IamA disabled stand-up comedian. AMA!
My short bio:
My name is Ally Bruener and I'm a 24 year old stand-up comedian with Muscular Dystrophy. I've been fully wheelchair bound since the age of 7, which jump-started my love for public speaking with various charity events. I started comedy after dropping out of college in 2010 and have been consistently performing around the Midwest since. I use my comedy as an attempt to open the doors for conversations about things that are often considered taboo and to (hopefully) break down the stereotypes about people with disabilities. Also, I just love making stranger laugh, regardless of subject matter. I'm no stranger to controversy, so... Ask me anything!
My Proof: Proof will be on both twitter and my facebook page:
I'll start answering question around 1:30pm EST.
P.S. If I had a dollar for every time someone thinks they're clever by saying, "Stand up comedy? Don't you mean sit down comedy?" then I'd actually be able to make a living doing comedy.
Update: I'm headed to bed, but if y'all have more questions, I'll be back tomorrow! Also, thanks to everyone for all the kind words!
Update #2: Good morning!
I haven't really drank much at all since college. But it is entirely possible to get a DUI in a wheelchair in some states. I just always wonder how the hell they would transport me to jail. Maybe put my chair in manual and tow me behind?
Normally they impound the vehicle. Maybe you would get an outdoor cell.
Or they might put a boot on my wheel..
If you were arrested, would the cops just try to pick you up and put you in the car? How are people in wheelchairs arrested?
I honestly have no clue. I wrote a paper on it and college and there are countless cases of people with disabilities being injured during arrest. I'm sure I'll find out eventually..
Lovely to meet you, dear! The biggest challenge has been the physical barriers. Very few comedy venues are wheelchair friendly, especially with the stage. Most stages are anywhere from 2-4 feet high and my portable ramp won't work for many. Most places are willing to work with me by letting me use the door guys to lift me on stage, but it takes four big guys to lift my 400 pound throne.
The only thing I have never really joked about is death. Not saying I never will, but I haven't found an instance where I can put the humor in it.
And yes, I hate political correctness. I had someone tell me, "You should call yourself 'differently abled' or 'diff-abled' for short" Great.. so now I sound like I have a lisp, too!
When I was brand new and still trying to get my feet wet, I hadn't thought of solutions to some of the accessibility issues, so some bookers just weren't sure how to work with me. But I haven't had anyone blatantly refuse to try to make accommodations.
I did go to college, but I dropped out after about three years. I am glad I went. It was my first real experience of living on my own away from family. There were some tough times, but overall an amazing experience.
How often do people drop the obvious joke about you being a stand-up in a wheelchair, as if you've never heard it or thought of it before?
(My last name lends itself to the same kind of tired joke.)
Always. Everyone thinks it's so clever. I might have agreed when I was twelve. If you look at anything I've posted in r/standupshots, you'll see several "I thought this was STAND UP shots, not SIT DOWN shots." Could be worse, I guess.
I have done a couple of stand-up acts myself at a local comedy club (I'm in NJ) and there is a blind dude with a cane who goes on occasionally. His opening lines both times I have seen him is "Hi, my name is Zeke. As you can see, I can't." The audiences always really love that.
Anyway, would you say that being a disable comedian somehow makes the audience react differently to your act (other than what I assume is an initial look of surprise)?
They tend to except one of two extremes. Either sweet and innocent or completely vulgar. I'm usually somewhere in the middle, and it takes them a minute to adjust their expectations. But I like to think they tend to be pleasantly surprised.
Women comedians tend to only talk about penis and vaginas and how their vaginas are smelly and they are so horny all the time and make terrible fart jokes and sex jokes for their entire set. Do other comedians not tell them that this stuff isn't funny?
I think everyone wants to be "edgy". People tell them, but they say "You just don't get my angle" or some bullshit. But I have a poop joke, so I've got know room to talk.
I just found a joke of yours (about being a stripper) and sort of spit-took all over my monitor. Do you tour, or are you mostly found online?
I'm currently mainly doing show around Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. But I hope to travel more in the near-future.
What areas of Indiana? It's lonely and boring here.
I've done Indy and Bloomington. Might be doing Muncie soon.
where in ohio
Cincinnati and Dayton, mostly.
Coming to Columbus any time? If so you should post over in /r/Columbus
I don't currently have anything booked, but I'm looking into different venues. :)
Holy shit, I just commented about the Detroit one, but I am in Dayton for a month! Anything planned?
- damn, just read a comment one below this stating no shows planned while I'm here.
Cincinnati isn't far to travel to ;)
Tomorrow! The finals of the Funniest Person in Cincinnati contest!
Where in Ohio? I would love to Come to a show
Mostly Cincinnati and Dayton, but I'm hoping to expand to Columbus and Cleveland within a few months.
Hi ally it's Jenna! Just supporting you!!! Go ally!!!
Hi Ally! I'm a friend of T-Jax's! I saw you a couple of times. Once at wicks where everyone was too loud and some lame ass won the contest.
Rock on! Or... roll... on...
Thanks, darlin'! That was my absolute worst show ever.. Oh well. Thanks for your kind words!
How do you feel about people who ask you insensitive stuff about, like, going to the bathroom and sex and stuff?
I'm perfectly okay with it. I know people are just curious and rarely have any malicious intentions in their questions. I'll answer most anything.
What is your best joke?
This one gets an applause break at nearly every show: http://www.rooftopcomedy.com/watch/JesusHatesCrippledPeople
now that's what I came here for!
Glad you enjoyed it!
In phoenix there is a comedian with a similar disability who goes by the name 'shortbus' do you know/have you done any shows with him?
I haven't. But I'll check him out. Thanks! :)
What was your major before dropping out? Do you have any regrets? What is life on the road like as a stand-up and what type of person would you recommend it for? Thanks for doing this!
My major was Political Science with the intention of going to law school after graduation. I realized pretty quickly that being a lawyer wouldn't make me truly happy and I had no other interest in anything political. I have no regrets about that.
I haven't been able to really spend as much time on the road as I would like. Unfortunately, I can't travel alone and I don't yet make enough money in order to hire someone to join me. So when I do travel, my dad has to tag along, which doesn't mesh well with his actual joke. And my van gets horrible gas mileage. But I feel like it's something I need to do more of to "earn my stripes".
Yeah I think "funny lawyer" is an oxymoron most of the time. Thanks for answering and good luck in your career and life.
My pleasure! And thanks for your questions!
Hey! You are really funny... So I hope that makes you smile cause you make me smile!
Aww.. Thanks, darlin'! Big smiles!
What's a joke of yours that you personally enjoy but doesn't seem to do as well on stage? And conversely, what's a joke that you don't find as funny that seems to do very well on stage?
I use to do an abortion joke that was just really crude. I loved it because it was a true story. Audiences were repulsed.
All my jokes were funny to me at one point. But I grow bored with them quickly and forget why I found them funny.
What was the joke?
The crude part is about how a guy once asked me if I would ever consider eating my own aborted fetus. My response was, "Hell no! It'd be way too salty."
As someone who would love to do stand-up comedy for fun, I have a couple questions..
Where do you get the inspiration for your jokes?
Do you improvise a lot while on stage? Or is it more planned out?
What do you do if a crowd doesn't laugh when you expect them to?
Thanks for doing this!
Most of my jokes are based on random things that have happened or conversations with friends along the lines of "Wouldn't it be crazy if this happened?" And I have a weird family.. that definitely helps.
I don't improvise all that much, unless it's a really laid back show. If it isn't an open mic, I feel like I am still too unknown to risk it affecting the rest of the show. And if it is an open mic, I'm usually focused on working out new ideas.. so I guess there might be a bit of improv there, especially if its just throwing out a new tag line I came up with while on stage.
Crowds can be so unpredictable. But it isn't that big of an issue. It might throw off your rhythm, but just keep going once the laughter starts to die. Later, go back and try to figure out why they were laughing when they normally wouldn't and you might come out of it with a new laugh line.
How do you actually get gigs? Do you just do a few sets locally, then send out queries? Do out of town places pay for lodging?
Also, how often do you change your bits? Do you pretty much just tell a joke once and let it go, or have several bits you mix up?
Usually by word-of-mouth. I mostly do show within the same region (about a 2 hour radius of Cincinnati). I'm hoping to expand more soon, and when I do, I'll use references from comics and bookers I've worked with before. Networking can be a comedian's greatest resource.
I tend to keep jokes for a long time, trying to evolve them into something better. Once I feel a joke is as good as it will get, I'll set it aside for showcases and competitions.
Do you actually get good money from referring people to Diamond Candles?
Hah.. $5 credit.. So bunch of free shit eventually. I thought I deleted all those tweets!
Do you think being disabled makes it easier to get attention as a comedian?
It goes both ways.. Some people are completely dismissive, while it draws the attention of others. Just as some people are overly critical the moment I mention my disability in my act, others are too nice and refuse to give me the slightest bit of criticism.
Cripple girls have the best weed. That blue wizard weed.
Hah! I totally forgot about that. Good times.
You know I <3 you.
Damn right you do do!
Have you ever been in a romantic relationship? Do you think that the American disabled and not-disabled communities have significantly different cultures?
I have been in one serious relationship. That was back in college. I think it's harder for disabled people to date mainly because of all the misconceptions and the lack of people willing to put themselves out there in set the record straight. I don't see it as two different cultures, since in most cases, disabled people don't really sequester themselves. We're part of the regular culture, but only as much as the rest of the people are willing to embrace us. Does that make any sense?
Yeah, that definitely makes sense. Would you say that humor is a common way of dealing with the difficulties that come with being disabled? If not, what are some common ways that you see?
If you don't mind me asking, was the guy (or girl, I don't judge) disabled as well?
I think it depends on the person. Generally, I feel comedy helps everyone through difficulties. When you're laughing, you aren't worrying. Some people use humor to come to terms about things, others use it as a shield. Personally, I genuinely find my life funny. I use humor to make others more comfortable. When you laugh, your guard is down. That's when people are most likely to see past the chair.
I've never really thought about how I deal with my disability, I've just done it. :/
I don't mind at all, dear. My ex is a guy and no, he isn't disabled.
How do audiences generally react to your material? I know a lot of stand up comedians routinely deal with hecklers, but I can't imagine anyone would heckle you?
Audiences are often a bit taken aback at first, but I make sure I'm quick to break the ice and let them know it's okay to laugh. But there are always people who have the mindset, "I can't laugh, she's in a wheelchair!" As if I didn't make a conscious decision to get on that stage and find the humor in my life.
I haven't had as many hecklers as most, but it has happened. I'll get the occasional person yell "You're going to hell!" or someone who gets mad at my use of the word "crippled".
"You're going to hell!"
Seems like a bit of an overreaction if you ask me. How do you respond to these people?
Depends on the manner in which they say it.. I usually just ignore them. Sometimes I'll make a comment about them joining me in hell. If I really wanna piss them off I'll say something like, "Hell? Sounds like a fairytale.. Oh, wait.."
Who are other disabled stand-up comedians that you'd recommend?
I don't really know all that many.. At least not on a comedic level. But the first one that comes to mind would be Nina G.
Ouch. I won't tell Josh Blue.
He seemed too obivious!
I hope to travel more once I can afford a van that gets more than 9mpg. And TN will probably be the next area I try to tackle.
Are you going to be coming up to the Cleveland area any time soon? I've followed you on twitter and FB since the first time one of your photos showed up on imgur. I would recommend anybody browsing this AMA consider doing so.
That's one of the next cities I'm hoping to tackle. Thanks for your support!
Really, thanks for putting it all out there. Fuck hiding.
Do use only your own material or have you ever gotten writers in on the gig?
Aside from tossing ideas around with friends, I write everything myself. The worst label you can get in comedy is a joke thief, so I don't really trust having other people write for me. But there will be an occasion where after a set, a fellow comic will come up to me and suggest a new tag line, but that's about the extent of it.
So what kind of computer setup are you using?
Voice control, typing, one handing it?
Just a regular laptop. My fingers are still fairly nimble.
nimble fingers are a good thing!
I make good use of them.
Hello Ally! I'm watching your set on youtube, "Ally Bruener comedy set," and you had me dying! I'm a 23 year old comedian as well, and I love your timing and your material is super original. I loved the "I'm a normal 22 year old girl except I haven't had an abortion." also, "if you woo depression you're not depressed."
Do you think because of your disability you're able to talk about riskier subjects?
Are venues ever reluctant to book you?
Do you ever think there will be a time in your comedy where you don't address being in a chair? As a comic you're supposed to address the elephant in the room, but have you ever thought about that?
THANKS FOR READING MY TEXT.
Thanks, dear! So glad you're enjoying it. I think my disability definitely lets me get away with some more offensive stuff, probably just because so few people expect to hear those things out of my mouth.
I have been very lucky when it comes to getting booked, especially on a local level. The club I started at has an owner and management who are rather fond of me. I've gotten quite a few opportunities there that I probably didn't deserve. Beyond that, I think venues just don't know what to do with me because of the lack of accessibility of most clubs. So they just aren't quite sure how things will work. Something as simple as me not being able to put the mic back in the stand tends to throw people off. I just make it appoint to address the issues before they're seen as an actual issue and not something with a super simple solution.
I think I will always have to address it, even if it's just one joke to clear the air. But I do want to be much less dependent on those jokes. I'm currently trying to focus on writing more clean material so I'll be more marketable. Once I get better at that, I'm going to set my attention on putting together a set without disability jokes (aside from one to kill the elephant). So, it'll happen. I've just got a lot of growing left to do. :)
Do you find people treat you differently because of your disability when performing? If so how do you handle that? How do you view yourself in comparison to able bodied performers?
They take a while to warm up to me, I think. When I get on stage, I look very sweet and innocent, often wearing a headband and cardigan. They expect me to tell knock, knock jokes about puppies and unicorns. So when my first joke drops the f-bomb or mentions sex, it takes them a minute to adjust their expectations.
One major difference I see between me and able-bodied performers is that I get a lot of support all across the board from other performers. I don't know if it's because of my disability or just because I am fairly likable, but it seems like there are a lot of comics and bookers that want to see me succeed.
I think your officially the first one from our Furby Family to be AMA famous! First the front page, then an AMA, THEN THE WORLD!
Much love :).
Travis!!! Ferocious Furbies 4 lyfe!
What's the worst you have ever bombed?
About 9 months into comedy, I was in a contest at a pizza parlor/bar. It was the final round of the competition and nerves got the best of me. I bombed and bombed hard.
In your opinion, who has the funniest set I could see online right now?
Oh gosh.. That's tough. I don't really watch all that much online. But I would recommend rooftopcomedy.com. You can sort it by club and I highly recommend most of the clips you can find from Go Bananas. Cincinnati has some amazing local talent.
I'm glad! :)
Just looked up your comedy... Hilarious.
What's the most weird/akward thing anybody's ever said to you, and how did you respond?
One of the regulars at a local club approached me after a show and said, "I think it's great you joke about sex like you actually know what you're talking about." So next time she was at a show, I told people about a lady saying that and ended the story with, "So I slept with her husband." She gave her husband the dirtiest look. It was priceless.
Just dropping in to say keep doing what you're doing :) I'm a big 1st Amendment supporter.
My friends, J & D, defended you guys for the BS censorship the city was trying to pull. I've got a bunch of attorney friends/acquaintances, and NONE of them like Joe Deters.
Glad you guys won. Keep it up! :)
Thanks, dear! D is actually my cousin, so I knew we were in good hands. I appreciate your support!
Did Josh Blue being on Last Comic Standing change things for disabled comics?
I'm not really sure what it was like before, since I'm only a few years in. But I think he made disabled comedians more socially acceptable in the eyes of the audience. That probably gave a lot of us a bit of encouragement.
Just try it. What's the worst that could happen? If nothing else, it's something easy to cross off your bucket list.
stand up comedy is said to be one of the toughest professions to make a career out of. is it wheelie as hard as they say?....
I see what you did there.. ;)
Do you have a youtube link so we can see some of your work?
(If it's on your twitter or facebook I apologize for my laziness.)
Edit: strangest downvotes ever
I really need to update my channel. All the videos are at least a year old. I'll try to upload some more clips either tonight or tomorrow.
I'm just gonna leave this here.
THE PURPLE PROP! I'm surprised you didn't post the video..
It's already on your YouTube page.
I'll show you my valid point.
Oh, I've seen it.. It wasn't really all that "valid"...
Awwz.. I kid. You're as valid as they come.
This sounds very similar to my cousins situation, he also has MD, is from Indiana, and enjoys doing "Stand up" comedy! (Also is a very talented graphics designer) You guys should meet!
What's his name? We may have already met.
EVERYBODY LAUGH AT THE CRIPPLED GIRL!
fuck I hope Cincy police don't arrest me...
After the trial, one of the officers admitted that he is now a fan. I think we're in the clear.
I see you in the local news every now and then in the Cincinnati area, and the stuff I've seen online is just awesome. Are you playing any shows in the future?
I'm in the finals of the Funniest Person in Cincinnati contest tomorrow! :)
Where and when's it at? I might sucker my girlfriend into going!
It's at Go Bananas, but the showroom is sold out. But there will be a live feed at McLevy's, the bar next door. And you can vote for the winners from there, too. And it's free. And that's where all the comics will be hanging out when not on stage. It'll be a great time!
Why does this AMA not say precisely what your Twitter handle is?
"I am the coolest crip bitch on this side of the 'sippi. AMA"
Eh.. figured that would sound a bit cocky.. even though it's true.
Can you give a few examples of jokes you have surrounding people with disabilities? In my head as a person in the crowd I can only really see myself feeling very awkward while laughing at those types of jokes. Thanks!
There are several short clips: http://www.rooftopcomedy.com/comics/AllisonBruener
Oh snap, I've seen you're OKcupid profile. How's it going, fellow Cincinnatian? Small world.
It's going pretty well. It might be better if I didn't need an okcupid profile, though. ;)
Right on. Whereabouts did you start out around here? I myself did an open mic night at Baba Budans once.
I started in Louisville at Comedy Caravan, but moved back to Cincy not too long ago. I mostly just do Go Bananas and some random bar show. Baba Budans is a pretty cool place.
What is the best dinosaur?
Any except the T-rex. I hate the T-rex!
Forest does not approve
I couldn't care less. :)
o.O You said "couldn't" instead of "could"
I think you may be a fucking genius. That might be one of my pet peeves.. maybe.
It happens to be one of my pet peeves, as well. :)
Did your earlier participation on the MDA Telethon with Jerry Lewis inspire you to become a comedian?
Not necessarily to become a comedian, but that's where I got my start in public speaking. I remember being about 9 years old giving a speech at a black tie event to about 500 adults and I felt at home. I like giving people a reason to listen to me.
Thank you so much for this AMA. I have Cerebral Palsy and am in a chair as well. Comedy is a passion of mine - I love making people smile. I'm not amazing yet, but I'm dreaming big and plan to achieve everything I want to do in life. Thank you so much for this AMA, it really gave me a boost of confidence to continue doing persuing this. How did you get your start in comedy?
I started by taking a class at a local club. I never intended to pursue it beyond the graduation show, but I was hooked. Comedy classes get a lot of crap, but it gave me encouragement I needed to get on stage for the first time. Plus, to this day, my instructors and classmates are some of my biggest supporters.
Do you see the irony in being a disabled stand-up comedian?
Read the PS portion of the description, dear. ;)
Did you go to a disabled school as a kid? Were the kids chill there?
Nope. I went to a regular school.
Again, read the PS of the description, dear.
I don't care about comedy just tell me this... can you or can you not do wheelies in your wheelchair?
Partially.. But I have a power wheelchair, so that makes it a bit difficult.
Technically, aren't you a sit down comedian?
Read the PS portion of the description, dear. ;)
Wow, what a great audience
*Terrific audience. At least get the quote right, dear.
Pretty sure he says both.
How do you stand up?
Microphones are magical.
stand up. sorry im going to hell.
Read the PS of my description. ;)
Sorry it was jist the first thing i thought of when i read the title.
Haha.. I'm use to it. ;)
Brings a whole new meaning to stand-up comedian doesn't it?
See last line of description. ;)
I'm assuming you enjoy an adult beverage from time to time, especially after a set or hanging out with friends. Every worry about getting a DUI in your chair?
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