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?
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.
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.