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Campus comedy club breaks down stereotypes for those with disabilities

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Instructor David Granirer hold a microphone up for Andrew Vallance, a graduate of the Langara stand-up comedy clinic, at a graduating show at Yuk Yuk’s Vancouver. Photo: Stuart Neatby
Instructor David Granirer hold a microphone up for Andrew Vallance, a graduate of the Langara stand-up comedy clinic, at a graduating show at Yuk Yuk’s Vancouver. Photo: Stuart Neatby

Reported by Stuart Neatby

Andrew Vallance believes that stand-up comedy is the ultimate tool for turning the tables on stereotypes about people living with disabilities.

As a student of the Langara College stand-up comedy clinic Vallance sees rich material in the challenges of daily life. As part of the clinic, he and other graduating students performed in front of a packed audience at Yuk Yuk’s Vancouver’s Comedy Club on Monday evening. His material blasts a wide variety of targets, from rude caregivers to the atheist celebrity Richard Dawkins.

“Always make fun of those above you in the social hierarchy,” he said.

“Which means that if you’re a banker, or someone with a massive trust fund, you’re screwed. You’re completely buggered. You basically have no material.”

Vallance is a veteran of the comedy clinic, having taken the program for three years. He is also an accomplished theatre and improv performer, having performed with the Queerprov improv troupe, and RealWheels, a professional theatre company that seeks to reduce the stigma of the disability experience.

Sometimes you forget who your audience is

Dave Symington is another graduate of the class, with a background as an artist in Vancouver. He acknowledges that there is “rich material” in talking about his own disability, but having lived with mobility issues for 42 years, he says he is also wary of it.

“But I have to remind myself that not everybody else is as familiar as I am,” he said.

“People have certain assumptions that I can dispel or enhance in some way. You kind of still leave people guessing.”

The program is open to everyone

The comedy clinic is not strictly focused upon individuals living with disabilities. It attracts people from a variety of backgrounds. Instructor David Granirer believes the class, as well as the trial-by-fire graduating performance, pushes the boundaries of performers.

“It just made them feel more confident and also got them making some changes in their life,” said Granirer.

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