I make it a point never to milk my disability. Never ever... well unless I want to skip a small cue, borrow money or get press coverage during the Fringe. However, it can't be denied that being blind on the stand-up circuit has not been without its trials.
Accessibility is a big issue for many a disabled comic. Most comedy clubs and venues are deep down in dark basements or up high in low-ceilinged attics. This means loads of stairs and low ceilings, the sworn enemies of the blinky... I should explain, blinky is a term for a blind person. There are other terms like this in my world: wheelie, a person in a wheelchair. Most of you reading this will probably be 'normos', folk without a disability. It's blue badge banter. Our words for each other, you can't use them.
Now I'm pretty handy with my white stick and comedy club owners, promoters and staff have always been great at guiding me through clubs, on and off stage etc. However, I did a gig at Just the Tonic called 'gig in the dark'. As the name suggests the entire gig is performed in the dark for reasons of pretentiousness lost on me. I should have had home advantage. It's the only gig I've fallen over in! Totally chinned my walk up the stairs to the stage. They flicked the lights on to see if the act was OK and the audience got a snap shot of a blind man bleeding from his chin. The lights went off, the gig went on and the audience were a bit tentative in their laughter!
Also when I was starting out 4 years ago I used to move about on stage. It was probably nerves. I stopped this after my opening night of my 2nd Fringe show, That Funny Blind Guy 2. I was in one of the studios run by Assembly up in George Square. My memories from the performance was that it was weird. The audience were inexplicably tense and the left side of the stage inexplicably hot. It was only afterwards the show tech told me that the entire audience and front of house staff had been terrified for my safety. I'd moved so far over to stage left that for the last 20 minutes of the show my face was constantly drifting within millimetres of a bright red and roasting stage light. Have rooted myself to the spot ever since and am glad to say to date have not yet toasted my face.
The only time my disability has earned me a slap on the wrists was when I went double over my time. I had a new material 5-minute slot at the Edinburgh Stand and I went on for 10. The lights that eventually were put on to alert me to my going over could have landed a jumbo through a thick fog.
But one of the main reasons I do comedy is because being blind doesn't really matter. It's neither a hindrance nor a benefit. That's why I do it. It's nearly a pure meritocracy. Sure, there are cliques and people book people they know. However, if you can consistently make the room laugh then you will be booked. It won't be instant but you will progress.
One of the other main reasons I do comedy is so I can be in control of the humour around my disability. But when I was towed through Euston Station by a rope attached to a quadriplegic's wheel chair it was out of my hands. To find out what that's all about you'll have to come see the show.