Twenty five years ago, before the passage of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there likely would have been physical barriers in clubs and theaters, challenges at airports and in hotels or other issues that would make it difficult, difficult if not impossible, for Michael Aronin, Shanon DeVido, Tim Grill, and Mike Murray to mount a full-fledged comedy tour.
In 2015, accessibility in public places has improved and with it the attitudes of many toward people with disabilities such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy, hearing impairment and spinal muscular atrophy. However, for many who don’t have a close friend or family member with a disability, there are still misconceptions and a lack of understanding. Employers can still be reluctant to hire people with disabilities, especially in the entertainment industry where there is a perception that audiences won’t respond well.
So, the comedians set out on a mission to bridge the gap with laughter. Wicked wit forged from a lifetime of dealing with adversity, No Comic Left Behind smashes stereotypes with every joke: people with disabilities are really no different from you and I. Set-ups on relationships, jobs, and family come with punch lines about wheelchairs and the underrated benefits of being deaf.
“Comedy is a great way to break down that barrier that people often have when they’re talking with people with disabilities,” said Shannon DeVido.
The comedians have long understood that laughter is the best medicine. Michael Aronin, who nearly died at birth and now has cerebral palsy, uses humor to coach audiences toward their career goals as a motivational speaker. And, Tim Grill was born with spina bifida, going through thirteen surgeries to enable him to walk. Rounded out by experienced performer and wheelchair user Shannon DeVido and Mike Murray, who was deaf until the age of 40 when Cochlear implants brought him into the hearing world, each comic is eager to raise awareness about disability.
Collectively, performing under the banner of No Comic Left Behind, the quartet is determined to follow their mission across the country in clubs, theaters and universities. Their ultimate goal is to expose as broad of an audience as possible through, raising awareness about the inherent abilities of people with disabilities. Once the audience is laughing, it becomes much easier to talk about the serious stuff and make people think about what they can do to better include people with disabilities in everyday life.
“Think about it,” said Tim Grill. “We can win over 100 or more people with each show just by being funny – which is something we do on daily basis anyway. Then those 100 people go back out into the world feeling a lot less uncomfortable around people with disabilities and help spread the love. They’ll be more likely to think about accessibility and inclusion and more likely to have some understanding of the next person with a disability that they meet.”
For more information about No Comic Left Behind, check out their website!
You can also watch a short video featuring the comics of No Comic Left Behind on UCP’s Youtube Channel!