March 2007

Blue was breaking big on the comedic scene, winning Last Comic Standing just as this study was published. He never even knew it existed, but he didn’t need a research paper to tell him what he already knew: that if he could get The Josh Blue Show on the air it would be a good thing not just for him, but also for all physically disabled people. But, Blue now tells me in his living room, he didn’t even get the chance to make his pitch.

Instead, when he met with the NBC executives a few weeks earlier, they pitched him a show—an American version of the current British TV sitcom I’m With Stupid. “I watched it,” Blue tells me. “And I didn’t like it at all.” He grabs the Ziploc bag of cookies from the coffee table. “You want one?” It’s a polite gesture that seems to buy him time while he figures out how to discuss the NBC thing, which he’s still figuring out.

The British I’m With Stupid is about a guy named Paul with a particularly severe case of CP that has him in a wheelchair and requires him to reside in an assisted-living home. Paul’s a nice, smart, loser of a chap who’d love to have a friend; he finds one in a homeless man named Sheldon, a lovable dirty-rotten-scoundrel type who strikes a deal with Paul: Sheldon will be Paul’s friend if Paul will let Sheldon live with him. Much of the show’s plot is predicated on Sheldon’s instinct to take advantage of Paul, who is often the butt of Sheldon’s schemes. Paul, the wheelchair-bound CP sufferer, is Stupid. It’s a show that the researchers would likely categorize as “disabling humor.”

Blue certainly does. “It’s too crude. Too abrasive. The homeless guy wipes [Paul’s] ass,” he says, wrinkling his nose in disgust. In the meeting with the NBC muckety-mucks, the always resourceful Blue suggested a spin on the British version, an alternative that he believed would make the show less demeaning but still successful.

Blue’s vision of I’m With Stupid goes like this: “Yeah, it’s a group home setting, I’m in a wheelchair, but I don’t need to be. I just want the government funding. Then I get a homeless guy to do my bidding, but at the same time, he doesn’t know I don’t need to be in a wheelchair. When people aren’t around, I’m over here [Blue jumps up from his couch and pretends to be sneaking around his coffee table], getting cookies and shit. I’m getting up, taking a leak, and when somebody comes in I fall on the floor and say, ‘I don’t know what happened.’ The funny thing is, I’m not a normal person pretending to be disabled, I’m a disabled person pretending to be more disabled to get away with more shit. I sneak around at night, and I have a whole different kind of life.”

In Blue’s version of the show, just like in his stand-up, his disability is his advantage, his superpower, even; he is not some dependent and foolish stereotype. In the scripts that Blue sees in his mind’s eye, he would, as the researchers might put it, claim the humor as his own and laugh at society’s attitudes and barriers. The man with cerebral palsy, both on and off the set, would be the comical puppeteer pulling the strings of a world that can’t look beyond the surface. “First you think I’m the stupid one,” he says, rocking back and forth, laughing so hard he’s snorting. “Then you realize everyone else is.”