(WKBN) – A Valley native has been working as a comedian since his first year of high school. He uses his comedy to teach people and advocate for the disabled community.
“We are uncomfortable with things we don’t understand and the best way to get over them is to simply confront them,” said comedian Matt O’Nesti of Boardman.
O’Nesti explained what guides his stand-up comedy. He has been in a wheelchair since he was two years old and suffers from type II spinal muscular atrophy. However, he doesn’t let that stop him.
“It gave me this freedom, this freedom of expression to sort of deal with the obvious problems I encounter with being disabled and in a wheelchair. It gave me a platform to talk about it, ”O’Nesti said.
Not only does he stand up to start the conversation about people with disabilities, he recently became a member of the board of directors for Disability Rights Ohio.
O’Nesti said some of the issues facing the disability community are too large and complex to be used in his act.
“You can’t face all the problems on stage,” he said. “On stage, my end goal is to make people laugh, not to give a TED talk.”
O’Nesti said Disability Rights Ohio’s only concern is standing up for the disability community. So he’s happy to be a part of it and according to group executive director Kerstin Sjoberg they’re excited to have O’Nesti’s new contribution.
“New members like Matt are coming to the board and bringing new perspectives from other parts of the state, like Youngstown, which we didn’t have a member of before. They bring different life experiences like Matt’s experience as a comedian, ”Sjoberg said.
“When I was unable to be an advocate for myself, I had parents who were really ready to step into the weeds and try to solve these problems. That’s why I’m trying to take this seriously now, ”O’Nesti said.
O’Nesti added that he was happy to be able to stand up for himself and others.