Heading into last year’s presidential election, comedian Josh Blue took things as seriously as any stand-up comedian could — he ran for office.
Joining up on the independent ticket of fellow comic Ron White as his vice presidential nominee, Blue said their platform included a nationwide legalization of marijuana and better treatment for veterans and the disabled.
“We probably should have stuck with that,” Blue said. “I think we would’ve won.”
Now, unlike some comedians who have gladly made bank from the chaos surrounding President Trump’s first 10 months in office, Blue hasn’t found much to laugh about since his own campaign with White fell short.
“Unfortunately, (some) people say you should just be excited about all the material,” Blue said about being a comedian in the age of Trump. “But there’s nothing f***ing funny about it, man. And the thing is, (Trump’s) people aren’t the kind of people who take jokes well. He doesn’t take jokes well. He said they should shut down Saturday Night Live because they made fun of him. And they’ve been doing that for decades, making fun of the president. I’m afraid of getting shot if I say the wrong thing.”
But he’s not backing down from the challenge. In fact, he’s never backed down from any challenge – and he’s faced many.
For those who don’t know Blue, the 38-year-old comic has Cerebral Palsy, a lifelong movement disorder that starts during childhood. He’s addressed his disability head-on throughout his comedy career with a self-deprecating style discussing how he lives with it, as well as the reactions of others to it.
He’s helped put people with disabilities into the national spotlight with his numerous TV appearances, and has raised awareness for those who all too often go unnoticed in mainstream media.
Just don’t call him inspirational.
“I just feel like it takes away from your real accomplishments,” Blue said of the dreaded word. “Like, people say, ‘He’s inspirational,’ when I do a mundane action, just because I’m disabled. People say it’s so inspirational what you do, and I go, ‘Well, I don’t do (comedy) because of my disability. I do it because it’s what I want to f***ing do.’ People mean well and that’s the hard part, because people think they’re being so nice and generous, when really what they’re saying is: ‘If I was you, I would’ve killed myself.’”
In 2006, Blue won the fourth season of NBC’s reality series Last Comic Standing. The national TV attention widened his audience and helped pave the way for his four comedy albums, 2008’s Good Josh, Bad Arm, 2012’s Hooligan Stew, 2013’s Sticky Change, and last year’s Delete.
“When I started getting successful, it took me probably almost six years to become comfortable and think about (being thought of as inspirational) in a way that I can deal with it, because I’m up there to be funny and be a comic,” Blue said. “That’s my first priority. But if you take something else from it, I’m not going out of my way to inspire you. I’m just doing what I want to do. But if you are inspired, that’s great. There’s more going on in our society than just comedy that a lot of times people need to see success to know something’s possible.”
Blue said he’s happy to see the recent success of the ABC sitcom Speechless, which also uses humor to discuss the difficulties of growing up with Cerebral Palsy.
“They approached me and told me about it,” Blue said of the show. “It’s a really good show. It’s not delicate about disabilities. A lot of times, people have been afraid to be real with it, and it’s a good-hearted attempt at being real with it.
“It’s kind of funny, because I’m thinking, ‘Did I write this? Did they steal all my material? Or was it universal enough that this really is shit that happens to disabled people?’”
Currently residing in Denver and happily continuing to celebrate that state’s legalization of marijuana, Blue is working on sitcom ideas of his own while exploring woodworking, painting and raising his two children.
Just don’t assume his love for weed comes from a purely medicinal standpoint.
“The thing I always say when people ask me if (marijuana) makes me feel better, I tell them ‘No, it doesn’t — I just like getting high,’” Blue said. “The thing of it is that it’s not that it makes me feel better, it just makes me forget that there’s anything wrong.”
In 2017, here’s hoping unique comedy like his can help us all do the same for a moment.
Dr. Grins at The B.O.B., 20 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids
Nov. 16-18, $10-$20
thebob.com/drgrinscomedy, (616) 356-2000