Blind comedian dispels disability myths with laughter

January 6, 2011 10:20:26 AM PST
A student at Chicago's Second City, Jim Bernardin, has big dreams.

Diagnosed with Stargardt disease 13 years ago, he has figured out how to navigate his future without much sight.

The 25-year-old just started taking improv classes at Second City.

Despite the fact that Bernardin cannot see, you would never know it by watching him perform.

"I look where your voice is coming from because my blind spot is in the central of my vision, so that's where the blind spot is, right where you're talking. So when I'm on stage and I want to give eye contact to somebody, I'm looking where the voice is," Bernardin said.

Bernardin got interested in performing when he was in high school.

"I couldn't play sports in high school, and all the other kids were playing sports, so I think this was a way for me to like be funny and make friends," he said.

Stargardt disease is an inherited eye disorder that causes loss of central vision. Jim and his twin sisters have the same disability.

"I wouldn't be doing this crazy comedy mission that I'm doing right now without the support of my family," Bernardin said.

Jim's uncle, Tom Bernardin, is the CEO of Leo Burnett and very active in Foundation Fighting Blindness.

"We're as close as families are," Tom Bernardin said. "What I see are some of the challenges that they so easily overcome. I learn from my nephew and my nieces."

"It's hard to call the fact that my nieces and nephews are legally blind a gift, so I don't want to call it that, but what it does, it opens up your mind and your heart," Tom Bernardin said.

"I love making people laugh and the more I'm here, the more I realize, 'Wow, this is something I could really do forever,'" Jim Bernardin said.