Episodes

Can Blindness Be Funny?

The Be My Eyes Podcast
May 20, 2020

For centuries, people have been laughing at caricatures of blindness in TV, film and entertainment – but how often are they laughing with us? Amir Rahimi has begun exploring the art of standup comedy as a fledgling comic in the Washington, DC comedy scene. Rahimi became blind as a teenager, and after fighting his vision impairment for years, he finally found peace in the ability to make people laugh. In his first few public sets, Rahimi plays with notions of masculinity, pokes fun at strangers who find his vision impairment fascinating, and isn’t afraid to joke about his own shortcomings as a way to “humanize” the blind experience and make it more relatable for the average, flawed human being. Rahimi sat down to chat with us about his successes and failures in developing his first ten minutes, and talk about his motivations and ambitions for what he hopes will be a long and fruitful comedy career.

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Episode Transcript

Will Butler:

Hey everybody, it's Will Butler from Be My Eyes and this Thursday is Global Accessibility Awareness Day. You know what that means, today we're going to be taking a hard look at the minutia of WCAG, 2.1 AAA standards and a little bit of Aria authoring best practices. Just kidding, we're going to talk about comedy. If you want to hear the nitty gritty about accessibility search for the 13 Letters podcast, so that's 1-3 Letters on your favorite podcast app, and you'll hear our exclusive interview with the co-founders of GAAD, Jennison Asuncion and Joe Devin over there this week.

Will Butler:

Now here's our interview with aspiring blind standup comic Amir Rahimi.

Amir Rahimi:

I'm humanizing blind people, right, I'm just saying blind people can also be, you know, jerk-off boyfriends, right.

Will Butler:

Amir Rahimi is a new standup comedian who also happens to be blind. Amir's just started carving out a name for himself in the DC comedy scene. In proper standup form he's unafraid to make himself look like a bit of a jerk in service of the art form, but he's got an interesting aversion to jokes made at the expense of other blind people.

Will Butler:

Amir is planting a flag in a field where there are really very few other blind people that's in comedy, so it's interesting to hear his perspective on how to make blindness funny. Just a heads up this episode has a bit of swearing and some adult jokes, but doesn't most comedy? Here's our interview with Amir Rahimi.

Will Butler:

You've never done a, never done a podcast.

Amir Rahimi:

I've never done a podcast, no.

Will Butler:

Do you know what you're supposed to do on a podcast, as a comedian. Now that you're a comic, you've got a reputation to uphold.

Amir Rahimi:

I listen to comedians, comics on podcasts.

Will Butler:

Yeah, what do they do? What's the formula for a comic on a podcast?

Amir Rahimi:

I don't know, I just feel like they just give their point of view on whatever you're talking about, they just give their opinion in a funny way, or they're just themselves. I don't know, I listen to the Joe Rogan Experience a lot and sometimes he'll bring comics, they're just interviewing, they're just being themselves, but they're being funny. I don't know if you have any tips or tricks.

Will Butler:

I mean, I don't, no, this is not a comedy podcast, at least it wasn't until you came on.

Amir Rahimi:

Do you know what, I say, we just go, if you want, I can try to be funny, but I'd rather just be myself and see if I can be funny.

Will Butler:

That sounds like a fair deal. Do you think Joe Rogan's ever had a blind guest before?

Amir Rahimi:

No, I don't think so, but I haven't heard all of his episodes.

Will Butler:

How is it possible that blind people are so far out of the mainstream? There's someone like Joe Rogan who puts out an episode every three minutes. Do you know what I mean? It's like, how are we still so marginalized?

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, exactly, and you would think that people would be interested in hearing something there, because you just don't see or hear a blind guy talk all the time and that's because we are marginalized.

Will Butler:

It's almost taboo to even invite a blind person on to your show. You're going to get accused of being, whatever XYZ thing.

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, I mean, unless it's one of these disability shows or whatever, I've never heard anyone boring, unless, I don't know, Stevie fucking Wonder comes on a show sometimes.

Will Butler:

He's at such a level that he doesn't go on anybody's show, right.

Amir Rahimi:

That's true, that's true, yeah, he's Stevie Wonder. People come on his show, if he had one, I don't know, but yeah, no, that's a good point.

Will Butler:

Are there any other blind standup comics?

Amir Rahimi:

Not that I know of. When I was in Vegas, at the national, NFB national convention, there was this one guy and I saw him do stand up. I'm trying to remember his name, he had a name that was like a female name. Because I saw it in the email and I was expecting a female. I'm trying to remember his name, he's some guy from Hawaii, I don't remember his name.

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, he came in, IRO had an event at Zappos the Zappos building and he came and did, I don't know, maybe 10 minutes.

Will Butler:

That's right, yeah.

Amir Rahimi:

Then later on I was at a fundraiser in one of the rooms, I don't know if you know Richie?

Will Butler:

Flores?

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, Richie Flores, he had a, what is that nonprofit they have Meta something, and they had a fundraiser there and he came and did five, six minutes there.

Will Butler:

Richie did or the other guy?

Amir Rahimi:

No, the other guy did, and I'm trying to remember his name. Shannon, his name's Shannon, yeah.

Will Butler:

Okay, okay.

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, Shannon something.

Will Butler:

I'll have to look him up. Was he funny?

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, yeah, he made me chuckle a few times.

Will Butler:

Sorry, that's a very direct question. I'm not trying to get you to throw other comedians under the bus this early in your career.

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, no, I would definitely give him props. He went on stage and he has really good delivery. I just, his jokes maybe we're a little bit too PG for me.

Will Butler:

Well, I wanted to ask you about that, because the reason that I invited you on was because somebody sent me just via, someone texted me, another blind person texted me a YouTube video of you performing at a comedy club in DC. It's not, maybe we'll play a little clip here and it's not what you would call PG, no.

Speaker 4:

Please welcome Amir Rahimi.

Amir Rahimi:

All right, how is everybody doing today? Really, that's so funny? Look at that big ass over there. All right, DC an interesting town, well I've been meeting African people, on my way here. A big guy came up to me and he said, "Excuse me, is it true that blind people have heightened senses and that they can see the soul of a man." That's complete bullshit, but I'm having a good day, so I said, "Yeah, that's true." His aura was red and I held it. I said, "God damn you're fat."

Will Butler:

Is that your personality or is that ...

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah.

Will Butler:

Is that a persona that is, that you adopt for comedy?

Amir Rahimi:

No, it's honestly, it's who I am. When I'm in a group, when I'm at a party, when I'm surrounded with my friends, I'm just myself, and I have a twisted, dark sense of humor and I do say, quote unquote, naughty things. That's just who I am and I always try to push the envelope.

Amir Rahimi:

I remember, before I got into, so for a long time, I was for, I don't know, over maybe 10-15 years, and I was always making my friends laugh and they were always telling me, "Hey, Amir, just go do stand up. Why aren't you doing stand up?" The thought of it was so frightening to me, just to go in front of a crowd, because I was like, "Yeah, I can make my friends laugh, but that's not the same."

Amir Rahimi:

I decided to take this stand up comedy class, and I remember, in the beginning I would go on stage and I wasn't being myself, right. I had 15 classmates and also my teacher was a comedian, and I would just go up there and I'd freeze. Because I would just go up there and try to be funny, right, say some jokes.

Amir Rahimi:

I would go up there and I didn't want to say what was in my mind, which is some twisted fucking shit. By the way, is it okay if I curse on this thing?

Will Butler:

Yeah.

Amir Rahimi:

Okay.

Will Butler:

I mean, keep it within reason.

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, yeah, okay, okay, all right.

Will Butler:

I like to think this is a family show.

Amir Rahimi:

It is a family show, but we're also, we're not going to lie to you. Yeah, yeah, do you know what? If you want to go edit that out, go ahead, I will not get offended. I remember one of my classmates, right, we were all introducing ourselves, right, and one of our classmates, she introduced herself and she said that, she was a feminist and she worked for some kind of feminist organization. I respect that, I have a lot of feminist friends, I've dated feminists and I think they're awesome.

Amir Rahimi:

One of my jokes, and I think you've heard this joke, it's, someone could say it's misogynistic. I wrote it and I tried to be funny, and it talks about, basically, I don't know if you want to play the clip later or whatever, but I'm talking about how I'm really bad with relationships and I'm hanging out with my girlfriend, and basically I asked my girlfriend, I said, "Hey, are you going to love me forever, even though I'm blind?"

Amir Rahimi:

She said, "Amir, what kind of question is that? Of course I'm going to love you forever." She said, "What about me, what if I go blind, are you going to love me forever?" I said, "Hey, what kind of question is that?" I took out these sleep shades and put it over her eyes and I held her hands. I said, "How do you feel right now?" She said, "I'm scared, but I know that I will be okay because I've got you by my side." "I want to ask you one more question, In this condition, are you still going to be able to make sandwiches?"

Amir Rahimi:

That's the punchline, right.

Will Butler:

Some would say that that is, misogynistic because of the trope of, your girlfriend cooking for you, making you food and whatnot, but, and I'm not going to be the judge of that. I think the joke is funny because it's going, you think it's going the direction of being this inspirational thing and then of course the joke is, he's a helpless man, right, and it's not really about his blindness, it's making fun of, you're making fun of yourself for being a helpless man, right.

Amir Rahimi:

Exactly, and that's exactly what I was going for. One, I'm playing with the emotions of the crowd, I want to make them think I'm going one place and then, but I'm taking them to a really dark alley, but at the same time I'm humanizing blind people, right. I'm just saying, yeah, blind people can also be, jerk-off boyfriends, right.

Amir Rahimi:

We're just like everybody else, we're no different, so that's also a point I'm trying to make. It's funny, to go back to what I was trying to say is, I was afraid to say that joke, right. I would say it, but I would take out the sandwich part and I would put in another punch line, and it was just not funny.

Amir Rahimi:

I remember, I think it was my third class and it was just like, I'm not having any fun, you know, I'm not being myself, right, and I was just like, do you know what, I'm going to be true to myself. I remember, I went up there and I said the joke, and I dropped the punchline and the entire class laughed, and that woman that I was afraid of offending came up to me after the show and was like, "Dude, that was a fricking funny joke, you've got to put that in your set, right."

Amir Rahimi:

That's when my fear went away, because I had this fear of, oh, I don't want to offend people because, I don't want them to not like me, right, but I learned that I have to be, one, true to myself, and also, in the end, most people, not all people, there are people that get offended and walk out of shows. People understand that this is an act, right. In real life I don't expect my girlfriend to make sandwiches. I expect her to make paninis for me. No, I'm just kidding.

Amir Rahimi:

I understand it's a 50-50 thing, but that's the set, right, it's like Joaquin Phoenix played a psychopath, as Joker, but maybe he's not a psychopath in life, but some say he might be a little crazy.

Will Butler:

People take a comedians at a different level though, right.

Amir Rahimi:

They do.

Will Butler:

They treat them as political commentators. They treat them as saying something deep and profound about the world, and they know that comedians are drawing from personal experience, which I think is why comedians come under fire so often, and there's a long history of comedians crossing the line and getting their wrist slapped for it. What do you think is the difference between pushing the envelope and crossing the line?

Amir Rahimi:

I don't know, crossing the line for me, there is a line I guess you can cross, right. There are just certain things that you should not say. I get it, if you're not an African-American comedian you should not say the N word, right? Yeah, there are just certain lines that you do not want to cross. You can if you want to, right, we have the freedom of speech, we have that luxury in this country and you can cross it if you want to, but be aware that we live in a society that there's just certain things that you probably shouldn't say.

Will Butler:

What about the blind community, are you prepared to piss off your own people?

Amir Rahimi:

I am, I have an NFB mentality, right, and I ...

Will Butler:

What does that mean?

Amir Rahimi:

I believe that blind people are just as capable as any other person. We would do things differently. I'm very about being independent and doing as much as I can, and also showing that blind people are capable. In my sets I would never cross certain lines to ... I've seen random blind comedians on YouTube and they do a lot of stereotypes, right? They make fun of the fact that, oh, I am blind. I went on a date and a girl wasn't what she should have been, or they'll make really corny, blind jokes that are very stereotypical, right.

Amir Rahimi:

Like, "Oh, I didn't see that, I heard or I smelled it." I just think those things are not funny and they're dumb. I don't know if I'm making sense here, but there's just from me, if you saw my set, I make fun of myself, but I also make sure to come off as a confident blind person. I make fun of myself as maybe I'm misogynistic or maybe I like to mess with people in the street who'll come and mess with me, but I wanted to make sure that I don't offend.

Amir Rahimi:

I actually had this joke, right, so I had this joke that kind of poked fun at blind girls, right. It wasn't a bad joke, it was making myself look like a hypocrite. The joke was, and I changed the joke, but originally the joke was, women asked me, people ask me, "How do you go out with women, you're blind, you can't see?" I said, "Well, that's easy, there's three things I look for in a woman. Number one, she has to be loving, she has to be there for me. Number two, she has to be loyal, she can't be out there cheating on me. Number three," I said, "She can't be blind, because I'm not desperate."

Amir Rahimi:

That was the joke, right. For me, it wasn't that, I think blind women are amazing, the last few girls I've dated are blind. I think they are no different inside, I don't look at it like that. The point of me making that joke about it is that I'm a hypocrite, right. I'm blind myself, but I'm discriminating against other blind women.

Amir Rahimi:

I was going to put that in my set, but I thought about it and I said, "Well, half the audience maybe is going to get the fact that I'm being sarcastic and I'm making myself look like a hypocrite, but the other half isn't going to see that and they might think that blind women are not capable and there's something wrong with them and you shouldn't go out with them. I scratched that joke, I twisted it to something else.

Will Butler:

To a version that makes you look like a little more of a jerk.

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, yeah, I'm a cheater.

Will Butler:

You threw yourself under the bus so as not to offend the blind?

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Will Butler:

Do you think that, so the folks who are going for the more corny, blind jokes the lower hanging fruit, they're just going for that half of the audience that's going to laugh and they don't care that the other half of the audience isn't going to understand what they're trying to do?

Amir Rahimi:

I think so. I'm not in their heads, they might think it's an easy laugh, maybe. Maybe they're just not conscious of the whole thing, just like, "Whatever, I think this is funny, so I'm going to say this." I definitely, I scrutinize my set very, very hard when I sit. If it's a blind joke, I think about it. I'm like, I need this to be funny, but I need this to not make blind people look less than they are.

Amir Rahimi:

I see a lot of married people in the house tonight. I know what you're thinking. I'm here blind. I can see married people. Without a question, but I've got heightened senses remember, so I can feel the love. The eternal bliss and the impending sense of doom.

Amir Rahimi:

I have to find a fine line with that, because like I said, you have to be true to yourself and if I'm putting blind people down, I'm not being true to who I am. Because one of the things that I'm passionate about is helping blind people move up. When I'm around sighted people I want to make sure that I come off as a confident, capable, independent person, so I would never want to go against that.

Will Butler:

Yeah, I just think it's really interesting that you're willing to seem like a little bit of a sleazeball, but not willing to do it at the expense of blind people.

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, and that joke, I also had trouble with that, because I've actually never cheated on anyone. I know that's not the cool thing to say, but I've never cheated on a girl in my life and I was just like, "Oh, what if there's some sexy ladies in the crowd and they're going to think I'm a jerk." I'm going to lose my shot with them, but I was like, "Do you know what, screw it. I think it's funny, if you don't get that this is an act, that's your problem and I probably don't want to go out with you if you don't have a good sense of humor."

Amir Rahimi:

That was my thing, I was like, "Whatever, I'm throwing myself under the bus and it's cool with me." I'd rather make myself look like a jerk than make a whole community look bad, so.

Will Butler:

Where are you from originally?

Amir Rahimi:

Originally I am from Iran. I was born in Iran, Tehran. I came here when I was only seven years old. I moved to Gaithersburg, Maryland, which is the suburbs of Montgomery County, Maryland.

Will Butler:

What was that like coming here as a seven year old? Did you speak English? Were you adjusting?

Amir Rahimi:

No, I spoke no English. A little background on me, I grew up in Iran, Tehran and so as a kid I was breaking my bones like crazy and they couldn't figure out why I was breaking my bones. I think by the time I was seven, I probably had 20 something fractures.

Will Butler:

Wow.

Amir Rahimi:

Overall, in my lifetime, I've had over 50 fractures, I've had a ton of surgeries. I have rods here and there and my legs were a reconstruction. They couldn't figure it out when I was a kid, and I was a crazy kid, and I was always running around and I was breaking my legs and arms. Anyway, so the doctors recommended that I come here, so I came here to the US and NIH is in Montgomery County, Maryland, it's in Bethesda.

Amir Rahimi:

We came here and they were trying to figure out what's wrong with me and they figured out that had osteogenesis imperfecta, which is which is also known as brittle bone disease, it's a congenital disorder. Your body just doesn't produce enough collagen. When I was a kid, I was just breaking my bones all the time, but when I came here it was definitely an adjustment. I spoke no English, but it's interesting, I picked it up really quickly.

Amir Rahimi:

The way I picked it up was actually, I would watch PBS a lot. I would watch all those kids shows, like Sesame Street, Barney, Lamb Chop's Play-Along, which I loved, and Charlie Horse, I don't know if you remember, he's the one that would do those corny jokes and maybe he was, maybe he inspired me to try to be funny, I don't know. I would just watch that and then my English just started improving really quickly.

Will Butler:

It's always amazing to me how fast kids can learn another language.

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, when you're younger it's so much easier. I know my brother was three years older than me and he had it a little harder. I was in elementary school and I think my first year, maybe I struggled, but I remember, quickly just adapting and it wasn't hard at all.

Will Butler:

You had this brittle bone disease, which sounds scary and a struggle, but were you also visually impaired or ...?

Amir Rahimi:

No, no, so I was not visually impaired. I had vision. My right eye, I had perfect vision. My left eye I had it was, I could see out of it, but it was hazy and blurry and it was because I had a little bit of scratching on my cornea when I was a kid. The thing about OI is, not only does it affect your bones, but your eyes are also, your cornea is thin, because of the whole brittle disease part of it.

Amir Rahimi:

I was sighted, and about 10 and a half years ago, I was just getting ready to go out. I was in my bedroom and it was dark in my room and I was rushing and there was just this wooden box on the ground, and I bent down to grab something and my right eye collided with this box, and my cornea got ruptured. I had to be rushed to the hospital and they fixed the cornea, but it was really messy because the cornea was thin, and then yada, yada, yada, I had all these retinal detachments.

Amir Rahimi:

I ended up losing most of my vision in my right eye and my left eye was affected. I'm not going to go into the whole thing.

Will Butler:

Yeah, no, we don't, that's fine.

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, I ended up losing most of my vision. That's how it happened, it was a freak accident.

Will Butler:

Yeah, I mean there's, so one of the things that we talk about is there's so many hundreds of different things that cause blindness. A lot of people talk about curing blindness and all these things, and most of the time they're talking about a few conditions like RP or Stargardt. There are a couple of conditions that, where clinical things are being researched, but there are hundreds of ways, and I had retinal detachment as well, but it was a different underlying set of conditions from you, and people don't realize blindness is not a disease. It's a condition that many people find themselves in and it's not going anywhere.

Will Butler:

As long as there are accidents and freak occurrences and underlying genetic conditions, there's always going to be blindness.

Amir Rahimi:

Exactly, and I 100% agree with you and sometimes I get too ... I'm not going to get into the whole politics of it, but I do get a little irritated when I hear people saying, "Oh, we've got to cure blindness." I'm like, "Well, which blindness are you trying to cure?"

Will Butler:

Roll out a scroll of parchment paper. I've got ...

Amir Rahimi:

Exactly.

Will Butler:

600 different things to cure here. Which one do you want to start with?

Amir Rahimi:

Right, do you have a cure for a sharp edge of a box on the ground? Because I'd like to take that pill.

Will Butler:

Yeah, sand off all the boxes in the world.

Amir Rahimi:

Exactly.

Will Butler:

Well, it sounds traumatic though, nonetheless, how did you adjust and did you get a job? Are you still unemployed today? What's going on?

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, I live in a van down by the river, just like Chris Farley. No, no, I'm not allowed to drive a van I'm blind. No, that's a good question. It was a shock to my system, obviously, because I did everything visually. I was a guy in my mid-20's and it just, it flipped my life upside down and I thought my life was over at that time.

Amir Rahimi:

I still vividly remember, I had all these plans and my doctor told me that I'm not going to be able to see anymore like I used to, and I got so pissed off that I threw my cell phone across his office and I shattered it.

Will Butler:

Oh my God.

Amir Rahimi:

I was angry. I was like, "No, this was not in the cards. I had all these plans for my life." I spent the next two years I think, just being depressed, not doing anything. I went through some dark times. I would sleep until 3:00-4:00 in the afternoon, get up, go eat a sandwich and go back to sleep. I don't know, I was just always in bed. Whenever I would go out it would always be with family or a friend would come and pick me up and it got dark for a second there.

Amir Rahimi:

After two years I was just like, honestly, I hit rock bottom. I hit rock bottom and it was really bad and I said, I didn't know any blind people, I didn't know anything about blind services or anything. I ended up reaching out, I was connected with this guy, his name's Jim McCarthy, he's a blind lawyer in Baltimore. I talked to him, I told him what's going on with me, and he was like, "Yeah, I mean, it sucks, but you can get through it."

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, connecting with some people, and I ended up finding out about this sleep shades program, it's a one year sleep shades program in Baltimore and it's called the Blind Industries and Services of Maryland. The NFB has a lot of centers, sleep shade centers as well. I went into that and it changed my life honestly. It was a 9:00 to 5:00 program every day, five days a week and I lived on my own in an apartment downtown, and I would go to the school every day.

Amir Rahimi:

It was an hour away, I would take the bus and everything you do that you do under sleep shades so you don't rely on your residual vision, right. I learned how to read braille. I learned how to use technology, I learned how to cook, clean independently and it was other, cane travel, and it was cool, because I had, I don't know about you, I know you lost your vision, I hated holding a cane. I felt like I was less of a man and I thought everybody was staring at me.

Amir Rahimi:

They made me wear sleep shades and go in the streets of Baltimore, so that really, I kept doing that and I ... [crosstalk 00:23:50]

Will Butler:

Yeah, that's true and tried course.

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, after a while you're walking around with sleep shades in the city and you just stop caring about what people think about you. It was pretty cool honestly, that changed the game for me. Doing that program helped me regain my confidence, slowly.

Will Butler:

Do you think people are ready for rehabilitation as soon as they lose their vision or do you think they need to go through a period of grieving and pain and sadness and shattering their phone every five days, before they come around to the idea that it's going to be okay, it's just going to take a little bit of work and a little bit of time and you'll adjust.

Amir Rahimi:

I think you have to go through that grieving process. I think everybody does. Over the last 10 years I've become pretty involved in the blind community and I meet people that have gone through what I have gone, some injured, some in a car clash, but some lost it abruptly, from Stargardt's or any other condition.

Amir Rahimi:

They've told me they've have gone through the same thing. I literally just, the other day somebody would put me in contact with a 67 year old man who has been losing his vision really, really rapidly over the last year, and he told me he's been going through depression and he doesn't want to do anything with his life and he's in pain. I think you have to go through that. I don't know, maybe someone loses their vision and is like "La-di-da, let me go get training right now." Maybe there are people, I haven't met one yet.

Will Butler:

How do we though, as happy, well-adjusted, sociable, positive blind people, make space for those people who are in pain and sad during their times of loss for them, without alienating them?

Amir Rahimi:

Well, what I do is, I just try to listen and I share my experience with them, and I don't judge them. Because I remember when I was newly blind and I was around all these awesome blind people. I felt so less than.

Will Butler:

Right, it almost just makes it worse. It's like, "Oh, these people have it figured out, but they're not very compassionate for the situation I'm in right now. They want me to buck up. They want me to chin up."

Amir Rahimi:

Exactly, and maybe that's not their intention, but what I do honestly is, I'm just like, whatever they're going through, I'm like, I don't say, "Hey, get over it. Be a big boy or be a big girl and go and go take care of your business." I say, "Yeah, that sucks. I went through that. I went through depression. I went through just wanting to die and I went through all that, but this is how I did it and it's okay that you're feeling right now, but just know that if you just take some actions, life gets better.

Amir Rahimi:

I just try to lead by example, honestly. When I came in and started meeting blind people and the ones that were honest with me and they were like, "Yeah, it sucks, but it'll get better if you do what you need to do." I had to watch people who were successful, but also compassionate and that really helped me out, so.

Will Butler:

When did you realize that you could make people laugh?

Amir Rahimi:

I think when I was in college, I came out of my shell.

Amir Rahimi:

I get questions all day. "Amir, how you read a book? How you cross the street? How do you perform circumcisions with such accuracy?"

Amir Rahimi:

When I was in high school I was this really shy kid. I didn't really have that many friends and because I was always breaking my bones I was always in a cast or I was always in crutches or a wheelchair. I just always felt so different and I felt like no-one wanted to be friends with me. When people would try to come and be friends with me, I didn't want to talk to anyone. I don't know what happened when I went to college I just turned into this crazy extroverted loud kid.

Amir Rahimi:

I would just start talking and I wouldn't try to make people laugh, but I'd be making people laugh. Then people kept telling me, "Hey, you're funny," and I was just like, "Oh, okay, whatever, I'm just being myself."

Will Butler:

I feel like there's always the funny one in the group of friends though, where people are like, "You should do stand up," and they shouldn't do stand up, right.

Amir Rahimi:

Exactly, I agree.

Will Butler:

What is it that differentiates those people from the people who maybe try it and then are successful?

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, so people told me that, so I totally agree with you. There's being funny in a room and being funny on the mic, right. I didn't believe actually I was funny enough to be a standup until I took that class and I landed my first punchline and I made the entire, 15-16 people laugh. There's a difference there, because it's funny, you should ask. I remember, when I did that standup comedy class, the first day, half the room said that, because the teacher was asking, "Why are you here, right?"

Amir Rahimi:

Half the room said that, "Because their friends said that they were funny and they should be there," or their significant other said that they were funny and that should be there, right. They probably are, but when they went on stage, they were not funny, they just weren't. It's all about the delivery to me, and timing and delivery. You have to have that funny gene in you, I think, but also you have to know how to play with the crowd's mind.

Amir Rahimi:

To me it's all about timing. I notice that, because I've been a fan of standup comedy since I was a kid. When I sit and watch standup comedy, I would notice a comedian working on building up and that punchline, that delivery. I think it's all about your timing, and to be honest with you, a joke can be not that funny, but if you have the right timing and delivery, you can make it funny.

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, I mean I think I really learned that I was a funny comedian when I started getting on stage.

Will Butler:

You thought that you were funny before, but then it wasn't until you were blind that you said, "Okay, I'm going to give this a shot."

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I didn't do it until I lost my vision.

Will Butler:

Did you draw inspiration from other comedians who, I mean, blindness is a disadvantage, many people would say, and it puts you in a marginalized group and you're at the bottom of the heap in many cases? Do you draw inspiration from other comedians because of whatever identity they have, might find themselves in that situation?

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, no, I definitely did. One of my favorite comedians of all the time is Dave Chappelle, and I know that he's a lot of people's favorite comedian, but I've just always admired him. He came up, he wasn't the wealthiest guy in the world and he's been through a lot of crap. I love how he talks about, just growing up as a disadvantaged, African-American person, and the jokes you would make just about being a minority. Not just himself, but he would poke fun about how, cops are racist, and I love that.

Amir Rahimi:

Another guy, was Chris Rock, they would talk about the issues that black people and African-Americans were facing in today's society, right. I just always, I always loved comedians who are minorities and I'm not going to lie, I do love white comedians too, but I just love it. They come from, they have a voice and they're sharing their experience.

Amir Rahimi:

Dave Chappelle has I'm sure felt a lot of racism. I'm sure growing up, he's felt, he's dealt with cops who've been racist, he's dealt with maybe club managers or whatever. I've never thought about it like that, but now I'm thinking about it, a lot of my favorite comedians, Richard Pryor is one of my ultimate favorites, they all come from minority backgrounds.

Will Butler:

Richard Pryor used to make fun of himself constantly.

Amir Rahimi:

Oh, he did, that's why I loved him. He's one of my ... And I love it when people make fun of themselves, that's what being a comedian about is about.

Will Butler:

He would make fun of his alcoholism. He would make fun of his misogyny. He would make fun of his really pretty traumatic circumstances as a child. It was not, it wasn't pleasant all the time, but people loved it. I think people found it cathartic because they related to a lot of the imperfection that he showed.

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, I mean the guy lights himself on fire and he made fun of it, so. Yeah, so that's actually a great, great observation, a good question, definitely.

Will Butler:

What goes in to, how much of the comedy is about blindness and how much of it is not?

Amir Rahimi:

I'd say 50-50 right now. I'm still working on my craft.

Will Butler:

You're pretty new.

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, I'm pretty new, but in the beginning I had this thing where I was like, "Oh, I don't want to talk about blindness. Because I'm blind I don't want to talk about that, right." Then I thought about it, and going back to just comedians in the end they just talk about their experiences, right. One of my favorite female comedians is Michelle Wolf, right, and she just talks about how women get treated like crap and all the sexism. She talks about the Me Too movement, she talks about all these things and that's her experience, it's her truth, right.

Amir Rahimi:

Or someone, going back to Dave Chappelle, he talks about a lot of issues dealing with black people and African-American people. That's their truth, right, so I was just like, "Wait a minute, I'm a blind person, I should be able to talk about my blind experiences. What's wrong with that?"

Will Butler:

Why don't you talk about it all the time?

Amir Rahimi:

Why don't I talk about it all the time?

Will Butler:

Yeah, why not 100% of your set, if that's where the comedic gold is or something, do you know what I mean?

Amir Rahimi:

I think there's other stuff that are funny in the world besides being blind, honestly. I think that's probably it. I also want to mix it up too. For example, I'm Middle Eastern too and there's a lot of stuff I can talk about with that, right, so.

Will Butler:

How about your bone condition? Have you ever talked about that in a joke?

Amir Rahimi:

No, but, I haven't, I've thought about it. I just feel if I want to talk about a bone condition, it would just be a lot of explanation. Because when I talk about my blindness, I have my cane on stage and everybody knows I'm blind, right. I haven't talked about ... I just think it's too much work to talk about a congenital disorder. What am I going to work it in in? [crosstalk 00:33:37]

Will Butler:

It's a heavy cognitive load, that you've got.

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, and maybe if I get an hour set one day, maybe I can just squeeze that in.

Will Butler:

Or maybe if you end up in a cast, that's going to be your opportunity.

Amir Rahimi:

Exactly, maybe I'll just bash my ankle the next time I go on stage.

Will Butler:

No, a push.

Amir Rahimi:

Or just wait for the next, yeah, wait for the next one.

Will Butler:

Yeah, I mean Richard Pryor is also one of my favorites and I keep thinking about, obviously, if he didn't talk about being black in America, he wouldn't have been Richard Pryor. People wouldn't have loved him as much as they did. That's what defined him. Yet, he would occasionally go off on these tangents that were just completely not related to that at all. I mean, not social commentary, not ... He'd do like five minutes on hunting, or hunting a deer and animal impressions and stuff that was, a lot of it was not political. It was just plain goofy or funny or whatever.

Will Butler:

I guess if you crisscross between poking fun at your identity and going out on weird limbs and exploring, doing things that are a little more experimental, you can create that variety.

Amir Rahimi:

I think it's important to have variety, because I think it's nice to talk about my blindness, but if I'm going to talk about it the whole set, you'll get tired of it, right. It's nice to mix it up, talk about relationships. Recently I've been talking about relationships a lot. I started talking about online dating. I think those things are funny too, so I need to poke fun at it.

Amir Rahimi:

Tonight I actually, I was at a standup comedy event, I randomly went. The headliner was this guy who's Indian, he's from India and he was hilarious by the way. I'd say maybe 70% of his set, he talked about being Indian and arranged marriage and all that stuff, but he also talked about how he's married and he talks about his wife being, getting on his case, nagging him and how much he regrets getting married and how much marriage sucks, right.

Amir Rahimi:

He talked about that too, and I appreciated that, yes, he's, he's a guy who's from India and I thought some of the stuff he said from that was Indian related was funny, but it was nice that he mixed it up.

Will Butler:

Yeah, things get old fast and you don't want to become pigeonholed as the blind stand up comic, right?

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, exactly, exactly.

Will Butler:

Yeah, well I wish you the best of luck Amir, and I know that you're just getting started on this, but I think that there are lots of other aspiring, funny blind people out there and I wanted to get you on the podcast early so that people could begin to talk to each other, reach out to you, network. I don't know about you, but I don't think we compete well with each other in this very small community and I would like to see more comedians, not just one successful comedian.

Amir Rahimi:

I do too. Man, I get such a great feeling when I see people in the blindness community do cool things and I'm sure you do too. We talked about this, if anyone's listening to me, whatever your dream is, just go after it. If you want to be a comedian, go be a comedian, go try some standup. If no-one laughs at you do it a bunch more times and then if people are still not laughing, maybe you can go do something else.

Amir Rahimi:

I definitely agree with you and I hope some people hear me and they get inspired and go do whatever you want to do, man, life's short.

Will Butler:

How can people find you?

Amir Rahimi:

Well, you can look me up on Facebook. Amir Rahimi, A-M-I-R R-A-H-I-M-I. If you're blind, I'm sure I'm friends with a bunch of blind people that you were seeing, but you can also, I guess ...

Will Butler:

You've got to get those socials going buddy.

Amir Rahimi:

I'm on LinkedIn. I've got to get a Twitter, I don't have a Twitter yet.

Will Butler:

Yeah, okay, we'll follow that. Every good comedian has a Twitter, right?

Amir Rahimi:

Yes, yes, I need to get on Twitter.

Will Butler:

I don't know. I don't know if that's true anymore. For all I know they're all on TikTok or whatever.

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, I'm worried about getting Twitter. I'm pretty sure eventually I'll get in trouble and lose my job.

Will Butler:

You and Kevin Hart, right.

Amir Rahimi:

Yeah, me and Kevin Hart, yeah, yeah. I don't ...

Will Butler:

That's a discussion for another episode.

Amir Rahimi:

Exactly, yeah.

Will Butler:

Thank you so much for joining us on the podcast, Amir and we'll be really looking forward to following what you're up to.

Amir Rahimi:

Absolutely, thank you so much, Will, and thanks for this opportunity.

Amir Rahimi:

I didn't say that because I'm a nice guy, right? I looked at her and I said, "Do you know what, I'm good with myself, all right, so you can pray for someone else for sure." "Who?" "Anybody." I said my best friend Jessica, I've known her for 20 years and today she found out that her fiance died on her in a car crash. I want you to pray for her to have the strength, the courage and the willingness to get over this tragedy and finally sleep with me. I'm tired and don't a friend no more.

Will Butler:

Thanks for listening to the Be My Eyes podcast. This episode was edited by the one and only Jeff Thompson of Blind Abilities. Go listen to Blind Abilities. You can always email us at mystory@bemyeyes.com. We want to hear from you.