A collage of photos depicting the cast members of "This Is Spinal Injury."

‘This Is Spinal Injury’ by Seattle Comedians With Disabilities Premieres at Festival

by Laszlo Jajczay

Dan Hurwitz wants more people to be talking about issues affecting people with disabilities — he’s also a stand-up comedian, filmmaker, and writer.

His latest production, This is Spinal Injury, is a mockumentary that features Hurwitz and fellow comedian Kayla Brown attempting to put on “the greatest, most accessible, yet simultaneously least commercially viable comedy show featuring comedians with disabilities in the history of the Pacific Northwest,” according to the film’s website. Hurwitz recently spoke with the Emerald about how the film got started.

“A couple years ago, we started a comedy show called the ‘Disabled List’ and we gathered several other disabled comedians to perform. At the time, we were performing at the Pocket Theater in Greenwood and it was very well received,” Hurwitz said.

When putting their troupe together, Hurwitz and Brown searched high and low for people with disabilities that were funny and talented. They came across four individuals: Amin Lakhani, Gretta Gimp, Michael Bellevue, and Cheri Hardman.

A lot of comedy shows lack representation and diversity. “There aren’t that many disabled comedians. So, I think we feel for people who are in the disability community. They want to see themselves represented while we’re on stage,” Hurwitz said.

Unfortunately, the Pocket Theater closed right before the pandemic in December 2019. But Hurwitz and the rest of the troupe didn’t want to stop their comedy. “So basically, we found ourselves wanting to keep the momentum of the show going,” he said.

The group decided to work on a film together. 

Hurwitz decided to do the film because he wanted to talk about issues in the disability community and do it in a way that would make people laugh and have a good time. One issue that directly affects comedians with disabilities is accessibility.

“One of the big stumbling blocks that Kayla and I run into, and anyone with mobility issues runs into, is that a lot of venues aren’t accessible, even ones that are,” Hurwitz said. 

Photo depicting Dan Hurwitz in a yellow coat and Kayla Brown asking a random stranger questions.
Dan Hurwitz and Kayla Brown ask a random stranger about whether there was a doctor who used burlesque as a way to create new comedy routines to make people laugh. They try to come up with new ways of talking about issues by using humor. Film still courtesy of Dan Hurwitz.

Each comedian in the film has different styles of comedy, says Hurwitz.

“Like, for example, Amin Lakhani. He definitely relies on dark comedy … and he doesn’t really talk that much about disability whereas someone like Gretta Gimp talks about it a fair amount.”

Though he is focused on visibility, Hurwitz wants to create comedy that is “escapist” where people can enjoy a show with friends, family, and other strangers to help them forget about daily news or personal responsibilities. Their end goal in making the film was “to make people laugh and hope they have a good time,” he said.

Hurwitz hopes that they can make more comedy shows, films and other projects in the future. “We’ve got some ideas rattling around for other kinds of movies or short films,” Hurwitz said.

For now, he thinks that the This is Spinal Injury film can get people engaged and interested in comedy bits around disability and other related topics as well. “We hope that this movie can get people exposed to our comedy and our style of humor and, hopefully, it gives us an opportunity to grow and move on from there.”

The film premiered at the Northwest Film Forum’s “Local Sightings” film festival on Sept. 17. For more information on the film and other viewing opportunities, you can see the This is Spinal Injury website.

Laszlo Jajczay is a freelance journalist, a proud UW alum, and a writing enthusiast, who loves reporting on all sorts of communities in Seattle.

📸 Featured Image: “This Is Spinal Injury” cast (clockwise, starting top left): Amin Lakhani, Michael Bellevue, Cheri Hardman, Dan Hurwitz, Kayla Brown, and Gretta Gimp.

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