Comedian Joshua Robertson had a motorbike accident on Christmas Eve, 2004, which left him with brain damage and a physical disability. Here he talks to Access London about finding comedy after the crash.
Can you tell me about your motorbike crash, and what happened afterwards?
I lived in South Australia. I went on a holiday with my friends for Christmas to their family farm in Melbourne. I remember the whole week leading up to the day of the motorbike crash, but I can’t remember anything that happened on the day of the crash. My family had to fill in the details.
My best friend and I were on a quad bike, without helmets on, with me as the passenger. We were going too fast and didn’t see the fence that was ahead of us. My friend jumped off and walked away unscathed, but I was still on the bike. I smashed into the fence and was there for 2 hours before someone found me. I was pronounced dead at the scene and got air lifted to Melbourne Women and Children’s hospital where I spent 4 months in a coma. My family were told that I wouldn’t make it and to expect the worst. I defied all odds and pulled through, and spent another 7 months rehabilitating in hospital.
How and why did you get into comedy?
I was in my final year of high school and had no idea what I could do when I left. I asked my best friend what he thought I could do, he said “Josh, you’re pretty funny, you should have a go at stand up comedy”. He told me about an open mic comedy club in Adelaide called the Rhino Room. The next week, I got up on stage and I fell in love with comedy and making people laugh. I knew I wanted to do this as my job.
Have you found that the venues you perform in are accessible?
It varies. I find the more professional clubs are more accessible. For example, The Comedy Store in London has a stair lift, and The Comedy Store in Manchester has a lift.
“Getting up on stage and making light of my disability and making people laugh helps me to deal with it in a positive way.”
What do you talk about in your motivational speeches?
In my motivational speeches, I talk about what I was doing before I went on the holiday. I was a sports man. I played football, cricket and I swam for the state of South Australia.
I talk about the importance of wearing a helmet and the challenges I face living with a disability, and how I’ve had to adapt and figure out other ways of doing things.
I outline my hopes and dreams for the future and encourage others to follow their hopes and dreams – no matter how difficult their situation may be.
Have you found that humour has helped you come to terms with the effects of your crash?
Yes, humour has helped me come to terms with what has happened to me. Getting up on stage and making light of my disability and making people laugh helps me to deal with it in a positive way.
What would you say to disabled comedians who are afraid to get on stage?
You only live once. Give it a go, what have you got to lose? If you make a mistake just make a joke of the mistake.
My disability is who I am. I embrace everything that comes at me with a positive attitude.