Ahren Belisle can’t speak because he suffers from cerebral palsy, but that hasn’t stopped the Canadian stand-up comedian from getting a spot on America’s Got Talent.
Belisle, who grew up in Bonfield and North Bay in northern Ontario, uses a text-to-speech app on his phone for his stage routine.
The 28-year-old’s television debut on NBC’s America’s Got Talent is scheduled for Tuesday night, although the highly popular show has already released its audition on its social media channels.
Spoiler alert: all four judges approved of his set and gave him “yes” votes.
“You have a sense of timing and humor,” said judge Howie Mandel, a fellow Canadian.
“You open up the conversation and normalize humanity and originality. And you’re funny.”
Former judge Simon Cowell asked Belisle if he has a day job, to which Belisle replied via his app and after a long pause: “I’m an engineer.”
Cowell said the performance will change his life.
Belisle told CBCs Tomorrow North that he became a stand-up comic after a trip to Portugal.
“I went to a charity comedy night at a pub,” he said using his text-to-speech app.
“Apparently I was bullying and the comics thought I was hilarious. So they told me to try comedy.”
That was a year ago.
Belisle said he spends a lot of time in Ottawa where he has a good relationship with Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club.
Are America’s Got Talent appearance came after producers saw a TikTok video of his routine that had gone viral.
“It was a lot easier and better than I imagined,” Belisle said of performing on the show.
“I thought I would be under a lot of rules and they would tell me to do things, but honestly they really let me be myself. And if you saw my audition, they definitely made me tense.”
Much of Belisle’s humor stems from his experiences with cerebral palsy and how people around him react to a person with a disability.
For example, in his parody, he says he used to have the word “disabled” on his social media biography, and joked with a woman who messaged him that he should change “disabled,” which is “offensive.” in “handicapped.” (You can see Belisle’s comedic handling of her comments in the video accompanying this story.)
Belisle said his goals are to keep touring and making people laugh, eventually getting his green card to work and perform more easily in the US.
LISTEN | Ahren Belisle explains how his text-to-speech program helps him fulfill his dream of becoming a comic strip artist:
Tomorrow North5:00The Northern Ontario comic was featured in America’s Got Talent