I knew a man years ago in Kentucky, who may very well be the most crude and vulgar person I ever met. Normally, one has to watch cable TV to see someone that offensive. It wasn’t simply a matter of him using coarse language; vulgarity permeated subject matter, word choice and manner of expression.
He was also one of the most generous and helpful people I’ve ever known. He did at least five hundred dollars worth of excavation work for me and wouldn’t take a penny for it. I heard other stories, too, of people he’d helped in similar and in other ways as well. I couldn’t help remembering him yesterday when I was visiting some friends and we watched a recording of comedian Josh Blue.
Now let me say at the outset that Josh Blue was nowhere nearly as crude and vulgar as my Kentucky friend. In fact, in this performance at least, he wasn’t even slightly vulgar. He did make frequent use of a few words that I don’t enjoy hearing on a recording or live and in person, either. In spite of my discomfort, though, I found myself laughing out loud time and time again. His comedic insights were spot on, original and thought provoking.
Josh Blue has a foppish wad of wildly frizzy reddish blond hair and piercing blue eyes. He is an American citizen who was born in Africa and now lives in the States. “Technically,” he says, “that makes me an African-American.” Using a few subtle traits of black culture, he weaves that bit in throughout his routine. Another primary element is his cerebral palsy.
As you probably know, the condition precipitates obvious physical abnormalities and lack of motor control that causes awkward limb movement and degrees of slurred speech. It is that element primarily that makes it easy for people to grossly underestimate the intelligence of those affected by palsy. Humans have a universal tendency to think that people they can’t easily understand are mentally deficient, even when the difficulty is caused by nothing more than a regional accent.
Josh doesn’t simply acknowledge his palsy; he makes it the hallmark of his shtick. Using his disability as a focus of social commentary, observation and keen humor, he draws us into looking at our own fears and discomforts and joining him in the tragi-comic experience of being human.
His performance was far more than entertaining. It was instructive, convicting, reflective and ultimately, healing. Whatever causes us to acknowledge our own faults and frailties, our own imperfections and prejudices and moves us toward greater understanding and acceptance of others, has at least some merit. I prefer that such experiences come without profanity but found this one more than worth the distractions.
I’m not saying that all of you would agree with me about watching a Josh Blue performance. I do hope that we would all agree that the more we acclimate ourselves to positive interaction with the “differently enabled,” the more we improve the human condition.