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Go ahead, point and laugh

With comic Josh Blue, cerebral palsy can be funny stuff
by: COURTESY OF JOSH BLUE, Crafting comedy from unlikely topics – “I have a little stem cell joke I do” – is Josh Blue’s specialty. Swimming riptides is not.

Josh Blue has heard the charges. Too many of his jokes focus on his disability, cerebral palsy.

'When you first start doing comedy, everybody says, 'Find your voice, find your voice,' ' says Blue, who rocketed to prominence when he won the reality show 'Last Comic Standing' in 2006. 'I found my voice. Now they say, 'You use that voice too much.' '

The 29-year-old Blue says that, like any comic, he stays on familiar ground.

'I can't do it from a big black woman's point of view,' he says. 'This is all I know.'

The Denver resident, who will perform in Portland on Thursday, has long made a positive of the slightly halting speech and distinctive body English that comes with his disability.

Trading on people's awkward reactions to him, he's won legions of fans with both comedy and candor.

'It's disarming,' he says.

Growing up in Minnesota, Blue received the full array of therapies for his disability in early childhood. By fourth grade, however, he was mainstreamed and quickly became popular with classmates.

'I think I actually had more friends than most people,' he says. 'I was never for one clique. I could sit with the girls at the lunch table or make the nerds laugh. I was very quick-witted.'

Blue was urged by friends to try stand-up while studying at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. ('I love that Northwest attitude,' he says.)

Dedicating himself to comedy, he'd been making a living at it for a year and a half, mostly on the college circuit, before his successful run on 'Last Comic Standing.'

The redheaded Blue is rolling now - he just did an acting turn in the horror movie 'Feast 3' - but he also remembers his roots. He recently was interviewed on disaboom.com, an online resource for people with disabilities.

'I have a little stem cell joke I do,' he says. 'I do quite a few things, actually. I'm all about helping. I've had a lot of help getting to where I'm at.'

While acknowledging that even the best comics come and go, Blue is determined to keep moving forward energetically.

'There is a certain shelf life if you don't evolve,' he says. 'I'm never going to stop. There's so much I don't know about this business. That's the excitement of it, the pursuit of the new thing.'

Blue, whose Web site is enlivened by his colorful paintings, also is an athlete. He plays soccer with the U.S. Paralympic Team, although the squad's modest success is frequently the subject of his barbs.

He's also a survivor. On a recent trip to Brazil, he was caught in a riptide while swimming in the Atlantic Ocean and had to be rescued.

Blue, whose fiancée is expecting the couple's first child, says it was the latest in a series of close scrapes that included an accident involving a drunken driver and a near miss with a falling boulder while rock climbing.

'I almost die about every two years,' he says, but remains upbeat about even that. He feels the message is clear.

'I will not be stopped,' he says.

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Josh Blue

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31

Where: Aladdin Theatre, 3017 S.E. Milwaukie Ave., 503-233-1994, www.aladdin-theater.com

Cost: $29.50