In 2018 as diversity and equality continues to dominate political agenda, there is definitely a long way to go before the subject of minority discrimination is gone for good. The contentious issues surrounding disability and the representation of disabled people on British television still falls short of embracing twenty first century Britain. Light entertainment is not renowned for its forward/pioneering attitude when it comes to shining a light on social issues. Yet on Saturday night the heavyweight Britain’s Got Talent became involved in somewhat of a social revolution as it crowned the winner of this year’s series.
Lee Ridley better known as Lost Voice Guy has Cerebral Palsy and complications with his voice box left him unable to speak. Yet this hasn’t stopped Lee from following his dream to become a successful stand up comedian. Armed with an iPad and voice synthesiser, the Lost Voice Guy has all the tools he needs to entertain a room full of people. Like all great comics, he’s not frightened to push the boundaries of decency with his relentless material. As a disabled person who has trouble making myself understood on a regular basis I could relate to his material but not in a “disabled club” way, his dry witted observations are universal to everyday life and the fact that he is speaking from a mechanical device becomes absolutely irrelevant.
Entering the stage with a substantial cut on his forehead, he was quick to address the elephant in the room. It transpired that celebrations after winning the semi final got out of hand and he fell over from drinking too much. Immediately the audience were put at ease and despite being a brand new way of delivering comedy material, it’s fascinating just how quick the audience became accustomed to such an innovative way of projection. It never feels staged or over rehearsed and his comic timing always remains on point. You can moan that technology is taking over the world but it also does a great deal of good and without it we may have never heard the comic talents of Lee Ridley and that would have been a crying shame.
Lost Voice Guy is the only comedian to have ever won the talent show and four comics made it to the final, surely a great sign that Comedy is alive and well. The runner up Robert White; a musical comedian with Asperger’s syndrome wowed the judges with his cheeky songs which made fun of the panel endeared him to the public and broke down the barriers of something which remains a taboo. To have two people with severe disabilities in the final of such a big show surely is a massive step forward for social equality.
Securing a spot on the Royal Variety Performance must be a dream come true for Lee Ridley, after all when you’re a comedian there’s only certain outlets you can go to get your voice heard. Reality television and comedy don’t always see eye to eye as a result of the negative stigma attached to it. Yet The Lost Voice Guy is such a breakthrough in all aspects of entertainment that it doesn’t actually matter where he came to prominence because he speaks for himself (excuse the pun!). Unlike previous winners, he’s not pigeonholed by his talent and has scope to grow and change as a performer. The only problem which he might face is the ability to escape from the contract with Simon Cowell and Syco and gain the freedom to steer his career in his own direction instead of marching to the beat of a reality television star’s drum.
So who knows what’s next for Lee Ridley. A national tour? Wembley? Live at the Apollo? Yet one thing is for certain: the young comic from Newcastle Upon Tyne has in his own way has helped to further bring about social change in the attitudes towards disability and diversity in 21st century Britain. Beyond all of his future accomplishments Ridley is somewhat of a comedy pioneer and his future looks very bright.