Denver Post: Comedian Chris Fonseca Staged for a Comeback
Updated: Mar 16
Chris Fonseca is ready to reclaim his throne.
The Colorado Springs-based comedian, who has TV credits, famous friends and a trail of laughter 30 years long behind him, has enjoyed his life as a busy touring comic.
But after a hot streak in the 1990s, which saw stand-ups like George Lopez and Carlos Mencia opening for him, Fonseca’s career cooled down. Some of it was the changing tastes of the comedy world. Some of it was due to his heavy drinking.
All of it was made harder by the fact that Fonseca’s lifelong cerebral palsy keeps him wheelchair-bound — he also has a speech impediment — thus his nickname “Crazy Legs” Fonseca. Or, as his website dubs him, “America’s original sit-down comic.”
“I’ve toured with Pablo Francisco for the last five years, and while I love Pablo and he’s like a brother to me, at this point I’m kind of bored, I need to move back up to where I’m headlining my own shows.”
t’s a challenge that runs parallel to Fonseca’s drive to get back into the spotlight, and one he has embraced after quitting drinking almost two years ago.
“I’ve toured with Pablo Francisco for the last five years, and while I love Pablo and he’s like a brother to me, at this point I’m kind of bored,” Fonseca, 50, said last week from the Zodiac Venue/Bar in downtown Colorado Springs. “It’s hard to see him making 40 grand a weekend when I’m making $1,500. He deserves it, but I need to move back up to where I’m headlining my own shows.”
Fonseca has been a television guest of David Letterman and HBO’s “Loco Slam” and performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. His hometown newspaper, the Fort Morgan Times, has published pictures of him hanging out with Jimmy Carter and Tom Hanks. He even appeared in a dramatic role on an episode of “Baywatch.”
“I was supposed to look like I was having fun,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1996, “and I guess that’s where I did the real acting.”
Reclaiming The Spotlight
Fonseca is making progress toward his goal to reclaim the spotlight. He’s recently headlined a half-dozen Improv comedy clubs around the country — he headlines the Northfield Stapleton location on July 2 (tickets, denver.improv.com) before shows July 3 and 5 at Loonees Comedy Corner in the Springs (looneescc.wix.com). And this week he’s recording his seventh album (working title: “You’ll Like Me When I’m Angry”) in San Antonio, Texas, for potential release on Comedy Central Records. He’s back with his old management company, Cyberlaff Inc., whose founder Glenn Schwartz represents mainstream names like Lewis Black, Bill Nye “The Science Guy” and edgy magicians Penn & Teller.
And Fonseca remains feisty, tussling with club owners and critics on Facebook and dispensing talk of his feud with fellow Colorado comic Josh Blue, a Denver-based national headliner who also happens to have cerebral palsy.
“The joke I tell people is that we have five comics who have cerebral palsy, so if you call the club the next day and ask what their name was, you have to be more specific,” said comic and Comedy Works new talent coordinator Deacon Gray. “It’s like, ‘How palsied were they?'”
While it’s unusual for a city to have more than one comic with CP, Fonseca and Blue have also been inspirations to up-and-comers like Christie Buchele and others with the disability, said club owner Wende Curtis.
“When he was going through some of his alcoholism we had to kind of lay low with him. But he’s truly one of ours,” Curtis said. “He’s really a crowd-pleaser, and once people get over thinking he sounds drunk it’s a slam-dunk.”
Of course, performing at a comedy club has its own challenges. Many do the bare minimum to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, according to Fonseca, so they’ve done some creative things to make sure he’s seen by audiences on the often-low, non-wheelchair-accessible stages — including building him a “throne” with wooden crates, or cranking him up in a barber chair until everyone can see him.
Fonseca, who helped craft the original ADA law, will act as a spokesman for its 25th anniversary “Legacy Project” educational campaign in the coming months.
“My dream was to be a DJ and be the funny guy on the radio, but in the 1970s I physically could not do that, so I went into comedy,” Fonseca said. “It’s a relay problem. My brain and body don’t talk to each other very well. But they’re both fine on their own — no matter what my ex-wives say.” Click Here For Original Article