Interview With Comedian Josh Blue
Since winning the fourth season of NBC’s reality show Last Comic Standing, Josh Blue has been touring the country delighting audiences with his self-deprecating humor derived from his experiences as a comedian with a disability. Not since Geri Jewell's starring turn as Blair’s cousin on The Facts of Life has a comic with cerebral palsy made such waves throughout television and popular culture. From his humble beginnings on the open mic night at Evergreen State College in Olympia, to his triumphant victory on national television, Blue has remained a level-headed comic, not falling into the entrapments of stardom while still living with his wife and daughter in the mile high city of Denver, Colorado. As a member of the U.S. National Paralympic soccer team, Blue will occasionally find himself traveling to exotic locales when not performing at comedy clubs across the country. As he prepares for the Paralympics soccer tournament next month, we spoke with Blue about his formidable years in a liberal arts college that led to his devout studies of stand-up comedy, and his love of Modest Mouse.
I didn’t realize you went to Evergreen State College.
Josh Blue: Yeah, that’s actually where I started doing stand-up too.
What year were you a freshman?
That was right after the height of the grunge era in the pacific-northwest.
Yeah, it had calmed down a little bit, but it was still pretty grungy.
Were you into Nirvana and Soundgarden or were more into the more underground stuff like KARP and Sleater-Kinney?
I’ve always loved Nirvana and Soundgarden, but that’s where Modest Mouse was starting out at too, and I’m a huge Modest Mouse fan.
Aren’t they from Issaquah?
Yeah they’re right around from there, they were doing all kinds of show pretty much every weekend in some small town near us. It was pretty cool.
Do you remember any of their shows?
Well you know, drugs and alcohol make all of them kind of run together. Taking a date to a show was one of my biggest things. It’s hard to remember, it was so long ago.
How old are 32 or 33 now?
You’re still very young Josh.
Yeah I know, I shouldn’t be forgetting things yet.
So when was the first time you did stand-up?
It was at the Housing Community Center on campus. Yeah it was just like silly because everyone else was doing poetry and music that they wrote and I’m up there telling jokes.
How much time did you do?
They give you 10 minutes.
Wow, that’s a long time for your first time up.
Yeah, and what was crazy is I didn’t know any better so I thought that was normal. I just went up there and told stories, I didn’t have any jokes I just had funny stories and it just progressed from there. It was pretty cool though because people enjoyed it, and I know that because usually there weren’t very many people at the open mic thing, and then I said they’d come back the next week and next week there was like 70 people there. And I know they were there for me because after I was done everybody left.
So you were on the open mic but you were bringing the crowd.
Did you get your degree?
I have a BA. Evergreen is interesting in the fact that you don’t necessarily get a degree, you just study whatever you want to study until you graduate.
There are no grades there, right?
Right, so my senior year I actually studied stand-up comedy.
What is the curriculum at Evergreen State for stand-up comedy?
Well basically its independent study that you do. I created my own class and I just went around and found a faculty member that was interested in supporting me and sponsoring me, and seeing what I could do. So basically how it was is you came up with a list of things you were going to do in the semester, and find a faculty member who says, “Oh that’s a worthy cause, I think it would benefit you.” And I found a guy who was interested and I did what I said I was going to do and I did actually a lot more than that too. One of my things that I said I was going to do was have my own show, and I found some musicians that were playing at a coffee shop, and they let me play between two bands. So it was like one band was done and then I’d go up while they set-up the other band. And it was pretty cool; same sort of thing. Like the coffeehouse is packed and then as soon as I was done everybody left. And like left the band that had invited me there, and that happened two weeks in a row, and then the owner was like, ‘You got to have your own night man.” And then they gave my own night, Josh Blue Wednesday nights. I did an hour long show very Wednesday, and it was all new material every week. And I have no idea how the fuck I did that. I can’t do that now.
How long did your show run for?
I must have done that for maybe five weeks.
How did you end up living in Denver?
I really didn’t know what I was going to do with my life after graduation, and I had a friend of mine and she was like, “Hey what are young going to do after college?” And I was like, “I have no idea.” And she said, ‘Why don’t you move to Denver with me?” And I was like, “Alright cute girl. That sounds like a great idea.” After six months I had never really done stand-up there, and it was just eating at me. I just had to find a way to do it. I finally found the scene in Denver, and basically it was the same sort of thing. As soon as I started performing people were coming to see me.
Your home–base is at Comedy Works in Denver right?
How long did it take you to get in good with them?
I’d say late 2002 early 2003.
Is that where the producers of Last Comic Standing discovered you?
No I went out to Chicago for the audition the first time, I auditioned twice. And the first time, I wanted in lime in like fifteen below weather for like six hours. And I got in there, you barely have time to thaw out before you’re on; and they give you two minutes and they were like, “Thank you. Moving on.” Needless to say it was kind of heart breaking. Because I know I’m good at this. When I left the audition, I turned to the judges and go, “Well this sure was a shitty make-a-wish!” They laughed really hard at that, but they didn’t pick me. I was kind of mad and disgruntled about it, but by that time Comedy Works was representing me, and they were like, “Look man, you need to try again.” I’m sure glad I did.
Do you have any advice for young comics who are interested in trying out for Last Comic Standing?
I’d say don’t even bother because I already won. No I’m just kidding. I always feel that the best thing I did to my career was that fact that I got in good with Comedy Works, or just any comedy club. Then I ate drank and slept and lived comedy. Like I would go to the club every single night whether I was on or not. Just to learn how it works. I got to watch everybody from Brian Regan to Chappelle; just watching other people and seeing how the business runs. Because a lot of people don’t understand that there's a lot more to it than just the jokes. There’s a lot of business to it.
So what year was first time doing stand-up?
I think 1998 was the first time I tried it in college.
How long do you think it took you to develop your voice as a comedian?
When I was in college I was studying other comics but I didn’t hang out with other stand-ups. So I didn’t really understand that the way you right a joke was to do it over and over again, and you just keep trying the same thing instead of coming up with new shit every time. The thing is I really didn’t even talk about cerebral palsy too much when I was in college, I just told my stories. But I found that when I talk about my disability, it has a lot more fire power. Like everybody, at last knows somebody with a disability, if not in my humble opinion, has a disability. So I feel that people can really relate to it. If I didn’t have cerebral palsy I’d just be goofy white guy. But I’m a goofy white guy with cerebral palsy, and that’s what makes a difference, I actually have a unique perspective.
And you’re living it up right?
Oh fuck yeah.
So what else do you have going on in San Diego besides your show Thursday night?
I play soccer for the Paralympic team. The Olympic training center is in La Jolla. I mean Chula Vista.
Yeah that’s closer to Tijuana.
Yeah you can see the lights from there. It’s pretty amazing getting to travel the world and play soccer. It’s weird because most people dream about being an international soccer player, and that’s sort of my secondary gig. It’s a week-log training camp to get us ready for the world championships.
Where is that going to be held at?
I’m not sure. The last one they had was in Argentina. Yeah it’s pretty spectacular. I wasn’t even going to do a show in La Jolla; I was just going out for soccer.
Do you have any big projects coming up?
I have a new hour that I’m working on. I’m filming in April a new hour special.
Where are you filming this at, Denver?
No, in the twin cities, Minneapolis. I’m excited.
Does Josh Blue have a message for the children?
I think I’d just try to let people know, and not just the children, you can achieve anything that you want to. The way I look at it, is like if I ever don’t achieve something it’s not because of my disability it’s because I’m being lazy. I feel that a lot of times people are like, ‘Well I can’t do that, I don’t know how to do that.” I’m like, “Well you just fucking do it.” Though I probably wouldn’t say fucking to the kids.
Josh Blue performs at The La Jolla Comedy Store for one night only, Thursday February 10 at 8 p.m.
Tickets are $15. 21+ with a two drink minimum.
916 Pearl St. La Jolla, CA 92037