One of the last things I heard as I fell asleep to the sound of Carin looking at Twitter last night was that Gord Paynter, the only professional blind comedian I know of, suffered a stroke and died Monday. He was just 57.
It was sad news not just because 57 is a pretty young age to go or because Gord was really funny, but also for me personally since I had the chance to meet him once or twice many years ago and he was a very nice guy.
The thing I remember most about him was that unlike some famous people you meet, he seemed very willing to take some time and actually talk to you without it seeming like a chore. It was him who put into words for me what good comedians will do to get the most out of a joke, and explained the value of finding smart people in every place you play so you can tweak your material to get a few surprise laughs out of locals who don’t expect you to know anything about them and their town. I wish I’d gotten the chance to talk to him more recently. The teenaged kid I was back then understood what he was saying, but you learn a lot between your teens and your 30’s (at least that’s the rumour), and it would have been nice to pick his brain having had more experience at life and amusing people.
Had I gotten the chance to talk to him again, I certainly would have thanked him for making my life easier a few times. I’ve met more than one person who learned through him that blind people were in fact regular people, just like them. We’re not something to be scared of or treated overly differently in most situations. We can laugh at ourselves and by extension, it’s ok for you to laugh at us. Leaving that impression with people is as important a legacy as all the laughs, maybe even more.