Thursday, August 13, 2015

Why aren't more people with disabilities on America's Got Talent?

My friend Wendy texted last night asking if I'd seen the comedian on America's Got Talent who stutters, Drew Lynch. I gave up on the show a couple of years ago, so I checked him out on YouTube.

Lynch, an aspiring actor, got hit by a baseball bat and sustained damage to his vocal chords that resulted in a permanent stutter. He's a funny guy; here's his recent riff on his service dog:

Lynch is one of seven contestants advancing to the semi-finals, but it's rare to see people with disabilities on these talent shows (or, really, on TV in general). I loved watching Jack Carroll, who has cerebral palsy, on Britain's Got Talent a couple of years ago. He also used his disability in his act because, as he said, "In comedy, a lot of time, your weaknesses are your strengths. It's like the elephant in the room and then when you mention it, they go [exhale] and they can relax and enjoy the rest of the funny jokes."

It's awesome to see them. And it would be equally awesome to see a person with a disability on a talent show who doesn't have to spin his entire act around it to put people at ease. That likely won't happen anytime soon because a whole lot of people are still uncomfortable with people who have disabilities.

Consider PKN, the Finnish punk band. Its members play some bad-ass music...and they just happen to have Down syndrome and autism.

Image of Lynch/NBC


  1. There is also a (gorgeous) male model on this season of America's Next Top Model who is Deaf - he uses ASL, an interpreter, and a text-to-speech app. Did I mention he's also absolutely gorgeous? ;)

  2. Drew Lynch is genuinely funny. He does not use cheap, dirty "humor".

  3. That show in particular thrives on overcoming-difficulties-porn, so if there aren't many people with disabilities, I would think that they either aren't trying out or they aren't making the grade. They did have a blind dancer this year as well. Can't remember if there have been any others. Last year they had someone with an anxiety disorder.

    P.S. It has been a much better show the last few seasons. The judging panel is kinder to the contestants and gets along well, and most of the time is spent on good talent vs. weird acts.

  4. There have been a whole bunch of contestants on AGT with disabilities -- ADHD, PTSD, depression and severe anxiety -- including one of the female singers who made it to the top 3-4. There have also been dancers who just happened to be blind and deaf.

    I believe Laz-yLegz (a b-boy with CP who breakdancer with crutches) was on the show a few years back.

    "So You Think You Can Dance", my fave reality show ever, has kids with disabilities audition pretty much every year -- they tend not to make it on the show as contestants (though a deaf girl and another girl born w/1 hand almost did last year), but are often invited back to show their stuff in the finale.

    One kid who auditioned doing a robot dance to a Christina Aguilera (he had a SN that limited his movement), was not only invited back for the final but later joined the Dragon House Dance Crew (which competed on a Dance Crew show, exhibitions on SYTYCD and DWTS).

    It's also entirely possible that other contestants have disabilities that they simply prefer not to talk about on national TV. Like, Piff the Dragon (a comedian who performs in a dragon costume)... for all anybody knows he could have a wooden leg under there!

  5. I'm in the UK, so don't watch AGT (or any of the similar British shows as it happens), but the early rounds of shows like this make me a little bit uncomfortable with their theme of 'Talented person, not that great, talented person, laugh at this deluded person, talented'. Remember Susan Boyle and the way the audiance was getting ready to laugh at her? Only she could actually sing. Now it's clear she has Asperger's, and I wonder how many of the 'joke' acts actually are in a similar situation, only instead of being celebrated they're being set up to be laughed at.

    1. There are TONS of non-special needs acts that make it onto AGT and BGT as a joke -- so it isn't surprising that te occasional (potential) SN act gets put through for the same reason.

      A legal release must be signed to audition for the show -- and for it to be legally binding, it must be signed by a competent adult (or their patent/guardian). The people with SN who audition are doing so fully aware of the potential consequences to be McKee. You know, like the non-disabled!


Thanks for sharing!

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