Not only was this show part of disability awareness week, but – as Clark pointed out in response to a question in the after show Q&A – the best comedy material is often that which comes from personal experience.
Steve Day, the UK’s only deaf comedian, kicked things off and, although there were few belly laughs in his set, Steve is a born storyteller, and had the audience’s undivided attention. Steve charted his progress from an isolated and angry 18 year old - when he first lost his hearing - to a middle-aged marathon-running, father of five. His material was warm and inspiring – with no hint of a sob story – and although his set could have done with a few more gags, it was extremely enjoyable.
Laurence Clark, who followed Steve, is a natural comedian. His material was intelligent and extremely mischievous, as well as wonderfully original, and his unplanned responses to the after show Q&A were just as funny as his rehearsed set.
Laurence used a crudely put together but hilarious PowerPoint presentation to accompany his witty observations. He demonstrated how he wins arguments with his wife using pie charts, and showed pictures of himself bungee jumping, lamenting the fact it’s not a Paralympic sport.
The highlight of Clark’s set was when he played a series of video clips which showed him sitting in his wheelchair on a London street, shaking a charity collection pot which had increasingly nasty signs glued to it.
To the audience’s delight, we watched people dropping money into his pot despite Laurence’s signs, which said anything from “pay off my mortgage,” to “if you drop money in here I’ll get a criminal record”, and even “kill all puppies”.
Of course, behind the silliness is a thought-provoking point, and Laurence’s aim was to expose the stupidity and ignorance that sometimes lie behind acts of charity – the fact that some well-meaning people can’t see beyond a wheelchair.
Steve and Laurence took similar approaches to their disabilities – both were self-deprecating and self-assured in equal measure, lightly challenging as well as very funny. Neither laughed at disability per se, rather they poked fun at people’s reactions to it.
Laurence Clark and his wife (who also has cerebral palsy) are soon to star in a BBC documentary about being disabled parents – Jokes, Nappies and Wheelchairs - which will be aired on BBC 1 in mid Feb.