|Chris McCausland: Not Blind Enough|
|Published on Thursday, 09 August 2012|
Chris McCausland is fairly sure he is the only blind comedian, at least in the UK. But don’t quote him on that; he hasn’t Googled it. He understands people may think his blindness is as a unique selling point, but he – excuse the outrageous pun – doesn’t see it that way.
The show begins with a slew of quirky observations, giving the audience a sense of what it’s like to be blind. He tells of the time he went to a funeral parlour for a haircut, or not realising he had a pube in his change at the supermarket. He sums up his degree of blindness in a nutshell: it’s “like looking through a bathroom window in the rain… from the inside,” he adds, for clarity. But then, abruptly, the blind gags stop. Sure, he says, he could do half an hour, maybe a full-hour of non-stop jokes in that vein. But here’s the point: after a while it would be “Yeah, Chris, we get it, you didn’t see it.” These are his words, and they resonate.
The show is essentially about McCausland trying to be a comedian, without the fact that he’s blind being the main reason he sells tickets or gets on TV. In fact, he tells us, he’s been accused of being “not blind enough”. The reason’s that – as a blind man – an appearance anywhere in the mainstream raises expectations that he has a wealth of blind jokes, to suit producers and audiences who would expect nothing else. Such expectations often arise in the TV sphere. A woman makes jokes about being a woman. A black comedian makes jokes about being black. An Iranian comedian about being Iranian. It’s box-ticking, and this is what McCausland is getting at.
Because he’s so engaging, and so down-to-earth, the audience is captivated. McCausland is like John Bishop, with a similar Scouse charm; but with more bite, more poignancy. His humour takes you to dark places, challenging your perceptions of disability, and your prejudices. He could have been a spy until Mi5 came to their senses, but he doesn’t want to live in a country governed by legislation forcing companies to employ someone who isn’t cut out for the job. I couldn’t decide if I agreed with everything he said… but I wanted to listen, and I understood exactly where he was coming from.
McCausland sparked outrage on the BBC by disagreeing that there should be disabled-pride. He knows it’s controversial, but he’s not aiming for hysteria when he says this. There are militants, he says, “who won’t stop campaigning until people with no arms are advertising gloves.” It might be crass, but it in context it is funny – and most importantly, has a point.
Predictably, the room is now split between those reaching round backs of chairs for coats, and those, like myself, who want to see where this is leading. It’s not that McCausland hates the Paralympics per se; it’s the attachment to the ‘main’ Olympics that he hates. He doesn’t believe the two are equal. Of course, he thinks disabled athletes should aspire to compete – but, he argues, in certain sports the gulf between able and disabled becomes so unmistakable in terms of spectacle.
There is tension in the room, and McCausland quips that “if you slip out, I won’t see you.” He finishes with examples of those who have crossed over into the Olympics, and questions why those who do are allowed to return to the ‘other’ Games. What’s the greater achievement, he asks: 35th in the world, or Paralympic gold?
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