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Comedian to take on disability, sports and the meaning of life

Emory Report | Jan. 27, 2014

Blue Blaze forum

A humorous look at disability and sports and more by a nationally recognized comedian is the topic of a Jan. 31 talk at the Center for Ethics.

"Blue Blaze: A Conversation about Disability, Sports, Comedy, Leadership, and the Meaning of Life" will be from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. in Room 102 of the ethics center.

Josh Blue, stand-up comedian and winner of the Last Comic Standing competition, will interview Jon McCullough, executive directors of Blaze Sports in Decatur, www.blazesports.org, and member of the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors.

Blue is also a Paralympic athlete, disability advocate, and BlazeSports Athlete Ambassador.

A moderated discussion will follow the interview, which will cover comedy, leadership and the meaning of life as well.

Blue and McCullough will be introduced by Emory English professor Benjamin Reiss. Reiss has strong disciplinary interests in the history of medicine, race, disability, and popular culture.

McCullough had approached Reiss about staging this event, Reiss said, so the two

"sketched out a format, in which the two of them would share their experiences together and their thoughts about disability as it relates to their various professional lives."

For the discussion, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, professor of Women's Studies and English, and Reiss will ask them more formal questions about disability and public life. "Jon specifically asked not to have the questions ahead of time, mainly because Josh is such a fantastic improviser that he'll have more fun if he's surprised. And because the two of them are such good friends, they'll bring a good deal of warmth and camaraderie to the proceedings," Reiss added.

"These two guys are really remarkable. What I love about Josh's act is that he's unafraid to put the spotlight on his experience of living with cerebral palsy," he said. "In a way I think Josh is training non-disabled people how to interact in non-awkward and non-demeaning ways with people whose bodies look a little different. Somehow, Josh manages to break all sorts of taboos and provide a cathartic experience without ever crossing the line into exploitation. It's a real high-wire act."

Reiss references Garland-Thomson's book, "Staring," which, he described as being about "visual artists who identify with disability and who turn their lenses at people who look at them. She's asking about the ethics of looking, and I think Josh's act speaks to the ethics of laughing." 

Blue and McCullough "represent powerful stories about how disability can actually lead to opportunities that one never would have had without the disability. And they can speak very powerfully to the roles that people with disability can play in public life," Reiss said.

Doors will open at noon for the light lunch to be served. Those who RSVP are guaranteed a space; all others will be admitted at 12:15 p.m..

The event, which is part of the Disability Studies Initiatives, will also be videotaped with real-time captioning for accessibility.

For more information, contact Jennifer C. Sarrett.