.’”
In his act, Blue not only acknowledges his cerebral palsy, but also uses it to his advantage, turning the crazy things that happen to him because of his condition into jokes. For instance, Blue says, he tends to get 86-ed from bars before he even gets in. The bouncers assume that he’s inebriated because of the way he moves.
“This is just ridiculous frankly. I was in NYC for a party and I was meeting some friends in a bar. I came from another party and I had a beer in my hand already. And I know you’re not supposed to be drinking on the street but I get away with a lot of shit I’m not supposed to. The door guy saw me walk up with the beer and the way I was walking and he thought I was just completely annihilated.”
The bouncer yelled at him, and even after Blue threw his beer away, refused entry. But some quick thinking from Blue saved the night. “I was standing there and I saw my friend who has thick black glasses, and he’s wearing like a tweed sports coat. I asked him to give me his glasses and sports coat, and I gave him my sweatshirt. I took off my headband and fluffed up my hair and we walked right in. The guy didn’t even ID us.” Things got a little hairy later when Blue, back in his original sweatshirt, walked out past the bouncer who was outraged, wondering how he had been able to get in.
There’s a lot more to Blue than the funny business. Born in Cameroon, the comedian spent several years in Senegal and speaks French and Wolof nearly fluently, though many people think he’s “full of sh*t” upon hearing of these skills. Growing up, Blue says, he developed a quick wit, because his speedy retorts would just “shut people down.”
Today, Blue lists artist, sculptor and athlete among his titles. “[I] can’t really draw straight lines,” Blue says, “so I don’t really try to.” He says people often see very different things in his art, which tends toward bold paintings in subdued color palettes. He doesn’t worry too much about interpretation, “as long as it provokes some type of thought.
Also a member of the U.S. Paralympic soccer team, Blue helped them to finish in eighth place at the 2004 Athens Paralympics. While balancing the team with his touring schedule and a wife and child at home can be difficult, Blue tries to incorporate his family into his work. "One day I'll take [my son] on the road and teach him how to sell merchandise. [In a little kid's voice] Will you buy one of my daddy's CDs?"