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‘Cripple Threat’ Ryan Niemiller takes his physical limitations in stride

UPDATED: Thu., Sept. 2, 2021

When Ryan Niemiller competed on season 14 of “America’s Got Talent,” the comic knew what he had to accomplish. It’s imperative to connect with the judges. “You need America to like you, and the only way Americans will vote for you is if you get those four people to like you,” Niemiller said.

The four people Niemiller is referring to are the “America’s Got Talent” judges that season: Howie Mandel, Simon Cowell, Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough. “Simon was the hardest to win over, but he liked me right off the bat,” Niemiller said while calling from his Southern California home.

Niemiller primarily joked about his disability, malformed arms, and earned a third-place finish during his “AGT” run in 2019. The exposure from a hit TV show enables Niemiller to get booked at myriad clubs across the country.

“It worked out well for me,” Niemiller said. “I have no complaints. I was able to get to the next level.” The self-described Cripple Threat has been joking about his limitations for 15 years. “The most difficult part of being a comedian is finding your voice,” Niemiller said. “But it was easy for me to find my voice.”

Niemiller, 39, was an inspiration for those with physical limitations when he appeared on “AGT.” “That was nice, but it wasn’t my goal,” Niemiller said. “My goal was to appear on the show and be able to buy a house. But it was cool to hear from parents of children with disabilities who appreciate how honest I am and to prove that you can have a career like being a comedian when you have a disability.”

There are comics who are handicapped, such as Josh Blue and Geri Jewell, both of whom have cerebral palsy, but Niemiller’s perspective comes from a unique place. “I’m one of those people who are fortunate since I love what I do,” Niemiller said.

When Niemiller performs Friday at the Spokane Comedy Club, expect autobiographical material. “I’ll talk about myself and about existing in the pandemic,” Niemiller said. “I’ll talk about how it impacts us. I try to keep it positive. I’ll tell stories about living with a disability. I like talking about dumb, funny stuff since the world is too serious.”

When Niemiller isn’t focusing on standup, he’s working on developing a sitcom. “I would love to do TV, maybe a Netflix series,” Niemiller said. “We’ll have to see what happens. TV is not easy. It took me five years to get on ‘AGT.’

“I’m going to give it a shot and see what happens. You have to try. If I didn’t try, I wouldn’t have ended up on ‘AGT’ in front of millions of people, and I would never be performing in Spokane. I’m an example that anything can happen if you work at it.”

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