Doing Stand Up as the Can't Stand up Comedian - The Dan Smith Story

Dan Smith is the “The Can’t Stand Up Comedian,” a Sacramento comic born with spina bifida, a condition that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don't form properly. His is the most severe form of spina bifida, myelomeningocele, because, as Dan jokes, “if you’re going to commit to something, go all the way.” Dan has always been funny but he’d never felt confident enough to get up on stage himself until taking a stand up comedy class in 2017. Now, just 3 years later, Dan is hosting and headlining comedy shows online and around the city. Including the now online Body Posi Comedy Show run by STAB! Comedy.

In this short documentary, Dan shares his experiences in the Sacramento comedy scene, opens up about his sobriety, and chronicles his evolution as a sitting-down stand up comedian. Writing and performing comedy, along with people's laughter, is what has kept him going through some of his darkest times.  

I first met Dan Smith on a dare. A dare to try one of the most terrifying things known to humanity: stand up comedy. Dan and I met at an open mic hosted at the famous Italian restaurant, Vince’s, which is delightfully snuggled up in between a Motel 6 parking lot and a Del Taco in South Sacramento. It was my first time doing stand up and Dan, the comedy pro, was hard to miss. He was the only one who took the term “front and center stage” seriously. There was a bar placed horizontally across the stage exactly at hip height, my hip height, which is where Dan’s face height is when he’s sitting in his wheelchair. To be seen, he had to perform in front of the stage. As an outsider and a newcomer, I was full of nerves but Dan greeted me warmly and the rest of the comedians greeted him with love and admiration.

That night, Dan had me rolling with laughter, the kind of laughter that comes from a combination of agony mixing with humor, the kind that makes you feel uncomfortable for laughing, but so uncomfortable you continue to laugh. My favorite type of comedy: dark comedy. I’d never come across a comic who used comedy to express themselves like Dan had. Sure, I’d just been on stage talking about my broken love life and that got some laughs but Dan’s story was unique, just as he is. His jokes ranged from getting a DUI in his wheelchair to “running” not running in the family. After that night, Dan and I stayed in touch and he opened up to the possibility of being the subject of this documentary.

Dan is one of the goofiest and sweetest people I’ve met. At first glance, I saw someone with a disability using comedy to express themselves. But the more I got to know him, I saw someone who has used the transformative power of comedy to better themselves. Dan credits stand up comedy for his sobriety, a statement that very few people can identify with as many comedians are notorious for drug use. Dan’s passion for making people laugh and for connecting with his fellow comedians, is what drove him to quit drinking. This drive to self betterment, an evolution of strength and ability to overcome whatever health adversity he is thrown, is inspiring. The love Dan has for his wife is also inspiring. I’m honored to be able to share some of Dan’s story.

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Dan Smith Bio:

Dan Smith (aka Dan the Can’t Stand Up Comedian) was born in Walnut Creek. He was born with a birth defect called Spina Bifida and has been a paraplegic his whole life. Much of his material comes from his experiences spending his life in a wheelchair. He has been performing comedy for 3 years in clubs, including Punch Line, Laughs Unlimited and all over Sacramento, as well as performing in San Francisco, and Reno and numerous other places throughout California and Nevada. When he’s not doing comedy, he enjoys spending time with his wife Anna and their Boston Terrier Kepi Joe.

 

Credits:

Ainé Henderson

Asal Ehsanipour

Alex Irwin

Janelle Hessig

 

Music

Black Silhouette

By. Blockhead & Alan Parker & Eric Allen &

Frank Reidy & Peter Shade

De Wolfe Music // De Wolfe LTD

 

Documentary Minimalism

By. Benjamin McAvoy

De Wolfe Music // De Wolfe LTD 

 

Special Thanks 

Dan Smith

Justin Isaacks 

Highwater Restaurant

Vic Mauleon

Sasha Khokha

Amy Miller

Abby Staeble

Derek Dozier

The Body Posi Comedy Show