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Zach Anner grew up with cerebral palsy, and to help him with difficulties that can come along with he disorder, he turned to humor.
CNN reports that Anner was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was just a toddler. His eyes were crossed and he had difficulties walking, but his family’s support and their sense of humor made him stronger and cultivating his own sense of humor so much that he became a comedian.
“My childhood was great because my family has an amazing sense of humor, and it was just all making videos and jokes and doing skits and things. My parents instilled in me a sense of self that I was more than just a diagnosis or a condition. For me, cerebral palsy wasn’t the biggest deal, because I always had it. You know, you always work with what you got.”
He’s now 32, but knew he wanted to be a comedian at age 4, after making the audience laugh at a telethon. He apparently forgot his speech and said, “ladies and gentlemen,” over and over until the crowd burst out into laughter.
“I was this adorable little 4-year-old in a wheelchair, and they didn’t expect me to go up there and just do something like that. I realized that people’s expectations of me could also be used as a tool to disarm them and sort of catch people off guard. And that was a valuable lesson….I decided pretty early that I wanted to do some stuff with film and to make people laugh because I had tried other jobs and failed miserably.”
Before he became a comedian, he tried his hand at working at a bookstore, and even working at Disney World, where he was required to “clear the people out” of the park when it closed. But comedy was always his dream. In 2010, his mother convinced him to audition to get his own reality show on the Oprah Network, called, Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star. It paid off.
“She was like, ‘Oprah (Winfrey) is launching a new network, and she’s gonna give away a TV show, and you should totally audition for it.’ ”
After submitting his video, Anner was interviewed by Oprah as part of the competition. Yet, instead of the media mogul asking questions, Anner started asking the questions himself.
“I guess I stood out during that process because I actually asked Oprah questions instead. I sort of turned the tables. Since Oprah Winfrey is sitting in front of you, you better ask some damn questions.”
The end result was Rolling with Zach, Anner’s own show. Although it only lasted six episodes before cancellation, it didn’t get Anner down. The experience made him realize that he could actually fulfill his dream of being a professional comedian.
“I think Oprah was definitely a huge turning point in my life, because that was the first time I realized that I could do this as a career, and I could actually have an impact on people’s lives.”
Anner now works most days on his YouTube channel. His friends and family help him produce videos, and he has a growing audience of over 300,000 subscribers. He also published his first book this year, a memoir entitled, “If At Birth You Don’t Succeed.”
With his success, Anner wants to give back. He’s currently doing charity work and recently made a trip to Nicaragua.
“We were doing some work with a charity called Wheels for Humanity over there that gives wheelchairs to people in third world countries who wouldn’t normally have access to them.”
If that isn’t enough, he’s also an ambassador for the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, and is learning each day how to be a good role model for others.
“I’m helping educate people about CP and have a fun conversation about it and normalize it in a way that I don’t think we’ve seen before.”
Check out Anner in action is his hilarious YouTube video.