Josh Blue has been making audiences laugh for a while (especially on the college circuit) but he came to national prominence when he won the fourth season of Last Comic Standing in 2006, marking one of the few occasions on that show when America got it right. Blue has never been shy about his cerebral palsy which was a defining trait of his standup act back then. It's nice to see that his gutsy self-deprecation is still intact with his latest set: Sticky Change.
Blue starts his performance before an adoring crowd at the Varsity Theatre in Minneapolis by taking us all the way back to the beginning. He talks about being born with cerebral palsy under questionable medical conditions in Cameroon, South Africa. Besides being a springboard to attack his physical disability head on, this setup gives Blue license to make the bold claim of technically being an African American (a punchline that he revisits throughout the show with consistently hilarious results). From there he goes on to critique his own disheveled appearance and demonstrates that before anyone can say anything mean about him, he will say far worse things about himself.
The next significant chunk of Blue's act is dedicated to his wife and kids. After the camera makes a point of cutting to Blue's perfectly pleasant looking wife in the audience, we get to watch him mercilessly mock her. Some of it is truly inspired (if wrong-headed) like the fantastical scenario that has her showing up as an eBay purchase, while other bits sink into standard men vs. women clichés. After a few weak spots, Blue recovers by moving on to his kids who turn out to be a treasure trove of comedy. His little girl is too young to fight back (Blue calls her a ‘fatass' and says that she looks like ‘a ham') but his 3 year old son is primed and ready to go. Even as Blue recounts the many ways in which his little boy plays hell into him, we catch a glint of paternal pride in his eyes that says he wouldn't have it any other way.
Blue hits another high point with his story about running into another guy with cerebral palsy at the mall before entering an extended bit dedicated to various aspects of air travel. He talks about messing with TSA workers, taunting fellow travelers waiting to check in and dealing with patronizing stewards. While there are a few clever punchlines scattered about, the overall air travel segment simply runs on for far too long and doesn't work as well as Blue intended. It also doesn't help that Blue's weakest material abruptly brings the show to a close. Not everybody will be bothered by this but for me the lackluster finish was a bit jarring.
While Blue's cerebral palsy is a prominent facet of his act, it doesn't really define him as a comedian (which is unquestionably a great thing). He has a fully formed style that reminded me of folks like Bobcat Goldthwait, Mitch Hedberg and Louis C.K. (the bit about his kids especially) but with a blend of mischief and abrasiveness that is all his own. For evidence of this, just look at his idea of audience participation. At one point in his act, he says that he knows he looks homeless and then explains to the audience that he won't proceed until they give him some change. He heckles them until a few brave souls actually fling a few coins onto the stage. He counts how much he has and then matter-of-factly tells the audience that they just bought themselves four more minutes. The result: riotous laughter from the crowd and a big ol' smile on my face.