Fringe funnyman Laurence Clark opens his heart about the joys of raising a family while living with cerebral palsy

Laurence Clark returns to the Fringe this year (Steve Ullathorne)

IT was only after comedian Laurence Clark met his wife, Adele, that the thought of having children crossed his mind.

Laurence was born with cerebral palsy and, having never met a dad with the condition, didn’t foresee himself becoming a father.

But Adele, who also has cerebral palsy, told him children were very much part of her future and they now have two sons, 13-year-old Tom and Jamie, seven.

The couple took part in a BBC Scotland documentary a few years ago about being parents living with the neurological condition.

But it was only last year, when the programme was uploaded to YouTube, that the couple realised what some people thought about them having kids.

“Anyone can leave a comment on YouTube and there are more than 1,000 comments on our documentary,” Laurence said.

“A lot were nice, but some weren’t nice at all.

“One wrote that it was irresponsible for someone in my position to have kids, while another commented that our sons would miss out on certain things because they had me as a dad.

“I would like to say it’s water off a duck’s back, but clearly it’s not, as it’s prompted me to write an hour-long comedy about it.”

Laurence with wife and sons Jamie (7) and Tom (13)

An Irresponsible Father’s Guide To Parenting is Laurence’s 10th show at the Edinburgh Fringe and he says it’s by far his most personal.

“Everyone goes about their lives and I didn’t really give a lot of thought about how people perceive me, but those comments gave me a good general picture of how the man or woman in the street look at me, and the way I live my life and bring up my kids,” he continued.

For 44-year-old Laurence, he has known nothing else in his life.

“I was born with cerebral palsy, so I have nothing to compare it with. I don’t wish things were different because this is just the way I am.

“It’s only when you read things like the comments on YouTube you realise people see you through different eyes.”

Laurence had a taste of that growing up, too.

“As a child, I was interested in subjects like drama and writing, but I was dissuaded at school and found myself in computing and IT, which I have a PhD in. The more I did it, the less it interested me, particularly when it became so academic and theoretical.When I finished the PhD I promised myself I would have a go at something else – even if I failed I could say I tried.

“I wrote comedy scripts and sent them to the BBC, but didn’t get anywhere, so I started stand-up, simply as a way of getting my material out there. But even accessing the comedy clubs wasn’t easy, because a lot of them are in attics or basements.

“Edinburgh is the most accessible and when I’m there it feels more like an even playing field.”

Laurence, who lives in Liverpool, isn’t the only member of his family who loves Edinburgh – his sons, who will accompany him to the Fringe, look forward to their annual trips north.

“My eldest once described the Fringe as better than Christmas – I think because there is so much to do there. Also, when we go to watch shows at home or in London, we usually get put at the back because that’s where the spaces are for wheelchairs. For a seven-year-old, that’s not very engaging.

“But at the Fringe you usually end up sitting in the front row if you’re in a wheelchair and I think the kids really enjoy that.”

Laurence believes attitudes to people with disabilities are changing, although slowly, with the likes of himself and Britain’s Got Talent winner, Lost Voice Guy, who also has cerebral palsy, helping to alter opinions.

“His win was huge – and he won it on merit. He was the funniest and most entertaining and hopefully it will make the media industry wake up and provide more opportunity.

“At the start of my show, I work hard to get the audience laughing quickly.

“I think people believe it might be worthy or aren’t sure what they should laugh at, but at the end of the day it’s comedy – albeit a very personal comedy all about me and my family.

“My wife wasn’t thrilled about the level of detail I go into, but that’s the hazard when you’re married to a comedian!”

Laurence Clark: An Irresponsible Father’s Guide To Parenting, The Box – George Square – Assembly, August 1-26.