By Kevin Satizabal
“I got into comedy by being stood up on a date…”
Cracking jokes from the very start, I knew I was in for a good time when I began to interview Richard Wheatley, a blind comedian who has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe and is performing at LOOKFest!
Richard fell in love with comedy as a child, listening to radio comedy classics like Hancock’s Half Hour, Round the Horn, and I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue. But the chance of realising his childhood dream to become a comedian, only came about after completing a degree in astrophysics. Yeah, Richard is a smart guy.
“It all started when I arranged to go with someone to a science comedy gig, ‘the Festival of the Spoken Nerd.” Richard told me. On the day, my friend said her guide dog got quite a serious injury so she wouldn’t be able to make it, so I went on my own. After the gig was over, I went up to the acts and asked them how they got into comedy. They told me about the comedian and author Logan Murray, who runs comedy courses. They sounded great, so I went to find out more and signed up to one of his courses.”
Performing at the Fringe
Richard flourished on the course and performed his first sand-up gig at the Cavendish Arms in London before the course had even ended.
Richard then signed up to do two shows at the Edinburgh Fringe with friends from his course. At the last-minute however, his friends pulled out of one of the shows, so Richard offered to do a solo gig. To his delight, the Fringe accepted.
“I couldn’t believe that the 20th time of doing comedy on stage, I stepped out to do a solo show at the Fringe.” By the end of August 2018, Richard had completed 47 live shows,packed into 27 days. “It was this amazing experience where I got to build up instincts for interacting with audiences and I was able to learn to trust myself and have a good time.”
Richard’s shows were able to evolve throughout the festival, with improvisation and audience interaction becoming key to the material.
Interacting with the audience
I was curious to find out how Richard engaged with his audiences without sight. , At the start of his shows, Richard did a call and response routine with singing and spoken word, which allowed him to pick up audience members with good singing voices for instants. “In my recent gigs I’ve also tried using a tennis ball.” Richard explained. “One time I said ‘Pass the ball to the person furthest to the left on the third row. Hello sir, how are you?’ I said confidently, And a woman answered…”
Richard’s found using these awkward blind moments really effective at creating humour and overcoming the fact he can’t look at an audience and comment on something they’re wearing, or singling out the one person who walks in late halfway through the show.
‘I want to inspire blind comedians’
Richard performed at the Brighton Fringe in May and is preparing to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe, but before that he will be taking to the stage at LOOKFest.
“I really want to inspire more blind comedians. I’ve learned that taking every opportunity you get is really important. Just because you are blind, it doesn’t mean you can’t follow your dreams.”
Don’t miss Richard’s show. Buy your LOOKFest tickets today!