INTERVIEW: Lost Voice Guy | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Comedian Lee Ridley, a.k.a. Lost Voice Guy, is at a loss for words – quite literally. The 31 year old Geordie who has cerebral palsy, is unable to speak and performs live stand-up via an electronic voice aid on his iPad, can’t quite believe how fast his act has taken off, having played venues across the UK since he started just under three years ago.

“I still sometimes have to take a step back and have a moment where I think to myself what the hell am I doing!” he says. One of his proudest achievements so far is supporting Ross Noble at The Stand in Newcastle, which came about after Lee challenged Noble to a ‘Stephen Hawking Voice-Off’ at one of the star’s gigs. “After being such a fan, it was very surreal.”

This is one of many weird and wonderland highlights: “Performing a charity gig at the Edinburgh Fringe in front of two thousand people was pretty special. That was also the night that I ‘sang’ a duet with The Boy With Tape On His Face…” The ‘Boy’ in question has the ability to speak, but chooses not to, instead performing with a strip of gaffer tape across his mouth. “The whole thing was very bizarre, but in a good way.”

Naturally, a good chunk of Lee’s material revolves around his disability: “Quite simply, if I didn’t laugh, I think I’d cry a lot! I’ve always found humour as being a good way of coping with things. I guess I’ve just always seen the funny side of everything. I also think that laughing about my disability takes away a bit of the stigma.”

His latest Fringe show, Laughter Is The Worst Medicine, tells the story of how last year he was rushed to hospital with a nasty bout of pneumonia and came frighteningly close to death. “I didn’t see the funny side at the time,” he admits, quite understandably, “but there was just so much that happened that was amusing that I just couldn’t ignore it. I look for jokes in most things that happen to me these days.”

And there’s a shed-load of material for him to mine. In 2012, he tried his luck at The X Factor auditions in Newcastle and the judges were bafflingly unimpressed by his RP rendition of R. Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly. “I think that some people are more open to laughing about [his disability] than others. Most people soon come on side though and get what I’m about.”

Conveying humour with a computerised voice is a challenge in itself: “It’s sometimes hard to judge timing. Obviously you need to pause for laughter and it’s slightly harder for me to do that. It’s trial and error really. If I know a big laugh is coming I can be ready to pause or even break the joke up beforehand so it stops in the right places. The main challenge is getting my iPad to say everything correctly. I sometimes have to spell words incorrectly so that it pronounces them better. Obviously, I find it really hard to sound excited or sarcastic too, but I think there’s comedy in me not being to do that. I think it’s more amusing that I sound like a posh version of Robocop.”

Lost Voice Guy performs at ARC, Stockton on Friday 28th and Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre on Saturday 29th November.


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