Events

Night of laughs commemorates ADA

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Nationally known performer Brett Leake and Handicap This, a two-man comedy team, headlined Come Laugh With Us, a night of jokes presented by Voices for Independence Saturday, July 25 at Penn State Behrend’s McGarvey Commons.

WJET-24’s Raychel Vendetti served as emcee of the event, which commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the civil rights legislation that passed in July 1990. Stairways Behavioral Health was a sponsor of Come Laugh With Us.

As the opening act, Handicap This paired Mike Berkson, a 26-year-old man with Cerebral Palsy who is in a wheelchair and only has limited use of his hands, with his former teacher Tim Wambach. Having used humor to bridge their differences, Berkson and Wambach utilize the same method to address stereotypes and the judgements often associated with people with physical handicaps.

In addition to telling their story of friendship and their mission of inclusiveness, Wambach and Berkson also share the challenges they personally face, such as depression. In a particularly poignant moment, Berkson, who has difficulty speaking, discusses his persistent depression and suicidal thoughts.

Leake, who bills himself as one of the nation’s top sitdown standup comics, became the first comedian with a physical disability to appear on the Tonight Show in 1991. Leake has facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy and is confined to a wheelchair.

During his set on stage, Leake discussed the importance of finding humor in all of a life’s challenges, sprinkling personal anecdotes and musings throughout his monologue. While incorporating humor and inspirational speech, Leake kept audience members captivated by urging them to recite motivational phrases, such as “Fun gets things done.”



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