By Jon Carpenter
Seven years ago the character “Stevie” on the show Malcolm in the Middle was one of the very first television characters who used a wheelchair and was actually part of the jokes. Then came “Jimmy” on South Park, who has muscular dystrophy but still wants to be a stand-up comic. And of course, the irrepressible John Callahan, with his bold, politically incorrect cartoons, has been around for decades. England’s Natasha Wood, however, may be the one to bring down the no-jokes-about disability barrier for all time.
Wood, a 30-something Brit, co-wrote, produced, and stars in her own one-woman play — Rolling Laughter — that premiered in Los Angeles this spring, moved on to London and Edinburgh during the summer, and is bound for New York City in 2008. Using a power wheelchair, she glides across the stage, re-enacting scenes from her unusual personal life, which leaves the audience both laughing and crying. I had the good fortune to catch her show at the El Portal Theater in North Hollywood, and later had an opportunity to chat with her.
JC: Wow! Your show was hysterical. But you made me cry too, so I’m going to hold that against you.
NW: This is all quite new to me. It’s all really quite exciting. It’s just developed, and I just did my first radio thing three or four weeks ago. It only started six weeks ago. Fire away — you can ask me anything.
JC: At the beginning of your show you said that you’ve had spinal muscular atrophy from birth. What exactly is SMA?