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The Disabled List comedy festival returns to Seattle

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Photo courtesy of Dan Hurwitz and Kayla Brown
Photo courtesy of Dan Hurwitz and Kayla Brown

On Thursday, January 25, the second-annual Disabled List Comedy Festival kicked off at the Northwest Film Forum. Running Friday and Saturday as well, it features a stellar line-up of comedians with disabilities, including a record number of openly LGBTQ+ ones. According to one of the show's producers and founders, Kayla Brown, a third of all the performers at this year's Disabled List are Queer, including Brown herself.

"We have some incredibly diverse and intersectional performers this year," Brown said to the SGN. "I identify as Queer, as do Gretta Gimp, Crystal Liston, and [others]. There will be jokes and stories about their experiences, about not only disability but their Queer identities as well. This is a space to foster such discussions joyfully and safely."

Brown's co-producer and founder, Dan Hurwitz, echoed her sentiment: "I think it's important to realize that comedy, and all art, benefits from representation and diversity. Kayla and I hope to create a show that represents the true diversity of comedy fans, which is to say the true diversity of people. And that includes people of color, people from the LGBTQ community, and people with disabilities."

The festival not only provides a space where comedians with disabilities can actually access the stage but also where they can talk freely about their experiences, without worry that the room won't understand.

"You'll see comedy and hear jokes like never before, such as people with disabilities talking about sex, which is often thought of as an oxymoron because of stereotypes," comedian Gretta Gimp said.

Photo courtesy of Dan Hurwitz and Kayla Brown  

Inclusion and diversity
Hurwitz and Brown created The Disabled List in 2018 as a small comedy showcase for local comedians with disabilities who often struggle to access many of Seattle's comedy venues. For a year, they produced bimonthly shows, which regularly sold out. Since then, the show has grown into a weekend-long festival, attracting the attention of comedians around the country.

"Dan and I created the Disabled List to create a space to celebrate the immensely talented comedians with disabilities, who are often excluded from the comedy community," Brown said. "Whether it's lack of physical accessibility or additional barriers, there are fewer opportunities for disabled comics. It's a great way for the disabled community to come together, and also reach out to audience members who have never seen a show like this. It has been incredibly successful, and we are excited to put on our second festival."

"It's grown in ways we certainly didn't anticipate," Hurwitz added.

In 2020, with live comedy at a standstill, Hurwitz and Brown pivoted. They created a short film featuring comedians from all over the Pacific Northwest. "That allowed us to meet new people and use our comedy in a new medium," Hurwitz said. "Even the fact that The Disabled List has an annual festival took Kayla and me by surprise — and that was our decision!"

The first festival was a success and sold out. It featured local and national comedians, including Gibran Saleem, who traveled all the way from New York City to participate. This year, it will feature even more traveling comedians.

"This festival will be different from last year in that it will have more shows, more venues, with more comedians, including ... from outside the PNW," Hurwitz said. "Kayla and I have been heartened by the response this has gotten, with comedians contacting us from other cities to be in the festival."

More comedians also means more diversity. "This year's [event] will be even more diverse and inclusive than 2023," Brown said. "We've expanded our line-up to include more comics from all over the country, including California and New York, so the audience will see disabled comics from outside the Northwest. By increasing the [number of] shows, we aim to reach a wider audience and foster a sense of community through laughter. Get ready for a fantastic blend of humor and representation!"

The Disabled List will run from Thursday, January 25 to Saturday, January 27. The first two nights will be in the fully accessible NWFF theater, where automatic closed caption equipment will be utilized for the hearing-impaired. The final night will be at the Theater Off Jackson on January 27. More details are at https://linktr.ee/disabledlist