Lost Voice Guy

Lost Voice Guy

Lost Voice Guy, aka Lee Ridley, suffers from cerebral palsy, which means he has no speech, and uses an iPad app to talk for him. He took up comedy in 2012, and made his Edinburgh debut in 2013, although his run was cut short when he became ill, and he returned for the full festival the following year. In 2014, he wonthe BBC Radio New Comedy Awards.
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Lost Voice Guy: I'm Only In It For The Parking

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Soho Theatre, London

‘Don’t expect the sweet and innocent comedian from Britain’s Got Talent,’ says Lost Voice Guy Lee Ridley, winner of last year’s competition.

It’s something of a throwaway line, delivered via the iPad app that must speak for him, but also a peek into the substance that underpins his latest tour, asking the audience to consider their preconceptions about disabled people. The idea perpetuated in the media is that they are either superhero paralympians or workshy benefits scroungers. Worthy or not worthy, in more stark terms.

Yet most disabled people, like most the rest of us, are somewhere in the middle. Ridley isn’t shy about some of his flaws, confessing not just to being undeserving of the label ‘inspirational’ that so often bandied about, but also claiming to be a ‘complete bastard’. 

That seems a harsh judgment: he’s more of a rogue who likes to prank, especially when it comes to those who patronise, however good their intentions, because of his cerebral palsy. For worse than hero-worship or contempt is pity.

Some of the more astute social points can, however, seem over-earnest – not as satirically sharp as Laurence Clark, for instance – while his mischief-making isn’t as puckish as Rosie Jones or as unforgivingly uncomfortable as Tim Renkow

Ridley instead mixes good gags with first-hand experiences – at his best when mocking subconscious preconceptions the able-bodied have about anybody with a disability. His jibes, good-natured but definitely pointed, should be enough to correct some of this unthinking behaviour.

Not all the personal section are entirely successful. One in which he speaks about dating a woman but screwing it up for fear because of a fear of vulnerability and intimacy is tender and heartfelt, but light on gags.

Another story about getting seriously ill with pneumonia at the Edinburgh Fringe – which actually happened more than five years ago – doesn’t quite gel beyond jokes about getting high on morphine, while the many festival references limit its relevance to those not familiar with the August event.

However, Ridley can write a smart punchline and exudes a likability – quite some feat when relying on speech software that has no emotional range, as he amusingly demonstrates. However, not being able to call on pacing, emphasis and audience interaction like most comics is not the drawback you might think – instead, the technology offers a different way of consuming comedy, ensuring the audience’s undivided attention on what he’s saying.

Ridley can be a bit repetitive, though, especially with repeated gags about the iPad making him sound like various automated devices. And the best joke about the software is very similar to a staple of inept hospital radio DJ Ivan Brackenbury’s set. There are about eight separate jokes about being mistaken for Stephen Hawking, which feels like an idea being stretched thin. Though if anyone is entitled to do Stephen Hawking gags, it’s surely Lost Voice Guy

* Lost Voice Guy: I'm Only In It For The Parking is on tour until the end of April  Click here for dates.

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Published: 26 Jan 2019


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