Entertainment & Culture

Lee Ridley on life as a disabled comedian and living through lockdown

Lee Ridley, aka Lost Voice Guy, is a disabled comedian with cerebral palsy. He talks to Disability Horizons about what motivated him to get into comedy, how his life has changed since winning Britain’s Got Talent in 2018 and what life has been like since being in lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Please tell Disability Horizons readers a bit about yourself in your own words.

Well, I’m from Newcastle, in the northeast of England. I studied journalism at university. I have worked for the BBC, in the media team at a council, and for a number of local newspapers in the northeast.

I also do stand up comedy. My stage name is Lost Voice Guy, for obvious reasons. I first started doing that in February 2012, and it’s been going really well. In fact, it has been going so well, that I now do stand up comedy full time.

Front cover of Lee Ridley's book I'm Only in it For the Parking

Lee Ridley on getting into comedy

What inspired or motivated you to get into comedy?

It came about because my mate thought it would work well. Of course, I thought he was crazy, but the idea stuck in the back of my head.

Eventually, a few months later, I decided to give it a try because I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t. It turns out my mate was right!

It’s just grown from there really. I’ve only been doing it for seven years, but I’ve already done so much. It’s still a bit breathtaking really.

When you first started out in comedy, how did you feel the industry reacted towards your disability?

I can only speak from my own point of view, but I’ve always found the comedy industry to be very supportive and helpful. Ever since my first gig, I have had many different comedians offer advice. It’s a really nice community to belong to.

There are some amazing disabled comedians on the circuit. It’s nice that there’s so many of us out there because it should encourage other disabled people to get up on stage as well.

Life as Lost Voice Guy since BGT

Since winning Britains Got Talent, how has life changed for you? 

Well obviously, I’m a lot richer for a start! But please don’t tell the Department for Work and Pensions though.

Winning the show has changed my life in so many ways. I’m busier than I ever was before as a comedian. I’ve been on a nationwide tour, and I have also written a book called I’m Only In It For The Parking.

The general public has been so supportive as well. I’m always getting stopped for selfies, and having people congratulate me. It has been really nice and I am very grateful for the kind words I have received.

One of the best things to happen since winning is that people are engaging with me a lot more than they would have in the past. For the first time, they seem comfortable talking to a disabled person.

I’m used to being stared at for negative reasons, so it’s nice to be stared at for positive reasons for a change.

What was the most memorable moment of being on the show?

I think my favourite moment was just after I’d won and Dec asked me how I felt. He went to hand me the microphone, then suddenly realised that I didn’t need it. The look on his face at that moment was hilarious!

Obviously, I didn’t notice it at the time because way too much was going on just, but it was funny when I watched it back afterwards.

Lee Ridley’s comedy

If you had the opportunity to perform with another comedian, who would you choose and why?

I’d love to be able to perform with The League of Gentlemen one day.  I’ve always loved them and they’ve been a big influence on me, which is probably why my humour is very dark and twisted.

I mostly concentrate on my disability and the funny side of it. I enjoy taking the mickey out of myself.

I realise that this may make some people feel awkward, but I think that helps me. Because I base it on myself, I think I get away with it more. When people realise this, they tend to come on my side.

How do you come up with different material? 

I think most of my comedy comes from my real-life experiences. On one hand, that’s quite frightening because some of it is unbelievably ridiculous.

But on the other hand, it gives me some great material. I’d be silly not to use these experiences really, and if I didn’t laugh about it then I’d most definitely cry!

What do you enjoy most about being a comedian?

Well, I’ve always enjoyed making other people laugh. It just makes me feel really good. I suppose my dream job was always to be a comedian, I just never considered that it was possible because of my disability. But here I am!

What advice would you give other disabled people who want to go into comedy, but lack confidence?

My only bit of advice would be to follow your dreams and do whatever you want to do in life. Even if you think it isn’t possible.

I didn’t really have big dreams when I was growing up. I thought I had to make do with what I had in life because that’s what everyone else was doing as well. I had a decent life and I thought I was happy with that.

It was only recently that I realised that I wanted to get a lot more out of it. Even after realising that, I never expected to achieve all that I have. So I’m enjoying the ride and seeing where it takes me next. I’m pretty sure anyone else can as well.

Do you have a favourite joke you like to tell?

If you are wondering how I became disabled, it’s because I didn’t forward that chain email to 10 of my closest friends, when I was younger.

The Lost Voice Guy tour

What was it like performing on tour last year?

It was really exciting to go on my first solo tour. During my Britain’s Got Talent experience the general public was so supportive and everyone has been really lovely since. So it was nice to give something back to them on tour.

The tour has been a massive success. It was great to meet everyone and I hope they enjoyed the show.

What was the most memorable experience for you on tour?

My favourite show was when I went back home. Selling out in my home city of Newcastle was very special. It was great to perform to a full theatre of a thousand Geordies. It was a dream come true.

I also got my mum up on stage that night to thank her for always supporting me and helping me to follow this crazy dream of mine.

Lost Voice Guy Lee Ridley on stage

How do you prepare for your performances?

I write the material beforehand and copy and paste them into the iPad. Then, during the gig, I just press the jokes I want it to speak.

Obviously, it is pretty limited in terms of audience interaction. But I’d like to try to do more of this in the future. It just depends on how fast I can type! I have got some comebacks stored, just in case I get heckled.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Funnily enough, even when I’m not performing comedy, I still love watching it. So I can often be found in a comedy club on my nights off. I also enjoy watching live music, so I attend quite a lot of gigs as well.

Lee Ridley living through lockdown

How are you finding having to stay at home due to the coronavirus outbreak?

It’s certainly a challenge, but I’m coping with it. After such a hectic time on tour last year, I think I needed a break from it all. It’s just a shame it had to happen like this!

How are you managing your career during lockdown?

Thankfully, I have a few writing projects on at the moment. So that means I can still keep myself busy while staying indoors. Admittedly, it’s hard to get motivated and I’m not sure what day it is, but at least I’m getting some work done.

You did a duet of the Baked Potato song with Matt Lucas. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Yes, that was lots of fun to do. Matt contacted me on Twitter to asked if I wanted to do it and I jumped at the chance. It was a right laugh to record and the feedback we got from the general public was amazing. It was definitely the highlight of my lockdown.

What’s next for you and what are your future plans?

Aside from the writing projects, which I’m really excited about, I’m going on another tour in 2021, so I’ll be starting work on that soon as well.

But mainly, I’m just enjoying the ride and seeing where it takes me next. My only goal is to keep making people laugh. As long as I can do that then I’ll be happy!

Find out more about Lee Ridley‘s tour dates for 2021 on his website, and visit Amazon to buy his book I’m Only In It For The Parking. You can also follow him on Twitter @LostVoiceGuy, Instagram and Facebook

Interview by Zubee Kibria

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