First Gig Worst Gig

Lee Ridley

Lee Ridley

It's been quite a twelve months for Lee Ridley, aka Lost Voice Guy, who entered Britain's Got Talent about a year ago, won the whole thing, and went from popular circuit stalwart to one of the best-known acts in the country. Good decision, it turned out.

The busy comic is having a notable few weeks now too. Next Thursday he's putting that profile to good use as a big draw at the Joke For Scope show in Manchester, which will help that fine charity to fight for the rights of disabled people. And before that he's putting his thoughts on those issues into print, as his first book has just hit the shelves.

"It's always been a dream of mine to write a book, so I'm delighted to have had the opportunity to do it," Ridley tells us. "It's called I'm Only in it for the Parking, and it's basically all about the stupid questions people ask me because I'm disabled. I always get asked a lot of really silly questions in my day to day life, so I decided to write them all down for you.

"My favourites in the book are 'have you ever tried to talk just to see what would happen?' And 'Are you as clever as Stephen Hawking?' Spoiler alert, I'm not! I hope it helps other disabled people from being asked similar stupid questions in the future."

Joke for Scope

Meanwhile Ridley has been playing at some rather nice theatres this year, which continues with next week's Joke For Scope show. It's at Manchester's Stoller Hall and also features Tez Ilyas, Romina Puma, Tanyalee Davis, Aaron Simmonds et al, with Lost Voice Guy top of the bill. It's a nice position to now be in.

"Winning the show has changed my life in so many ways," he says. "I'm busier than I ever was before, as a comedian. The general public have been so supportive as well, I'm always getting stopped for selfies, and having people congratulate me. And it has been really nice. I'm very grateful for all the kind words I have received.

"But the best thing to happen since I won is that people are engaging with me a lot more, than they would have in the past. For the first time, they seem comfortable talking to a disabled person. This has also meant that I'm happier in myself as well. I think that is because I've finally realised that people don't care about my disability as much as I thought they did."

Which is a seriously positive outcome to that seemingly random punt at reality show success. The Britain's Got Talent effect: don't knock it 'til you've tried it. Now let's head to that other glitzy bastion of glamorous family entertainment: Sunderland!

First gig?

My very first gig was in Sunderland, which was an experience in itself. Because of my disability, it was always going to be a very nerve-racking gig. I didn't even know if telling jokes through a communication aid would work at all. I thought that no one would understand my computer and that I'd just be standing there telling jokes to myself. But, once my first few jokes were out of the way, I began to relax and enjoy myself a bit more.

It just felt so great to be standing up on that stage and having people laugh at stuff that I'd written myself. By the time I walked off stage, I didn't want it to end at all. I was on a massive high for the rest of that night. In fact, I didn't get any sleep that night because I was still so excited about what had just happened. In that moment, I knew that I wanted to be a stand-up comedian, and I couldn't wait to get up on that stage again.

Lost Voice Guy. Lee Ridley

Favourite show, ever?

I think it has to be when I took my tour show to my home city of Newcastle. It was great to perform to a full theatre in front of a thousand Geordies. It was a dream come true. I also got my Mum up on stage that night to thank her for always supporting me and helping me to follow this crazy dream of mine.

Worst gig?

The strip club in Birmingham. This is the only time I've ever been to a strip club in my life. Honest, Mam. And after this particular experience, I'm in no hurry to go back. Of course it wasn't being used as a strip club while I was performing (although I was told to keep my set short as the girls were getting ready for the actual strip club to open later), it was just a comedy night that was using a strip club as a venue. Not that this made it any better.

Comedy in strip clubs doesn't work. The lighting is all wrong because it's set up to show off dancing girls, not middle-aged comedians, the sound system is terrible, and everything you touch seems to be sticky. They didn't even take down the pole that the girls dance around while we were performing. I wasn't sure whether to tell jokes or do my best slut-drop.

Which one person influenced your comedy life most significantly?

Ross Noble is someone that I admire greatly. I first met Ross outside one of his gigs at the Newcastle City Hall. He had done an impression of Stephen Hawking on stage during his show so afterwards I challenged him to a competition to see who could do the best Stephen Hawking impression. He found it so funny that he actually told the story in his next show.

Ross has been a massive help to me. Not only did he invite me to warm up for him at one of his Newcastle gigs, he has also been very helpful with advice and things like that. I know I can always go to him if I'm not sure about any aspect of my budding career and he'll be there to guide me. I just love how quick-witted and random he can be! Every show is different with him.

And who's the most disagreeable person you've come across in the business?

I know this is kind of a cop out, but I can't think of anyone that I REALLY dislike. Obviously, there's a few promoters who I definitely wouldn't work for again because of very late payments, bad attitudes etc. But, on the whole, the comedy circuit has been really good to me, and I'm very grateful for that.

Is there one routine/gag you loved, that audiences inexplicably didn't?

There's a bit in my new tour show where I talk about not being able to go to Alcoholics Anonymous because I'd have trouble with the 12 steps. It's a funny joke! No one else in the audience ever seems to agree though.

Lost Voice Guy book. Lee Ridley

Has the book been fun to do - or are you glad that it's finished?

To be honest, I've always loved writing and I've always dreamed of writing a book. So writing was a passion of mine from a young age. I used to always write short stories when I was younger, and I think my love just grew from there really. I was lucky enough to have a great English teacher at school who always pushed me to do my best.

So I would say that English was my favourite subject at school because I was made to work really hard at it and had a teacher who believed in my abilities. I also think that my love of writing has helped me as a comedian because it's made me a much better storyteller. So, when the opportunity to write this book came about, I jumped at the chance. It's always been an ambition of mine and I'm very proud that I've achieved it.

What's the most memorable review, heckle or post-gig reaction to your stuff?

One guy on Twitter definitely didn't like the fact that I did my comedy using a communication aid. The tweet said "well done on finding the easiest way to do comedy. You can just write stuff on your laptop, and get that to remember it and say it for you. You know where you can stick your laptop."

As you can tell, he is clearly a very pleasant human being. According to him, I just get up on stage, and then click and go. Of course, he is right. Can you imagine how hard my life would be, if I could actually talk? It just doesn't bear thinking about. I'd have to remember how to say words, remember how to form sentences, remember all my jokes. Clearly by choosing to be disabled, I have taken the easy way out.

How do you feel about where your career is at, right now?

I'm in a really happy place right now. I'm very content with my life. I've never really set myself targets or had specific ambitions. I just started to do stand-up comedy as a laugh, and now I'm making a living out of it. When you sit back and think about it, that's pretty amazing in itself. So I'm just enjoying the ride and seeing where it takes me next. My only goal is to keep making people laugh. As long as I can do that then I'll be happy!

Lee Ridley's book I'm Only in it for the Parking: Life and laughter from the priority seats is out now, visit his website for details:

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