Comedian Wayde Lever says making jokes about disabilities starts a conversation

Edmonton’s ‘vertically challenged comedian’ is definitely not politically correct

Wayde Lever does stand-up comedy — but not technically.

“I can’t do stand-up, I can only do ‘sit-down’,” cracks the self-titled ‘vertically challenged comedian’ who uses a wheelchair to get around.

Being disabled is “normal” for Lever, who performs Tuesday night at Funny Crackers at Cheer’s pub in Red Deer. He got cerebral palsy shortly after his premature birth and has never been able to walk.

He jokes about sexuality and the disabled, and other touchy subjects that have earned him groans from the “politically correct” in the crowd.

“Some people are not thrilled with my material,” admitted Lever. But he insists it’s OK to laugh about disabilities since not joking about them contributes to the continued marginalization of this population.

Lever welcomes any feedback if it means people with physical or mental challenges “can be part of the conversation.”

“I tell (critics), ‘Yes, yes, I know I’m going to hell because the stairway to heaven doesn’t have a chairlift!”

He became a comedian six months ago after friends convinced him he was funny enough to go on stage. The married Edmontonian first tried being an activist and then unsuccessfully ran for public office.

Now the former chair of the Innovative Housing Society, who works as a Home Depot greeter, uses humour to try to broaden perceptions.

One of his punch lines was taken from a real-life dad who was with his son at a fast-food restaurant when a group of severely disabled people were wheeled in.

“Their bodies were all contorted and they were screaming,” recalled Lever. “The little boy asked, ‘What’s wrong with those people, dad?’ And his father — without missing a beat — replied, ‘That’s what happens when you don’t eat your vegetables.’”

While the dad was “mortified” to realize he was overheard, “I told him, ‘that’s the best joke I’d heard in years!’ ” added the comedian.

Lever believes gays and lesbians “really know how to get things done.” They came out of the closet and now get Gay Pride parades, while disabled people are invited to forums about how their needs can be met. He joked, “The only thing we ever get is a stale muffin and a juice box with a bendy straw.”

He would love to also “get things done” about barriers in employment, housing, transportation and general access.

It’s ironic that Lever can’t get onto some high stages because they don’t have wheelchair ramps.

There’s no cover for his 8 p.m. show with other comedians.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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