Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Comedians with Disabilities Act this Saturday, July 30, at the Uptown Theatre in Napa!

A blind man. A woman who stutters. A wheelchair user. A little person. While this may sound like a description of a support group, it is, in fact, the lineup for the “Comedians with Disabilities Act”, a comedy tour that the San Francisco Examiner called “The most unconventional comics to pop up in 2011”. Made up entirely of performers with different disabilities, the troupe is bringing their “special” brand of humor to Napa’s Uptown Theatre on Saturday night, July 30th, for a one-night-only fundraiser to benefit Special Olympics. The foursome, all of them working northern California comedians, met each other through the comedy club circuit and decided to band together to treat audiences to a unique and unforgettable experience.

“Lots of able-bodied comedians out there tell blind or wheelchair jokes and get the audience to laugh AT the handicapped,” said Michael O’Connell, the group’s wheelchair representative. “But wouldn’t it be more fun for the crowd, we thought, to be invited to laugh WITH the handicapped instead? That’s guilt-free fun right there.”

Since their first sold-out show in Sacramento, the group has been in growing demand, getting booked at such lauded venues as San Francisco’s Punch Line comedy club and at college campuses. Their comedy comes from the lifetime of experiences each has had due to their individual challenges. They see the tour as not only a chance to entertain, but to educate people on disability issues.

“We’re all comedians first,” said Napa native Steve Danner, the comic who is a little person, “and it’s a comedy show. But who says you can’t make people laugh and send them home with something to think about too?”

Danner’s comedy career began as an audience member at a club. The comedian on stage that night decided to have some fun at his expense, and Danner’s skills in heckling back at him led the comic to approach Danner after the show and suggest he give comedy a try. He did so, and soon began a career as a prolific comedian and producer, delighting crowds at clubs and comedy rooms all over the west coast with hysterical tales centered heavily on his dwarfism. His comic journey keeps him on the road much of the time, but as Danner is fond of saying, “Shrimpin’ Ain’t Easy!”.

Michael O’Connell was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy at two years old and went into a wheelchair full time in 1995. But it wasn’t until years later that a friend dared him to try doing comedy at an open mic night at a Sacramento club, and after ending up winning the competition that first night on stage, he never looked back. He’s played comedy clubs from Seattle to San Diego, been featured in newspaper and on radio and television, and counts several Hollywood celebrities among his fans. His business card reads “100% Comedy, 0% Stand-Up”.

Eric Mee was only eighteen years old when, while protecting a young child, he was stabbed in the chest. Complications resulting from his injury led to the loss of his eyesight. Choosing not to let this drastic life change get him down, he began joking about his condition and giving speeches to groups that were always filled with humor. After many suggestions, he turned his talents to stand-up comedy, and now brings his manic energy and outrageous tales to the stage.

Touting herself as “the world’s only female comedian who stutters”, Nina G. hails from the Bay Area and has spent a lifetime dealing with both speech and learning disability issues. A key note speaker and disability activist, Nina turned her talents to the stand-up stage to help raise disability awareness through comedy, and performs at some of the industry’s hottest clubs (the Hollywood Improv and the Purple Onion) and has shared the stage with some of its biggest names (Dave Chappelle).

This concert features a special guest performance by Los Angeles comedian Samuel J. Comroe, a fast-rising stand-up star with Tourette Syndrome. Comroe learned back in school how to get others to laugh about (instead of at) his condition, and used to perform comedy shows on his high school campus at lunch for fifty cents a person. This love of comedy turned into career, and he’s now a regular at LA laugh spots like the Improv, the Ice House and Flappers, has won several comedy competitions (including placing 8th out of 101 in the World Series of Comedy in Las Vegas) and has taken his one-of-a-kind performances nationwide.

Produced by Big Mini Entertainment, the benefit concert begins at 8:00 PM (doors open at 7:00 PM).  Tickets are $20.00 and may be purchased at the box office or through Ticketmaster.

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