When Josh Blue started doing stand-up comedy, he sat in a chair so audience members couldn’t see how his body moved.
Back then, Blue, who has cerebral palsy, didn’t want people to know about his disability. He was afraid of telling jokes about it. He was afraid of people staring.
“At first, I didn’t talk about it at all,” Blue said in a phone interview ahead of two shows at Loonees Comedy Corner. “I just wanted to be known as a funny person.”
These days, after nearly 20 years in comedy, he can’t not talk about it. Usually in some sort of self-deprecating way. When he’s on stage, his right hand can be seen consistently shaking while his left holds the microphone.
“The more I talked about it, the more people could relate to it,” the Denver-based comedian said. “If you can be brutally honest about what your weakness is, people are drawn to that.”
Blue, though, doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed as “the palsy comedian.”
“I want to be the comedian who happens to have palsy,” he said.
Blue has made a name for himself, especially after winning the 2006 season of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.” He likens the experience to “a rocket ship” for his career.
He estimates he averages 200 performances per year. His fifth comedy special is due out this year and he has appeared on Comedy Central programs as well as “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon.
To him, comedy is more than a job.
Blue grew up in St. Paul, Minn., as the youngest of four. He remembers his siblings always talking over him and labeling himself as the “soft-spoken one.”
When he got on stage, though, everyone listened. It gave him courage to talk about whatever he wanted.
“I sort of grew into a loudmouth,” Blue said, with a hint of sarcasm. “It’s very addictive. It’s like, ‘I have a voice now.’”
He has found purpose for his voice.
“This thing (cerebral palsy) has been taboo my whole life,” Blue said. “I feel like my show is about educating you without you feeling it.”
Blue educates by sharing stories from his life.
“I’m very fortunate in that I can just go outside and (stuff) happens to me,” he said. “A lot of things that happen to me, I see the humor in it, rather than the sorrow or whatever it might. I have that outlet in comedy.”
For example, Blues says he is often mistaken for a homeless person because of how his body moves and how he looks.
“I get that everyday,” he said. “I look at that with humor as opposed to crying myself to sleep.”
And he sees it as material.
On “The Tonight Show,” he recounted an interaction in which a homeless man offered Blue stuff — like batteries and sweatpants — from a garbage bag.
Blue’s punchline: “This dude’s coming toward me and I’m like evaluating my life. How bad do I look that this homeless dude is trying to help me out?”
He hopes such stories make people laugh and make people think about how to treat people.
“I talk about disability in my show, but it’s not all about that. That’s just my point of view,” he said. “When you leave my show, maybe you’ll you have a different perspective. Next time you come into contact with someone who is different than you, maybe you’ll rethink how you interact with them.”