Feature by: Leanne Nebe
Rising Brisbane Comic Richie Goodacre was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at the age of one, but that hasn’t stopped him from chasing his dreams.
Richie Goodacre performing at Based Comedy in Robina, Gold Coast. (Photo: supplied Facebook)
Sitting in his sleek, black Quantum power wheel-chair, Richie opens his can of Red Bull and takes a long sip; his big brown eyes twinkling under the warm Brisbane sunlight.
Twenty-eight-year-old Richie is a Brisbane-based stand-up comedian, who’s preparing to headline his first hour-long set at this year’s Bris Funny Fest, running from August 1–19.
Richie moved to the inner-city Brisbane suburb of Bowen Hills four years ago from Narangba to be closer to the stand-up circuit, and public transport.
Before entering the comedy circuit, he completed a Diploma of Community Welfare, and Certificate III in Broadcasting at TAFE Queensland, working at Youth Arts Queensland, assisting with creative arts events and activities for over a year.
“I’ve done paid gigs here and there, at Brisbane Powerhouse, The ‘Paddo’ Tavern, that sort of thing. I’m trying to complete my Bachelor of Creative Industries too, but it can be hard.”
“I’m lucky enough that I’m still able to do a lot of things that other people with Cerebral Palsy can’t, like feed myself, live independently and pursue work and study. I sometimes have a bit of trouble processing information as fast as other people can.
“In comparison to others, it makes you feel like a dumbass, even though I’m not.”
He then turns to a long-haired middle-aged man, Lauritz Huth also in a wheel-chair.
“Laurie used to live next door, but someone changed the locks on him,” says Richie with a serious look on his face.
“I told him to just stay with me, so he wasn’t homeless, and he’s been here for about five months now.” Richie looks at the wall when he talks; a hint of shyness in his voice.
“Richie is a good man. He has a heart of gold that bloke” utters Laurie.
And with that, he wheels himself outside to have a cigarette.
Richie laughs again shyly and shakes his head, crushing his drink can as he recalls an awkward moment.
“I keep forgetting I live next to a theatre. I was wheeling myself outside to pick up my Uber eats and there were all these people outside because I forgot there was a show on. It was at that moment I was thinking oh shit, I should have put pants on.”
And it was moments like that, which got Richie into stand-up comedy.
“I started posting on Facebook the awkward, embarrassing or funny things that happen to me or just my opinion about society in general, and my friends just started commenting with ‘Richie you should do comedy! You’re hilarious!’
“I was in my early 20s when I started getting serious about comedy. I always appreciated the art form, so I looked up courses on Google and started learning the ropes with Robert Grayson.”
Richie describes his style of comedy as quite self-deprecating and observational.
“I lean towards that style of humour as I can tell jokes from a unique perspective; joking about things others take for granted and the general ignorance of society.
“My parents are supportive of me wanting to pursue entertainment which is great,” says Richie.
Richie’s mother, high-school teacher Donna Goodacre was not surprised at her son’s proposed career choice but admits she was initially worried at how the audience would react to his disability.
“Richie always wanted to be on the stage” recalls Donna.
“He always had a quirky sense of humour, but I was worried that people might laugh at him instead of with him.”
Richie’s best friend and former radio colleague Robert Cameron describes the comic as “very smart and fiercely loyal”.
“It doesn’t surprise me that Richie gave his housemate a place to stay. That’s just the person he is. He would do that for anybody.”
Born Richie John Goodacre in Canberra in 1989, he attended Turner Primary School, before he and his family relocated to his mother Donna’s birthplace of New Zealand in 1995 until 2002, when they moved back to Queensland.
Despite Richie initially walking with the assistance of a frame and leg braces, early in life, he was in a manual wheelchair by the time he was in high-school, and recently acquired a power-chair for ease of mobility.
8-year-old Richie Goodacre with Jona Iomu in New Zealand at a Mini-Olympic event for children with physical disabilities. (Photo: Courtesy of Donna Goodacre/Facebook)
“People can be brutal,” he says.
“People just assume I can’t answer my own questions. I’m university educated, but it still feels belittling.”
Richie has been single for a few years, but he sees the funny-side in his pursuit of love and a long-term relationship.
“One girl thought Cerebral Palsy was a terminal illness, and I couldn’t figure out why she felt sad for me. She thought my ‘two-and-a-half years left’ was how long I had to live. I was talking about how long I had left until I graduate from uni.”
But life for Richie wasn’t so fun and smooth-sailing.
In 2009, just before his 20th birthday, Richie was diagnosed with depression, after overdosing on epilepsy medication; a decision he later regretted.
“I do get down sometimes, it happens” he reflects.
“I would never do something drastic like that again. I was young, and I felt left out by my group of friends. I went home and as soon as I had overdosed, I panicked so I immediately called an ambulance. The pills just made me drowsy, so I was really lucky.”
Richie says, a lot of his material comes from life experiences, which resulted in one of his sets being titled “Fear and Self-loathing in Bris Vegas”
“It was a cumulation of everything, from me leaving my friends and family behind in New Zealand, to falling in love too quickly, to me being my own worst enemy. I am my biggest critic, and I am trying to not be so hard on myself.”
Nowadays, Richie is busily preparing to head-line at Bris Funny Fest, a fringe comedy festival, hoping that this will lead to bigger things.
“I hope to relocate to Melbourne eventually,” says Richie optimistically.
He rubs his right wrist, a small red and black tribal tattoo, adorns it, in honour of his Maori heritage. He has no idea what the symbols mean.
“I just Googled ‘tribal tattoo,’ and found a design I liked,” he giggles.
Richie is diverse and random in hobbies as he is by unexpected meet-ups with celebrities. He fondly remembers someone calling out his name while at his local IGA. It was Dave Hughes.
“I couldn’t believe he remembered me from all those years ago when I was just starting out,” says Richie with a huge grin.
“It feels good to have that kind of recognition from an industry great. I love Hughesy.”
Richie tilts his head back gently as he reflects on what’s changed in the world of living in a wheel-chair.
“We as a society are slowly becoming more inclusive, but it would be nice if we weren’t always put on the backburner when it comes to accessing venues,” said Richie.
“One time I was at a gig that had a disabled toilet but no access to it; you literally had to go down a car lift.”
His eyes widen in an almost child-like amusement. He shakes his head but smiles nonetheless.
“Can you imagine it? Going down a car-lift. But many venues don’t even have a disabled toilet.”
Nevertheless, Richie remains optimistic that things will soon change for the better, and that people will see that there’s more to people like Richie than just jokes and stereotypes.
If you or someone you know needs help, support is available from Lifeline on 13 11 14.
According to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance of Australia, the condition, also known as ‘CP’ affects about 34,000 Australians and 17 million people globally. However, there are a lot of common embarrassing misconceptions about the condition, that you might not know about. Here we provide you a list of:
9 Common Myths or Misconceptions about Cerebral Palsy debunked.
1.) “It’s fatal” – (WRONG) –
Richie Goodacre once had a girl on Tinder ask him “how long he had left” to which he replied “two and a half years” thinking she was talking about his degree.
According to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, a lot of people commonly mistake Cerebral Palsy as a degenerative condition, resulting in a short life expectancy but it is not. The Cerebral Palsy Alliance also says that people living with the condition do not usually get worse, however, there are variations on how severe the ailments are. It is an acquired brain injury that usually occurs either in the womb or shortly after birth. So rest assured, CP may be a life-long condition, but is definitely not life-limiting.
2.) “You will never be able to live independently” (WRONG!)
As found on the Cerebral Palsy Alliance website, people will suffer from Cerebral Palsy (CP) with varying degrees of the condition, but with advancements of technology, most people living with CP have gone on to live fulfilling lives in their own house just like their able-bodied peers. Having Cerebral Palsy does not mean that you can’t live a fulfilling life. The Cerebral Palsy Guide reports that just like a non-CP sufferer, they too can work, marry, have children, and drive.
3.) Cerebral Palsy is Genetic/hereditary (UNCONFIRMED)
According to an American website, My Child at CerebralPalsy.org’ and the Australian Cerebral Palsy Alliance; CP is uncommon in families who have a member with CP, and there is no substantial research to indicate a link between CP and family history.
It is even less common in families of multiple births with twins or triplets in the family.
4.) Everyone with Cerebral Palsy is intellectually impaired.
According to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, 1 in 2 people with the condition will have an intellectual disability. However, this varies on an individual basis. Due to varying difficulties in communication, a CP sufferer’s normal intelligence is often mistaken for intellectual impairment. Many living with the condition go on to lead normal lives and pursue tertiary education.
5.) People with CP are just lazy, and they will ‘grow out of it.’ (WRONG!)
As ridiculous as it sounds, many parents who are given the diagnosis that their precious little bundle of joy has Cerebral Palsy have initially dismissed the claims, thinking their child is simply ‘not using their muscles properly.’ According to Singapore website Asia One, it is initially difficult for parents to take in the initial diagnosis that their child has the condition. I am sorry to break it to you, but you can’t ‘fake’ CP. Unfortunately, there is no known cure to this condition, but with the advancements of technology, and early-intervention, means that CP sufferers have better access to treatment than ever before.
6.) If you have CP, you will never get a job. (WRONG!)
Cerebral Palsy is an acquired brain injury which varies in severity. Like other disabilities, it really depends on how severe the CP is. According to the My child without limits website, early intervention has given many people with Cerebral Palsy, a clear pathway to go on to lead normal lives and hold mainstream employment.
7.) If you had CP as a child, you can outgrow it as an adult (WRONG)
Um, in a perfect world that would be great, but don’t hold your breath. Singapore’s Asia One site reports that Cerebral Palsy is a poorly understood condition, with many parents believing that you can ‘grow out’ of it. Ms Sarah Wong, the chief Paediatric physiotherapist at Kids Focus Physiotherapy in Singapore, reports on the Asia One site, hoping to debunk common misconceptions that parents and other people still have about the condition. Whilst the brain injury will not progressively worsen, it certainly isn’t going to get better with age. Thankfully we live in an age with the latest in medical treatments so the overall live prognosis for a person living with CP is great.
8.) Cerebral Palsy is contagious (WRONG)
Regardless of what grandma Flo said, according to the Cerebral Palsy Guidance website, it is a common misconception that Cerebral Palsy is contagious. It is not like the Chicken Pox. You can’t ‘catch it’ by being near a person with the condition. It is an ACQUIRED brain injury.
9.) If you have Cerebral Palsy you will be confined to a wheelchair. (Not exactly)
CP affects people in varying ways, and yes, some people will be confined to a wheelchair, especially in the more severe end of the CP spectrum. The Cerebral Palsy Australia Website offers a huge number of online resources to educate and help people better understand the condition. According to the Therapy and Equipment needs of Cerebral Palsy PDF, this document outlines the benefits that can be obtained from a number of non-wheelchair therapy options from leg braces to intensive physiotherapy. Some CP sufferers are still able to some degree walk and run without the physical symptoms being so obvious. Like with any condition, CP affects people differently and a medical professional will be able to offer the best treatment options available to help engage the most normal, healthy life possible.
For more information about Cerebral Palsy, contact Cerebral Palsy Australia at http://cpaustralia.com.au