My Personality Is Bigger Than My Voice: A Conversation with Nonverbal Comic Ahren Belisle
Ahren Belisle was just your typical guy working the daily grind as an IT pro. Well, actually, not so typical. Belisle has cerebral palsy, a disease that limits some body functions and his ability to speak, although a phone app allows him to communicate in a surprisingly effective way. And now, a visit to a comedy show in Portugal has launched Belisle on a remarkable second career: Stand-up comedian.
On TikTok, YouTube and Facebook, where Ahren has a combined 300,000-plus followers, Belisle works as a triple threat — comedian, mental-health advocate, and educator. He can even type ad-libs in real time.
But trying to break big as a comedian has its frustrations. Instagram, where Belisle has an additional 100,000 followers, recently shut down his account without explanation. “I was blowing up last week, gaining 10k (subscribers) a day, and I woke up Thursday morning to discover that my account was suspended,” he writes in an email interview. “I’m trying to get it back so I can pursue all these things I worked so hard for and do something amazing despite my disability.” (UPDATE: Instagram reinstated Ahren's account on Dec. 6.) With social media aggravations sorted out for now, here’s Belisle on what it’s like being an up-and-coming comic.
On Getting Started
I just tried it for fun. I always enjoyed the atmosphere of a comedy show. I thought about doing it for a while, but it wasn’t until I got to Portugal and went to a show where the comics all thought I was funny in conversation and encouraged me that I did.
My friend James really helped me iron out my first set into something amazing, which boosted my confidence.
On the Challenges of Being a Mute Comic
I need to organize and save all of my lines. I have to split up my sentences very strategically to get the timing right and make sure I’m not interrupted by laughter. It takes me hours to write and edit a joke, just functionally, because the app is clunky and because of the way I need to split up my lines. Editing them is also challenging because the app has bugs. Sometimes when I try to add something, the order gets messed up. But it’s amazing because this delivery is so unique. I’m really good at the timing and cadence of my jokes despite the challenges.
On Why He Creates Content Around Mental Health
I used to be very depressed, cynical, and unhappy. I was alone in the world, and I thought everyone was shallow. But now, I'm happy. I do things I enjoy. My life is full of love! But I’m not any less disabled. People aren’t any less shallow. The only thing that changed was my mental health and my perspective. I just think it’s extremely important to share the lessons and tools I spent a lot of time and money learning to make my world a happier, healthier, and more inclusive place.
On Finding Joy in Comedy
I like making people laugh. I like being heard and seen. And I like educating people through a medium that brings joy and laughter. It’s just something I authentically really love to do. I enjoy every second of it.
On Living with Cerebral Palsy
CP kind of made me feel alone and unlovable. It was hard to grow up with. Being mute made it harder because my personality is bigger than my voice. But working on my mental health and learning to find gratitude and joy in life changed everything for me. Now, I have all these stories and these extremely unique life experiences. It’s amazing because I can make so many people feel seen and heard through my comedy.
Cerebral palsy has made life harder, but there are so many rewarding things that have come with it for me.
On Shutting Down Hecklers
I don’t get heckled a lot, but I have some prepared lines for it. Like when one drunk was screaming, I said, “Have you ever noticed that the dumbest people have the loudest voices?” I actually had that line from another bit.
Other times, I’ll type stuff back. Like the time I told the lady yelling she loved me, “Okay, I love you too.” It isn’t as hard as you might think. I type pretty fast, and while you’re watching me type, it builds funny tension because you watch me laugh and you are anticipating something to come.
On His Mission to Educate
I want people to learn that no matter what you’ve been through or your life situation, there is a way to find peace or joy and a life worth living despite the struggle. Disabled people are people first and disabled second. You don’t need to yell at us. You don’t need to talk down. We are all humans, and we all want the same things, like love, safety, food and intimacy.
On His Favorite Comedians
I like blue comedy, dark comedy and self-aware comedy. I love Daniel Sloss. I love Taylor Tomlinson. And I love Bill Burr.
On the Best Place to See His Comedy
Currently, I’m on Tiktok, YouTube, and Instagram as @ahren_comedy. I also have a Facebook page for Ahren Belisle Comedy. If people are interested in mental health, they can find me at Ahren_mindset as well on Instagram and TikTok.
And Finally, On His Favorite Joke
My favorite is one I have never posted online. The theme of the joke is that I used to be a toxic person, an a-hole, because I felt insecure and lonely. It goes something like: “I used to think nobody wanted to hang out with me because I was disabled. But it turns out, it was actually because I was a d*ck!”
That’s right! Disabled people can be d*cks too!