March 2007

On the stage for that finale performance, Blue began not so much by telling a joke but by thinking out loud, shouting, “What have I done?” What Blue had done on the show up until now was prove, as they say in the funny business, that he can “kill.” He’d made the millions of Americans watching at home laugh their asses off, with bits like the one he used to kick off tonight’s routine: “My mom is an awesome person,” he said, speaking slowly and with a subtle slur, pacing the stage like his idol, Chris Rock. “She is the only person in the world who can tell when I’m drunk. She’s like, ‘Josh are you walking straighter? I heard you come home, put the key right in the door. Annnnnd you’re naked.’” However, Blue had also done something else on Last Comic Standing—something serious, and even profound.

Back at the mall a decade ago, the whole scene with Blue chasing that Hector kid—well, Blue and his pal on the crutches, Nick Wilkie, were good friends with Hector Cabellero. They’d all gone to the mall in Hector’s Camaro. But Hector had done something to tick them off; for a little friendly payback Blue and Wilkie, who also has cerebral palsy, decided to ham up the CP thing and publicly mortify Hector. So Blue exaggerated his limp, flailed his arm, and generally behaved as if he were the village idiot. Acting according to the public’s common misconception of the physically disabled, he seized on the stereotype and from it drew a comedic power. And that’s what he had done on Last Comic Standing; only he’d let the audience in on the joke, gotten them to laugh at him, but also at themselves, at their own ignorance. He’d killed, and he’d begun to change the way people think.

And he won. Joined on stage by his parents and girlfriend, streamers and confetti raining from the ceiling, Blue had a smile plastered on his face and ecstasy in his eyes. He had every reason to believe that, at last, his disability would no longer be a disadvantage. Then again, what did Josh Blue know about Hollywood?

Ever since his Last Comic Standing victory, Blue has spent little time at his home in Denver. He’s been in high demand on the road, with appearances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Live with Regis and Kelly, and that’s on top of his breathless stand-up tour. During this two-week stretch in late September, Blue’s got 13 gigs in eight cities, as far apart as Chicago and Austin, including the performance he put on tonight at New York City’s Comix. “Before Last Comic Standing my schedule was pretty intense,” he tells me, as we walk the few blocks from Comix to his hotel. “But nothing like this. The amazing part is I go to these places and there are tons of people there to see me, but I can see why [performers] burn out.”

It’s a warm Thursday night, and around us the Meatpacking District is bustling with Clubland hipsters. Every few feet, that techno-thump sound emanates from another velvet-roped-off hotspot. Meanwhile, here’s Blue, clad like a Peanuts character in shorts, running shoes, and a short-sleeve, green-and-yellow striped shirt. A Billy-goat beard adorns the chin of his youthful face. And his wild mane of curly blond hair—sort of Albert Einstein meets the Heat Miser—is pulled off his mug by a thin headband. Looping down the sidewalk, his right arm trailing him, Blue could be mistaken for an upstate college kid who’s lost in the big city after one too many tequila shots.