By Anna Pakman


A close-up of an old-fashioned microphone, surrounded by vibrant colorful lights


Is disability a laughing matter? Three New York area comediennes are finding the humor in the predicaments that people with disabilities face in everyday life and sharing it with audiences worldwide.


At what she calls “weird kid boarding school,” Pamela Rae Schuller was constantly getting in trouble for being snarky and inappropriate, so she turned to comedy to channel her rambunctious energy. That spark ignited a career in stand-up and public speaking that has criss-crossed the country. A little person with Tourette Syndrome and OCD, Schuller’s jokes were first a coping mechanism but now just represent finding the funny in everyday life as someone who happens to live with disabilities. “Comedy can be such a great tool to teach and connect,” Schuller said when asked about making jokes that land with mixed-ability audiences. “Finding humor in hard stuff can be universal!”


You can find Schuller going from stage to screen in her first leading role across from fellow comedian Jessie Chin in “Wheelchair Money,” one of more than 115 films putting a disability spin on the Buddy Comedy genre in this year’s edition of the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge (EDFC). The EDFC, launched in 2013 by actor-comedian Nic Novicki, challenges teams of filmmakers to create 5-minute short films in just five days to raise awareness of disability issues and to create more opportunities for disabled talent in front of and behind the camera. At least one member of each filmmaking team has to have a disability. This requirement ensures that EDFC films are enriched by authentic lived experiences.


For her part, Pavar Snipe, an Emmy-nominated producer, comedian, writer, professor, and disability advocate, couldn’t agree more about how essential authenticity is to finding humor even in the most mundane places. “Truth is what makes things really funny,” Snipe pointed out. “Once I made the decision to talk about my specific experience with people, my own relationship with my disability to myself, my comedy really started to expand.” She continued “What makes disability funny is that people with disabilities are the best hackers of life. We know how to take the most challenging circumstances and come through them shining and laughing at the same time.”


As for what is next, Snipe is teaching newcomers to the art form how to use their lives, experiences, and relationships to find their own unique voices. She’ll be performing a solo piece and a sketch with her team WOCA (Women of Color Anonymous) at the Austin Comedy Festival in May. Starting in June, you can catch her back in NYC live at the PIT Theater performing with her Boogiemanja team “Typecast.” And if that’s not enough, keep your ears perked for Snipe’s new comedy podcast “It’s not even like that.”


A well-timed podcast or social media video can quickly put a comedian on the map. Maysoon Zayid, whose stand-up routines have had audiences worldwide in stitches, burst onto the scene with a viral TED Talk that has been viewed more than 6.5 million times. In her talk, Zayid, who lives with cerebral palsy (CP), makes light that though, like the great Jay-Z, she has 99 problems, her CP is only one of many–after all, she lives in New Jersey.


To inspire the next generation of youth growing up with disabilities, Zayid wrote “Shiny Misfits,” a graphic novel about a young disabled girl with big dreams. “There are so few disabled characters in the tween space and the ones you see are quite plainly pathetic,” Zayid said when asked about what inspired her work. “I wanted to reflect the Disco (disability community). I know we are diverse and we are complicated.”