A MOTORCYCLE CRASH 30 years ago changed Al Foxx from a healthy 19-year old roofer to a brain damaged, paralyzed survivor with dreams of going back to work. However, a new reality hit him when he discovered how few people are hiring handicapped roofers. Al tried working in lot of other settings before he finally overcame his urge to work. (I’m kidding.)
One reason for this shift is that he found his way to the world of stand-up comedy. While working as a stand-up comic is fun and interesting, making people laugh for no real purpose other than to help club owners sell alcohol wasn’t enough. But he enjoyed being in front of laughing audiences too much to give it up entirely, so he became a widely sought after inspirational and motivational humorist whose stories and enthusiastic approach to life brings laughter and hope to appreciative audiences of all ages.
Fortune 500 companies, universities, government agencies, various non profits, churches and schools listen, laugh and learn.
Al Foxx is the founder and president of the not-for-profit Winners Don’t Quit Association (WDQA).
Al’s gung ho approach to life teaches him some things the hard way. But “It’s not how many times I fall down that matters,” he says. “All that really matters is how many times I get back up.” Through the process of falling down and getting back up, Al has learned time tested principles that he inspires audiences with nationwide.
Doctors told him he’d never walk, talk understandably or drive again. These challenges changed Al from ordinary to extra-ordinary. Today he drives to his local speaking engagements, limps onto the stage, and gets paid to share his humorous insights with people who suddenly see their own situations in a new light.
Helping others find their own source of inspiration and hope helps Al to keep feeling hopeful and inspired. “You keep it by giving it away.”
Professional Speaker Al Foxx shares his personal journey…
“I was born in Detroit in 1961. We moved to Seattle, just as I started 7th grade. Several years later, I quit high school after my junior year, became a hot tar roofer and earned my GED. I needed a job to buy and do the things I loved. Hot-tar roofing paid me enough to go snow skiing, backpacking, Customize my Camaro and go motorcycle riding. These things seemed better than chalk boards and textbooks.”
1970 rock concerts rocked! Riding my Yamaha 650 Special way over the speed limit to a spring concert in 1980, my motorcycle crashed into a pickup truck that ran a stop sign right in front of me.
I came out of my coma over a month later. Several weeks later, as I began to sense the gravity of my situation, I asked to see the “top doctor.” (I could only pronounce one or two syllable words. Saying Chief Nuero Surgeon was way beyond what I could do.) He didn’t come for what seemed like a month, but I kept asking until the hospital’s chief nuero surgeon came to my room. I held my breath as I watched his expression. He took a deep breath and held it in as he looked into my scared eyes. The background sounds out in the corridor sounded like every other day, but this wasn’t like any other day. This was the day I realized I was beginning a new journey. As the surgeon looked me in the eye, he told me I would never walk or drive again.
Never walk?! Never drive?!
I’m a 19 year old roofer. I have to walk.! I have to drive! Frantically I pushed my paralyzed leg off the hospital bed and tried to stand up. I fell on my face. Two nurses helped the doctor put me back in bed, but as soon as they turned around I climbed back out and fell on my face again. This time they put me back and strapped me in!
As I lay there, staring at the ceiling, I could read the writing on the wall. It said that instead of hanging out with friends, snow skiing, water skiing, back packing, going to rock concerts and to the beach, I was going to be spending my time in physical, speech, occupational and psycho therapy. What a drag! What a pain!! What a challenge!!!
The crash that left me head injured, paralyzed and alone could easily have been the end of my happy, productive life; indeed, it was for a while. Depression and fear circled like hungry sharks. What would I do with myself? Rebuilding my life proved impossible, until I accepted the fact that life would always be different than it had been. Until this reality became something i could live with, I kept seeing things the way I’d always seen them. What made rebuilding my life so difficult was that I kept trying to rebuild the identity my crash had smashed. When I finally accepted that the identity of my youth was gone forever, I became free to build and polish my new identity.
Before reaching this enlightened state, I tried every angle of working again I could think of. I tried school, but brain damage and studies are about as compatible as Aerosmith and a Baptist church choir. It took me 7 years to graduate from a community college with a two year degree. The degree itself wasn’t a door opener, but getting it showed me that I wasn’t as incompetent as I feared. I tried the UW vocational rehabilitation program, but the boring, dead end jobs they had me doing paid too little to earn a living. Going out on my own and finding work that I could do with my physical limitations was proving impossible.
as I stood quietly in the church lobby outside a local singles meeting looking at the poster advertising an upcoming Amateur Night, I wasn’t thinking stand-up comedy could be a career. Joke-telling wasn’t even among the suggested type of talents, but I didn’t sing, quote long passages of scripture, or play a musical instrument. A lot of other people didn’t do those things either. A lot of people wouldn’t be in the program, but I wanted to be in the program! My imagination kicked in. I imagined making people laugh.
Not only did they laugh, they laughed hard. A young lady who had been a professional comedian approached me after the show and convinced me to let her take me to a local comedy club’s open mic. I performed at an open mic show and loved it.
At the time, I was working as a substitute teaching assistant… fun and interesting, but with absolutely no future. A few years after performing stand-up comedy, one of the teachers I was working with asked me to share the details of my crash with the kids in her class. I did. Although my improving, however still obvious speech impairment, made it difficult for other to understand me. They loved listening to my story and laughing at my jokes, and seemed unaware of my speech impairment.
I loved it, too. I especially enjoyed knowing that my fast-paced description of my crash could help them be more careful and therefore safer. The fact that I, a person with disabilities, was making them laugh and think about life may open their minds to their own possibilities. And maybe they would be more open to the possibilities of other people with disabilities. The fact that I could encourage them to see possibilities instead of stereotypes was the best part.! People’s tendency to judge a book by its cover keeps some folks isolated and robs other folks of the opportunity to know some very quality friends. Learning to see possibilities opened many doors for both myself and for people I’ve me, many of whom have become life-long friends.
From amateur night at a church function Al Foxx officially began his comedy career at Seattle’s Comedy Underground. Several years later, he became an award winning comic at Seattle Comedy Club Giggles…
Stand-up comedy is a fun but rough sport. I respect the comic or comedian who works at it long enough and hard enough to earn their living making people laugh. Making people laugh is fun. Being good enough at making people laugh to be consistently paid for doing it is a valuable skill. I don’t regret the time I have spent to become a paid comic.
From Comedy Clubs to Keynotes and Brown Bags,
appropriate humor keeps Al’s audiences alert and focused. Focusing just on comedy didn’t do it for Al. “If all I get out of my rehab journey is a few good jokes, then it’s been a colossal waste of time. It took time to learn the things I share as a professional speaker, so sharing the tools my journey taught me is like giving time to fellow travelers. This has more value than even the cleverest joke. Don’t hear me wrong. Jokes can also have value, plus they’re fun.”
Peace… May your journey be full of love and laughter…
Winners Don’t Quit Association
P.O. Box 2347
Woodinville, WA 98072
Booking Manager 425-820-0367