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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Comedians with Disabilities Act Comes to Oakland to Benefit Youth with Disabilities

Posted By on Wed, May 30, 2012 at 12:30 PM

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Thursday night the Comedians with Disabilities Act hits Comedy Off Broadway Oakland to provide a night of laughter for a good cause. The show will raise funds for Youth Organizing Disabled and Proud. The act is part of a statewide tour featuring Bay Area comics with different disabilities. And yeah, they make fun of themselves. Mercilessly Want a sample? Here's Michael O'Connell: "I use the term 'wheelchair comedian' because I'm tired of hearing the giggles when I tell people I do stand-up."

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The group's core foursome includes O'Connell as well as Napa native Steve Danner, who identifies as a little person; Eric Mee, who lost his sight at age 19; and Nina G., who has a stutter and learning disabilities. (We told you about Nina G in a show last fall on a similar theme. Read it here in "Talking Contradiction.")

Thursday's show also features comedians Queenie TT and LeRoy Franklin Moore Jr.


Each comedian draws on life experiences as a person with a disability to create a show that is entertaining and enlightening.

"It's human nature to fear and misunderstand the unknown," explains O'Connell. "Our goal in the comedy troupe is to make the disabled known to as many people as possible."

The group hopes that seeing the act will help people better understand the experiences of people with disabilities and to break some taboos and stereotypes.

"None of us take shots at ourselves," says Nina G. "When doing disability humor, I think it is important to take shots at society, much like what you see in comedians who are politically conscious."

"I will never be able to be just a comedian," O'Connell answers to being labeled by his disability. "I could be just a writer. I could be just a radio talk show host. But I will never be able to get up on a stage, under lights, and not have everyone in the room know that I am a comedian in a wheelchair. And I'm totally cool with that."

The group has shown off its comedic abilities around the state, but tomorrow's show will also give members a chance to showcase their charitable side. Proceeds from the show will go to YO! Disabled and Proud, a group funded through California Foundation for Independent Living Centers, dedicated to engaging youth with disabilities and educating the public on the disability rights movement, disability pride, and the history of people with disabilities.

"The Comedians with Disabilities Act complements our mission in so many ways," says Teresa Favuzzi, executive director of the foundation, "because these talented comedians are showing the public that people with disabilities are successful in all kinds of professions and sectors. They truly are role models for youth with disabilities, and I couldn't be more thrilled that they have chosen to recognize the work that we do at YO!"

In yet another step toward inclusiveness, the Oakland show has sign language interpreters, an unusual occurrence in local comedy.

"It's rare for deaf people to get access to comedy," says Nina G. "I want to ... demonstrate that you can have a comedy show that is inclusive."

The Comedians With Disabilities Act begins at 8 p.m. Thursday (May 31) at Miss Pearl's Jam House, 1 Broadway (at Water), Oakland, as part of Comedy Off Broadway Oakland. Admission is $10.

Awkward Silence is a weekly column covering local stand-up comedy in San Francisco

Follow Dana Sitar on Twitter at @danasitarSF Weekly's Exhibitionist blog at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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