Lost Voice Guy: “I’ve stopped trying to guess what will happen next.”
Lee Ridley, a.k.a Lost Voice Guy, writes exclusively for Giggle Beats about his “whirlwind” rise in the comedy ranks…
If you’d told me before my very first attempt at stand up comedy in February that I’d be writing this article for Giggle Beats on the eve of my first gig at Jongleurs in London, I would have thought you were crazy.
Yet, here I am. To say that the last few months have been surreal would be a massive understatement. In fact, I often find myself randomly asking myself what the fuck I am doing and how I have got into this situation. Let’s face it, it’s not the sort of thing any sane person would be doing. Then again, I’ve always liked a challenge and this is definitely one of those.
My friends had always told me that I was funny. My humorous blogs have always got positive feedback too. I’m modest though. I never wanted to believe that I was actually funny. I thought that would be big headed of me. I wasn’t that kind of person. I was happy believing that people were just being kind.
It was only when friends started suggesting that I tried my hand at stand-up that I began to think that maybe they weren’t pulling my leg.
It took ages to pluck up the courage to do it. It was my friend Nathan Wood who planted the idea in my mind. I tried to ignore it, but it remained there, bugging me to give it a try. After a few months, I gave into temptation. I knew I’d always regret it if I didn’t; and in hindsight, it seems I made the right choice.
Given that I have no speech, you can understand why I never thought that I’d be able to do stand-up, even though I’ve always dreamed of getting on stage. I just thought it would be too difficult; that people wouldn’t understand me; that I would be silly to try. I clearly underestimated my own determination.
My first ten minutes on stage, at a gig in Sunderland back in February, just blew me away. The buzz that I got from people actually laughing at material that I’d written was awesome. I never expected it to go as well as it did. I just thought I’d give it a try and see what happened.
I decided to use my iPad instead of my Lightwriter (which I usually use to speak with) as it had a clearer voice than my model of Lightwriter, plus it was easier to copy and paste the stuff that I had written on my computer. I nearly regretted that choice as my iPad decided it wanted to reboot as soon as I walked on stage, leaving me in a proper panic. What a time to fuck up!
Thankfully, it soon sorted itself out and I was back in business.
As I’ve said, I had been concerned that the voice wouldn’t be clear enough. It turned out to be as clear as could be. If I’m honest, this made me feel so much better about the whole thing. That was the only obstacle that I had in my head and I had cleared it.
Strangely enough, I never really felt that nervous which is very unlike me. It was very nice to come off stage to a lot of praise and compliments though. It meant an awful lot.
Since that night, things have been a bit of a whirlwind. I’ve been featured on BBC Breakfast News, BBC radio Sky and CNN (my mate even saw me on the news while he was on holiday in Cuba!). I’ve appeared in The Sun and The Guardian and had meetings about television projects and books. I’ve been all over the country for gigs too – from Aberdeen to London and lots of places in between.
Of course, being disabled, I couldn’t have done all this on my own. I’m lucky to have had such good support from family and friends. They’ve helped me get to gigs, helped me get set up beforehand and helped give me that boost of confidence when I’ve needed it. A special mention has to go to fellow comedian and good friend Emily Wood, who has joined me on most of my comedy road trips and been a great help. It hasn’t always gone to plan – like when we got stuck in Edinburgh after missing the last train home – but that just makes it all the more fun.
I’ve also met some really good mates on the Newcastle comedy circuit as well as further afield. In fact, that’s probably one of the best things to come out of all of this.
But perhaps my most memorable gig so far was out of the region: at the Soho Theatre in London.
The gig itself – at a night called Abnormally Funny People – was good. Apparently it had sold out partly because I was on, which was both exciting and a little bit nerve racking. I’m used to playing to smaller audiences really.
Luckily, I couldn’t really see any of them when I was out on stage, so I just did my thing as usual. The atmosphere both at the gig and backstage was good too. The crowd seemed very friendly and the other acts were very supportive. In fact, I got some very good advice from both the promoter and the other comedians, which I’m very grateful for.
It was after the gig that things went a bit mental, though. People started coming into the dressing room to congratulate me. Then, when I went back into the bar, strangers started asking me for my photograph. If this wasn’t random enough, Alan Pardew – Newcastle United manager – also happened to be in the bar, so he came over to say hello too! Unfortunately, I’m not going to be their next number nine. He did have these words to say about me, though:
“Let’s be honest – it takes incredible bravery to do what he’s doing. More bravery than me or any of my players show to do what he’s trying to do. So all I can say is that I wish him all the best in a very tough business. Our business is tough but his is tougher so I wish him all the best.”
Since then, I’ve been stopped for photographs by random people in coffee shops and asked for my autograph too. I’ve stopped trying to guess what will happen next. It’ll be something unexpected and very surreal anyway…
I’ve also managed to get two shows up at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August alongside North East comedian Jeff Lantern.
I still can’t believe all this is happening and it’s still weird when strangers come up and say they’ve seen me on the television – and are looking forward to seeing me perform. I’m still not used to coping with all the praise I get when I come off stage either. Maybe I am funny after all. Who knew.