Portrait of Lee laughing

“Seriously, can you really not talk at all?” – Lost Voice Guy on #EndtheAwkward

Lost Voice Guy, aka Lee Ridley, is a stand-up comedian who uses a communication aid. This month, he’s turned some of the awkward questions he gets asked about his impairment into a show at the Edinburgh Fringe, Disability for Dunces. We caught up with him between performances…

Why did you get involved with End the Awkward?

Lee performing onstage using his iPad
Photo – Subtle Sensor Photography

I suppose I’ve just always felt close to Scope because of my cerebral palsy. I really liked End the Awkward last year, so thought this was a good opportunity to get more involved. I liked the fact that it didn’t take itself too seriously, while also having a serious message to give out.

Do you encounter a lot of awkwardness yourself?

I would say so, yes. I’ve just got used to it really. Funnily enough, it makes for good material when it happens, so I don’t mind it as much these days. People sometimes ask me after a gig if I can actually talk!

In fact, I can give you a few examples straight from my show of things people have asked me:

  • Can you really not talk at all?
  • Have you ever considered an exorcism?
  • Can you have sex?
  • Are you as clever as Stephen Hawking?
  • Can you go to the toilet on your own?

Where do you think that awkwardness comes from?

I think some awkwardness is just natural. But people just aren’t as educated about disabled people as we would like them to be, which is why this campaign helps. Also, people worry too much about saying or doing the wrong thing. If you just enjoy the company of the disabled person instead of worrying, you’ll learn so much more about issues surrounding disabled people.

Tell us a bit about the show – what would you like audiences to take away from it?

Basically, I’ve decided to answer all the stupid questions that I’ve ever been asked about disability. I’m even inviting the public to submit further questions to me if they are curious about anything, and if it’s good enough, I’ll put it in the show. It’s just a bit of fun really, but I guess I’d like to make people think a bit more before opening their mouths. It’s fun to play with people’s perceptions, and I think it helps take away some of the stigma from disability.

Lee performing onstage
Photo – Caroline Briggs

Finally, one of the biggest areas for awkwardness seems to be dating – like in the first date video we’ve produced with Channel 4. Have you got any awkward dating stories?

I have gone on a few dates with girls who have come to watch my comedy, and one date sticks in my mind. First dates are always awkward, but this one actually went really well. The awkward part came the next day when she sent me a list of doctors who she thought could ‘fix’ me. Those were her exact words. Needless to say, we didn’t have a second date – instead, I sent her a list of doctors who could do brain transplants.

Lost Voice Guy is performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival until 30 August. There’s also a fully accessible performance on Monday, August 24.

Do you have any awkward stories about disability? Let us know, and we’ll share our favourites during the campaign.

One thought on ““Seriously, can you really not talk at all?” – Lost Voice Guy on #EndtheAwkward”

  1. I buy different food items regularly so am usually followed about with suspicion in a store. Opinions are best not getting too bothered about. Often they cannot be fixed as come from a class point of view and need serious conflict to affect a change.
    Helpful, polite and male. Usually perceived as a threat to those in the care industry. These three characteristics are mis-representative instead as interfering or obviously prejudiced, weak and sexist.
    As for the photo at the top of this page with the woman incorrectly shaking hands with a fella whose arm doesn’t end in a hand. The people who are too perfect to ever be awkward are time wasting for the next self ingratiating job promotion.
    Those who are always right are those who are always right. Time moves on and things changes and so, oh if only so would they. Usually the problem person is one who is not always right, this is now a lived as a social disability instead of honesty which would be a sign of a more helpful society.
    Those comfortably arranging the world around themselves have plenty of time to criticise and blame those who forfeit their own time to get of their comfort zone. Often an awkward moment is arranged, viewed from afar and perfectly steered towards with guidance as the know it all people always get what they want. Likely the gullible or credulous or set upon ignoramus hadn’t got the social power to alter the set up without creating offence to the perfect ones.
    Were they all staring saying with their starry eyes, go to him and not us, we have a patronising method which you don’t look the type to be so keen to use, yes not us, him, yes it is a disability, did you say that it was a disability, that is so wrong.

    I thought I should look here to support the aims of your organisation but know I am a worker and not a boss, so don’t know now if I would be suited and able to read what to do each time a pensioned employee had their territory crossed by a freeman.

    John likes to shake hands because he likes to put you at ease, not to put his program in front of his personality.


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