Jamie MacDonald is delighted to be gigging again, but the Glaswegian stand-up is developing a growing political outspokenness. The blind comic satirised the disability benefits system in his recent Radio 4 series Life On The Blink, and in his polemic for the Scotsman Sessions he takes issue with train station accessibility.
“Is it political? I don't know,” he says. “People are just making things harder for no reason.”
The disabled have disproportionately suffered during the pandemic and have been an “afterthought,” he says. But even in less troubled times, he argues, “we do tend to get a little bit shafted.”
“If I can make a noise about it and then somebody listens or reads about it, that can only be a good thing.”
Unfeeling bureaucracy is what truly agitates him, and that anger has fed into another Radio 4 commission, the imminent comic play Blind-sided. An autobiographical tale of a blind Glaswegian stand-up who moves to Sheffield with his paediatric surgeon wife, the cast of comedians includes Pippa Evans as MacDonald's wife and Zoe Lyons as a jobsworth supermarket employee, Micky Bartlett and Julia Sutherland.
“All these companies crow about how demonstrably they help accessibility, how thoughtful they are with disabled people,” MacDonald reflects. “And then boom! Shit hits the fan and it's like we're back to the 1970s. Unnavigable one-way systems, mazes of perspex. It continues to be a nightmare. This pandemic makes hard stuff even harder.”
Despite this, MacDonald's career is currently going from strength to strength. He recently shot the role of Ronnie Scott in sitcom The Scotts from Burnistoun duo Iain Connell and Rab Florence, which is scheduled to arrive on BBC Scotland in the autumn.
And then there's Blind Ambition, a BBC Two travelogue airing this month in which he travels England, interviewing other artists about how they channel their blindness. Among those he meets are rapper Stoner, opera singer Lizzie Capener and wood turner Chris Fisher.
“Ultimately, blindness is not a good thing to happen, it's not on anyone's wishlist,” he maintains. “But it's kind of a journey of how shite is it? There are lots of really talented, positive blind people doing really great work in the creative industries.”
For more on Jamie MacDonald, visit www.jamiemacdonaldcomedian.com
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