Did I Stutter? AGT runner-up to share story, humor at ETSU

Comedian Drew Lynch performs a comedy routine

At age 20, Indianapolis native and performing arts school graduate Drew Lynch had a promising career in television to look forward to. A Los Angeles transplant, he was scheduled for callback auditions for How I Met Your Mother and a Disney Channel hosting spot when, during a recreational softball game, a ball took a “bad hop” and the nerves in his vocal cords were damaged. The result, in addition to a concussion, was a severe stutter that crushed his hopes for an acting career.

After a stint in the hospital and some adjustment, Lynch tried out a comedy routine, using his experiences with his stutter, on an open mic night at the Flappers Comedy Club, where he worked nights as a ticket-taker. Lynch has been laughing ever since.

“I feel a lot of responsibility,” Lynch says, “to show people that you can turn anything into a positive.”

On Feb. 16 at 7 p.m., Lynch will bring his humor and his story to ETSU’s Martha Street Culp Auditorium as featured artist for the Fifth Annual Evening of Health Wellness and the Arts. The free public event is sponsored by the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, College of Public Health and Public Health Student Association at ETSU and the Gold Humanism Honor Society at the Quillen College of Medicine.

The actor-turned-comedian has been on Dr. Oz, a celebrity guest on the game show Idiot Test and was runner-up in the 2015 America’s Got Talent Season 10.

“His story is quite remarkable and it’s poignant,” says Anita DeAngelis, director of the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts. “He’s not asking anyone to feel sorry for him. He’s using his injury in a very positive way and in an inspirational way, as well.”

Lynch’s comedy routines center on his escapades as a stutterer in a phone and drive-through culture, with the comedy pointed mostly at himself. “That’s the type of comedy that I enjoy most,” DeAngelis says, “when we’re laughing at ourselves. He has us laughing with him.”

That symbiotic relationship between physical and mental wellness and benefits of the arts is the foundation of the yearly collaborative event at ETSU. “An Evening of Health, Wellness and the Arts taps into something that we all recognize – that we have so much commonality between the arts and health fields,” says Randy Wykoff, dean of the College of Public Health. “Many health care providers are artists of some capacity themselves and engage in the arts or are interested in them, and health, of course, is important to everybody.

“Anything that reduces stress is good for you. Anything that brings together community or brings social interaction is good for you. Happiness has got to be better than sadness. I have no doubt that this will be another incredibly enjoyable evening.”

Lynch’s positive approach has led him down many new roads, including a “Preferred Parking” tour with fellow Flappers club comedian Samuel J Comroe, who has Tourette’s syndrome. The duo – billed as “two comedians, two disabilities, one super-cute friendship” – has logged numerous performances on YouTube on topics such as “Haters” and “Disabled Avengers.” Comroe and Lynch often hold Q&A sessions to answer questions and jest about their abilities and disabilities.

In summer 2015, Lynch began a nationally televised journey on America’s Got Talent, where he won even more hits on YouTube and the admiration of millions, including judge and comedian Howie Mandel. “You’re a golden gem as far as comedy and a person,” Howie Mandel said after a Lynch routine on AGT.

Before hitting the golden buzzer to send Lynch straight to Radio City Music Hall finals, Mandel added, “I know you’re here to make people laugh, but I can’t tell you how emotional you make me because comedy usually comes from a dark place … I, personally, in my life, have used laughter to try to gain some happiness. What you did is you looked for the light at the end of the darkness and that light is your comedy.”

Lynch’s comedy “faces ‘the elephant in the room’ head on,” says Barbara Holliday of Flappers Comedy.

“I never wanted anybody to feel bad or feel pity,” Lynch said in a WTHR-TV interview during his AGT run. “I don’t want people to vote me through because of my story … But I’ve learned a lot about my own abilities to inspire people and move people in a way that has got a deeper purpose than just comedically. There’s been an outpouring of people who’ve said they’ve been moved or inspired and they’re going to change their life for the better. I didn’t know I had that ability.”

Everyone needs some comic relief in their lives, whether it’s through activities, pets or comedy shows, says Quillen College of Medicine 2016 MD candidate Kara Kilpatrick, an officer with the Gold Humanism Honor Society. “I know that Drew Lynch is known as ‘that guy who stutters,’ but stutterer or not, he's simply funny,” Kilpatrick says, “and, like many comedians before him, has a great way of taking his life and finding the humor in it. We'd all be better off, and healthier, if we could do the same." 

Visit drewlynch.com for more information about the comedian.

For information about the Evening of Health, Wellness and the Arts or ETSU Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, visit www.etsu.edu/martin or call 423-439-TKTS (8587).

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