“I try to tell people all the time, this accident saved me,” ICS member Damon Rozier says about the spinal cord injury he sustained in a motorcycle crash on April 30, 1997. “My kids would not have known me if I was on my feet… because I was headed to death—quick, running to it. Like with the gasoline on me, with the flame in my hand.”
As Damon explains to host Stephanie Wallace in the latest episode of ICS’s podcast series Independence Radio, prior to his accident, he had not been living the most righteous life. While earning an honest living as a hairdresser, Damon was also selling drugs and had done time in the penitentiary. Though he had been shot at, he tells Stephanie, he never knew real fear until he was alone with his “demons” in the ICU recovering from his accident.
It was his relationship with his two boys, who were one and two at the time, that focused Damon on getting his life together. “They were my life force,” he says. “I had to stop being selfish with the whole disabled thing. I had two kids who were dependent on me to step up to the plate and move to the next level or I’d be subjecting them to maybe what I went through or worse.”
As he was figuring out what to do with his life, Damon became interested in expressing himself through comedy. “You know where [my] comedy came from?” he asks Stephanie during their conversation, then answers his own question: “I was angry. I was angry at society. I was angry at women. I was angry at people. I was angry at the fact that I can’t go where I want to go sometimes, ’cause they have steps, or the bathroom stalls are too small and I can’t get in. I was angry! My comedy comes from anger!”
A Unicorn in the Comedy Club
Damon noticed that there was a scarcity of comedians and other entertainers in wheelchairs. “We’re like unicorns,” he says. “You see us, and then you don’t.” He also thought he could do better than many of the comedians he was watching. He made a comedy tape and sent it off to BET. “Never heard anything back from them,” he says. “But I tried.”
Soon, Damon was going to comedy clubs around New York City, doing open mike nights and finally, after years of hard work and practice, getting regular gigs. Now he drives all over the country, often traveling by himself, doing comedy wherever people are willing to pay for it. He has developed a following of fans and other comedians who he says inspire him to keep pushing for new plateaus.
Naturally, Damon is a great story teller, so do yourself a favor and listen as he enrapts Stephanie with tales about his profession, the joys and pains of being a single father with a disability, and the challenges and rewards of reinventing himself after a major setback. You will be amazed, probably inspired, and most certainly made to laugh out loud when you least expect it.