The Daily Gamecock

'America's Got Talent' comedians raise disability awareness at USC

Thursday evening, the Russell House ballroom was filled with a boisterous crowd of students who came prepared to laugh until their stomachs ached. A set of three popular comedians took to the stage, ready to make that happen.

“America’s Got Talent” season 10 runner-up Drew Lynch was joined by DJ Demers and Damienne Merlina. Lynch and Demers both appeared on “America’s Got Talent,” but Demers appeared a season later than Lynch and started coming into the limelight after an appearance on “Conan.” Merlina has been involved in both stand-up comedy and acting, even voicing a part in “Grand Theft Auto V.”

Aside from a love of comedy, something these three young adults all share is a disability.To many students in the crowd, the fact that they didn't let their disabilities hold them back was something to be proud of.

“It’s definitely really inspiring, seeing them up there with the unfair hand they’ve been dealt, and seeing that they can do whatever they want with it,” Imad Thambi, a first-year mechanical engineering student, said.

When Damienne Merlina takes the stage, the first thing most people notice is her disability — she only has one arm. She addressed it soon after she took the stage, noting that she lost her right one in a car accident. She frequently referenced it throughout her set, affectionately calling it her “nub” and making light of it by allowing it to be the punchline of many of her jokes.

In a similar fashion, DJ Demers incorporates his hearing disability into his set. Though you have to pay a bit more attention to notice his disability, he would still poke fun at himself. He reminisced on childhood games gone awry, such as telephone, in which he had to make guesses to keep the game going since his hearing aids have a hard time picking up whispering.

The final comedian for the evening was Drew Lynch, whose speech impediment is the result of a sports injury that damaged his vocal cords. His impediment was an underlying punchline in many of his jokes, but they all had a positive spin. He joked about relatable topics, such as his service dog and all the thoughts and problems associated with animal ownership and spoke as if his disability wasn’t even there at all.

First-year business student Michael Steimer was impressed by the performance.

"The fact that they can stand up here and not be ashamed of their disabilities, instead almost be a part of their act, (and) use it for comedic purposes, is really cool and it shows that they’re just like normal people,” he said.  “In general, it was just a really good event. They’re all really funny people.”