Laughter can be cruel, but these performers found that it can also be cathartic.
In collaboration with co-MORBID Productions, UCDSU hosted a not-so-traditional comedy gig at the UCD Clubhouse Bar on Oct. 30. Aptly named “Disability Laughs,” the show’s producers and performers featured comedians with disabilities.
“It’s a great way to get people to relate about disability in a fun, positive way,” disability rights coordinator Hannah Bryson said.
The event’s aim is to create conversation and awareness around disability, showing students that it is not something to be afraid of or avoid talking about. Students have recently complained about the lack of support from UCD’s Access & Lifelong Learning resource, particularly for “invisible” disabilities, such as autism and dyslexia.
The MC for the gig was Ian Lynam, who helped set the tone of the night by joking that everyone’s first response to learning about his autism is “you don’t look autistic,” followed by an anecdote about their “lovely” niece who also has autism. The show included four other performers, including Saoirse Smith, Robert Forde, co-MORBID Productions, and Eléna ní Mhurchú.
Each comedian brought something different to the table, as each person had varied comedic styles and experiences of their disability. However, the popular topics honed in on misconceptions about disability, such as ridiculing the discredited anti-vaccination movement and poking fun at the stereotype that all autistic people are computer geniuses.
Most notably, the ability of these comedians to turn what could be a frustrating or despairing anecdote into something the audience can all laugh with was truly impressive.
“People who are disabled that come, they can see themselves in [the show],” Bryson said. “But also people who don’t know anything about disability can come and laugh with us and learn a little bit of an insight about disability.”
The night’s headliner was Therese Cahil, who writes and performs satirical songs with themes around self-love, disrespect, and other “adult” topics. She brands herself as Ireland’s first female “limp-up” comedian, as she requires a cane or wheelchair to move around and suffers from chronic pain.
Decked out in Halloween make-up, ukulele in hand, her stage presence was energetic and dynamic. While most of her song’s tones were light-hearted and riddled with profanity, some songs broached a more honest issue, such as the excuses people make for wrongly parking in a disabled parking spot. Cahil prefaced each song with its respective backstory, noting that things are often not funny at first, but they become amusing with the passage of time.
Smith, who just started stand-up about a year ago, focused on comical incidences involving her spasms from cerebral palsy and the absurd “benefits” that disabled people receive. Forde followed her act, walking up to the stage with his imaginary guide dog and telling stories of unfortunate mishaps that come with being visually impaired. Co-MORBID Productions, co-founded by UCD student Tadhg Ó Ciardha, performed a satirical sketch in full costume about an “autism moms” group. Ní Mhurchú provided a more relaxed piece, joking about the absurd comments and misconceptions people have told her about autism.
In response to comedians who joke about disability but are not disabled themselves, Lynam humorously, but rightfully, declared that “those laughs are mine; they belong to me.”
Shannon Fang – Reporter