The Josh Blue Story
By Jerry Roys
Published: February 23, 2009
Joshua Blue, winner of NBC’s 2006 Last Comic Standing contest, has been taking away people’s breath with laughter for years. But it was Josh who had a hard time catching his breath when he was born. "I felt really awful when Josh was born," Jacqui Blue, Josh’s mother says. "An emergency
C-section with ether for anesthesia was less than fun." Josh was born in N’gaoundere, Cameroun, a country located on the left side of the continent of Africa. Josh’s father, Walter, was teaching English at a high school in N’Gaoundere in 1978. Jacqui says Josh had breathing difficulties similar to hyaline membrane disease, often seen in premature babies. He was born on a Monday, and his breathing got better by Wednesday morning. Then, on Wednesday afternoon, he started having seizures.
By Thursday morning it was decided to medivac Josh to the States. Jacqui says she held Josh only once before he was taken by his father, nurse Myrtle Noss and a friend to the tiny local airport to be transported to Children’s Hospital in Buffalo, NY. The trip involved six airplanes, the first of which was a four-seater. "Every day when the plane from Yaounde, there was only one, flew over our house, prior to landing, we would wait forty minutes and then say, ’He must not be dead or they would have come back by now, Jacqui says. "I felt much better when he came back, a normal healthy baby, who ate and slept and fussed and smiled. Only later did we notice the CP." The family ended up moving to St. Paul, Minnesota, where Josh grew up. His father, who recently retired, was a college professor at Hamline University teaching French and Italian. Walter also speaks a number of other languages including Wolof. Josh also speaks Wolof and French. Jacqui works part time in the St. Paul Public Library.
Josh grew up in St. Paul, and jokingly he says, "…still can’t do the accent." Up until forth grade, he was in special education classes before getting mainstreamed into a regular classroom. "You know that Muppet, Animal? Imagine him in elementary school."
"That pretty much sums it up," Josh says of his early years in school. Jacqui says Josh was treated as much like his siblings as possible, saying he is the youngest, and there is a tendency to baby the youngest. "I did day care at home from the time he was a year old and always made sure there was at least one very young baby in the house so Josh would not be the baby," Jacqui says. "He could crawl to get me a diaper or pick up a baby toy or make a baby laugh, babies and small
children really like Josh." Jacqui says when they had birthday parties with kids
on crutches or walkers and able-bodied kids, they played games like "Find the
Peanut" and other games on hands and knees, which leveled the playing field.
"I remember a small guest saying to me, 'This is really hard.’ I think it helped
the able-bodied kids understand what life was like for the others." Josh has an
older brother and two older sisters. They got along the way most kids get along.
There is a five-year age difference between Josh and sister Emily. His sister Jessica is eight years older and nine years between Josh and his brother, so Josh was more the "little brother." Josh says he grew up the way siblings do: fighting. When asked how old he was when he first started making people laugh, his wit and humor come out with the reply, "Well, in a family, people are always laughing at you, but it might not be because you wanted them to. It might be because you fell down and your knees are bleeding. "Being the little brother, Josh was subject to influences of the older siblings. Once, Emily and two of her friends wrote a skit to perform for their families. They often wrote, costumed, rehearsed and performed a play on a weekend. In need of another actor for one of their skits, they recruited Josh to play the landlady. He wore a pink bathrobe and a hairnet full of pink and blue hair rollers.
There were about 15 people attending, which was the biggest audience the young acting troop had performed for.
Josh’s parents have always been very supportive in all that he and his siblings have done. Josh jokingly says of his parents, "They’re pretty amazing people, I’m glad I don’t live with them anymore." Josh has always had a sense of humor, and found that making people laugh was a good icebreaker. "Some time in school, elementary school, high school, something like that, I started making people laugh and it snowballed from there. I don’t remember an inciting incident, though. "Though he had a way of making friends, Josh says he never got into drugs or gangs while growing up. "Gangs have never really wanted me, and coke would just amplify some of my more animated qualities, so that stuff was never worth it. "To the surprise of many of his schoolyard friends, Josh
was good at playing street football. Many kids always underestimated his
speed and his ability to catch the football, saying he made many friends this
way. He could run fast and was a good receiver. His athletic ability and speed
came in handy with the US Paralympic Soccer Team, with whom Josh compete
d in the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece. Josh says of the
experience, "Exhilarating, man, absolutely exhilarating. I play striker and every
blue moon I get one in. I’ve always loved to throw the ball around, I’ve played ball since Cameroun. It’s hard, you know, with a disability, sometimes to prove that you know what you’re doing on the field. You have to work twice as hard to get people to pass to you. But after a while they get the idea if they’re paying attention. "Josh says he loves sports, but is thrilled with the way things have turned out with his comedy career. He has been a professional stand-up comedian for about five years. He started out in college on open mike nights. Josh’s gift for making people laugh goes back to his childhood days, but says it was in college that he found "his feet."
"My friends said I was funny and I should do it," Josh says.
"I was exhilarated and terrified at the same time." Josh says he gets his material from a series of his life experiences. If he gets a good response, he’ll keep it in his act. He says a lot of weird things have happened in his life, and he just looks at the funny side of it. "I laugh at myself every day. It should be mandatory in schools, laugh at yourself time!" Josh says. "Well, since all of the material is based on crazy stuff that actually happens, and it continues to happen, it’s pretty easy to keep it alive.
"Josh knows he’s not normal because of the Cerebral Palsy, but he would not want to be any other way. He says that if they came up for a Cerebral Palsy cure, he wouldn’t take it.
"It makes me realize how important things are in life," Josh says. "I don’t take things for granted. Besides, without it, I’d just be another goofy white guy."
One great event has recently happened in Josh’s life: his wife Yuku gave birth to their son Simon, who he named after one of his favorite recording artist, Paul Simon. "I’ve created another human piece . "Josh met Yuku through a mutual friend in Boulder, saying it was love at first sight for him. He says it took Yuku some convincing though. Yuku is Japanese, and Josh went to Japan to meet her parents. "I asked if she told them about my Cerebral Palsy," Josh says. "She said, 'No but I did tell them you were white.' The thing about Yuku is that she’s so deadpan. She cracks me up all the time, a lot because she just sees the world so differently. It’s cool to get a different take on things sometimes. " He says the road was tough before, but now that he has a family, it gets really tough. "It was hard enough missing Yuku, and now with the two of them, I’m on the phone to home a lot when I’m gone, "Josh says. "Its hard being away from the things you want to be doing.
"He says there is a bit of a clash of cultures, but when it comes to Simon,
he and Yuku are on the same page. When at home, Josh changes Simon’s
diapers, rocks him to sleep and gets instruction for his duties with him. "Oh,
my jobs are great: Don’t sit on the baby. Don’t drop the baby. Don’t lose the
baby. Hold the baby with both hands. It’s pretty great." Josh has made
Colorado his home since 1998, and has begun building a new house for
his family. Moving to Denver was at random. After graduating from college
and doing his internship in Africa, a friend asked him if he wanted to go to
Colorado. He fell in love with the beauty of the state and feels Denver is home.
Josh has many muses. He is also an artist, and how many pieces of Josh Blue artwork have been created is anyone’s guess. "I have no idea how many pieces I have," Josh says of his artwork. "Do doodles count? Some of the best ones are on napkins and notebook paper, but I still want to count them. My style came from where all artists’ styles come from: they have no idea. Actually, a big influence for me is music. Put on something I like and it just happens." Access Gallery, at 909 Santa Fe Dr. had an art show featuring Josh’s artwork. "Out of the Blue," featured 21 framed paintings, two mask sculptures and dozens of prints for sale. Josh donated the proceeds to charity. Many of those in attendance at the art show had disabilities, and Josh greeted everyone with a hug and a smile and found time to talk to all of them. Many were asking questions of his art, especially the bigger carving, "Big Mask on Stick," which took him two years to complete.
"I started with a knife," Josh says. "Then I found out there were more tools out there. I now use an
electric hammer, chisel, and a Dremel drill. "Josh says he’s been painting and drawing all his life. He said his mother had a roll of paper and paints and would just let him go. Josh says he has to find the time for his art and that it is necessary, saying, "I have to do it, and needs to come out. "Josh’s next move into the art world is learning how to weld. Josh is also into music and is working on an album. The band, Zebra Junction, is a "fun band," Josh says, that makes fun of him not being able to sing. The music covers many genres, from country, blues, skat and rap. When asked about his light bulb moments in art, music, sports and comedy, Josh replies, "Man, I wish I could explain that, because that’d be one less mystery. They were all just things that felt right, you know? I was drawn to them. That never seemed to happen with basket-weaving. Can’t say it won’t, though. "While in college, Josh
focused on creative writing, and he says has seen some real crazy things
and loves to record them in non-fiction stories he writes. He also studied
zoology during the time he went to Africa for part of his studies.
The other subject he studied was being a stand-up comic. One of the
comedians Josh looked up to and studied was Colorado native Chris
"Crazy Legs" Forsenca, who also has cerebral palsy. Josh says he is
grateful for his life and to have a job that he loves that lets him connect with
so many people. To those who tend to stare at him and wonder, he says this:
"Hey, you got to stare to get a good look, right? And then after that maybe you can let it go. We’re all different. The mistake is thinking that we’re all the same, that’ll trip you up."
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