St James’ Square chat to Lee Ridley, aka Lost Voice Guy, ahead of his headline gig at their inaugural Charity Ball on Thursday 10th October at The Biscuit Factory.
The Charity Ball is in aid of the firm’s Charity of the Year, Heel and Toe, who help children in the North East with cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities by providing FREE conduction education therapy. The charity receives no government funding and relies solely on donations and fundraising. The firm aims to raise a whopping £40,000 for the charity in 2019 and the ball will help raise a large amount towards this ambitious target.
Headlining the fun-filled evening is the North East’s very own Lee Ridley, aka Lost Voice Guy. Comedian Lee won Britain’s Got Talent, along with the nation’s hearts, in 2018. He delivers his unique stand-up routine through an iPad after being left unable to speak from his cerebral palsy.
St James’ Square sat down to talk with Lee ahead of his headline gig at the Charity Ball…
It’s been an exciting couple of years for you Lee. What made you enter Britain’s Got Talent in the first place?
I just thought it would be such an amazing experience. As a comedian, you always dream about playing on the biggest stages in the world. And, let’s face it, you can’t really get any bigger than the Hammersmith Apollo. It was a once in the lifetime opportunity to put myself up against some of the best performers in the world, so I’m really proud that I did it.
What did you do before you chose to pursue comedy full time?
Before I was a stand up comedian, I was a journalist. I had studied journalism at university, and had worked for a few local newspapers in Newcastle, as well as the BBC. Most recently, I was working in the media team of Sunderland City Council. Deciding to do comedy definitely changed my life though. I’ll be honest, I haven’t always been good at expressing myself. In fact, despite what you see on stage, I still don’t think I am now. I’ve always been really self-conscious about myself and what other people think of me because of my disability. I guess it comes with the territory. I’ve just got used to feeling paranoid and awkward, even around people that I know. I’m incredibly shy and I’m never completely relaxed because my brain won’t let me be. With that mind-set, maybe doing stand-up comedy was a weird choice for me. Why would I want to get up on stage and let loads of stranger’s judge me even more?! I’m still trying to figure that out!
What I do know is that doing stand-up comedy has taught me to let go of my inhibitions a bit. When I’m up on stage I feel like I’ve found the perfect way to express myself. I have always used humour to help me feel more relaxed. I’ve always enjoyed making other people laugh, it’s a great feeling. Plus if I didn’t laugh, I’d most definitely cry! When I first started doing stand up, I obviously didn’t know what to expect or what people’s reactions would be. I’d even say that I didn’t even have a ‘voice’ before I started doing comedy. Now it’s different. I feel a lot more confident for a start. I feel that people actually want to listen to me for a change. And I feel that people soon forget about the disability and just treat me as another comic who messes around on stage for a living. It gives me a lot of reasons to be positive for a change.
You released your first book ‘I’m Only In It For The Parking’ earlier this year. Can you tell us a little bit more about the book?
It’s basically answering all the stupid questions that I get asked about my disability. I think the question that I’m sick of being asked the most is definitely ‘are you as clever as Stephen Hawking?’ Spoiler alert, I’m not. And the funniest is probably when people ask me really personal stuff like if I can have sex. This really amuses me. Contrary to popular belief, disabled people can actually have sex. And if I have managed to convince someone to sleep with me, then there's still hope for the rest of the disabled population as well. I'm not sure why so many people seem to think that I can't have relationships. Obviously, it'd be awkward if I started to talk dirty in bed. There's no way I can say something filthy to a woman without her imagining she was in bed with robocop.
You’ve just recently completed another stint at Edinburgh Fringe. What’s your favourite thing about the festival?
I think the thing I like most about the festival is the buzz around the city when it’s on. Everyone seems to be in such a good mood and smiling, and I think that’s something that’s been missing in society in general for a while now. So it’s nice that we can all have a good time for a month of the year. People are always coming up to me at the festival, asking for selfies and congratulating me. So that’s really nice as well. It’s a fun place to be during August.
Having been on the comedy scene for several years, especially in the North East, are there any other comedians from the local area you would recommend checking out?
The North East has so many great comedians who definitely deserve a bigger audience. Lauren Pattison is going to be huge, so I’d definitely watch out for her. I’d also check out Seymour Mace, Matt Reed and Sammy Dobson.
You’ve got a big following on social media. Do you think it’s important to interact with your fans on these platforms?
Definitely. The general public have been so supportive. I’m always getting stopped for selfies, and having people congratulate me. And it has been really nice. I’m very grateful for all the kind words I have received. But the best thing to happen since I won is that people are engaging with me a lot more than they would have in the past. For the first time they seem comfortable talking to a disabled person. This has also meant that I’m happier in myself as well. I think that is because I’ve finally realised that people don’t care about my disability as much as I thought they did. So, I think it’s very important to give my fans something back as well.
This year you’ve been up and down the country a lot touring. How do you like to spend your time when back at home in the North East?
I’m a bit of a comedy nerd, so even when I’m not performing comedy, I still like to watch it. And my favourite place to watch it is The Stand Comedy Club in Newcastle. It’s just a lovely, friendly place. So if I had a weekend off, I’d probably go there, have a drink, watch some comedy and catch up with all of my mates.
After winning Britain’s Got Talent back in 2018, you visited the therapy centre of Heel and Toe, our Charity of Year, and met some of the amazing children there. Do you have any advice for them about achieving their dreams, just like you have?
My only bit of advice would be to follow your dreams and do whatever you want to do in life. Even if you think it isn’t possible, you should still give it a try, because you’ve got nothing to lose! To be honest, I don’t really have any big dreams. I never even expected to achieve all that I have, so I’m just enjoying the ride and seeing where it takes me next. And if I can do that, then I’m pretty sure anyone can.
You’re an inspiration to many of the children at Heel and Toe. Who’s your biggest inspiration in life?
My family have obviously had a massive impact on my life. I doubt I'd have done, as much as I have, without them. I'm lucky that I have such a close family who are always willing to lend a hand when I need it. I would like to think that they have brought me up well. My friends are a very important part of my life too. Once again, I wouldn't be where I am today without their support. I have always listened to them and respected them and that has helped me get through a lot.
My English teacher at school has also been a big influence on me. He knew I had the potential to do whatever I wanted to do, and he always believed in me. He was always pushing me to do the best that I could. I will always be grateful for that. It is nice to have someone like that to help you achieve your goals. The faith that he showed in me went a long way, and it still helps today.
We’re so excited to have you headlining our Charity Ball in October. What can our guests expect from your performance?
My show will be a typical Lost Voice Guy show - it’ll be cheeky, mischievous and, most of all, very funny. During my Britain’s Got Talent experience, the people of the North East were so supportive of me and everyone has been really lovely since, so it’s going to be nice to give something back to them. I’m excited to meet everyone and I hope they enjoy the show.