2 Blind Tulsa Comedians Perform At Cox Convention Center For Those With Vision Loss

Leon Purley and Mark Ivy are both blind, but said they don't let their disability hold them back. President and CEO of NewView Lauren Branch said empowering people experiencing vision loss has proven to lower their chances of depression. 

Tuesday, September 26th 2023, 10:04 am

By: News On 6


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An organization that empowers Oklahomans living with vision loss invited two comedians to its fundraising luncheon Tuesday at the Cox Convention Center.

Leon the Jokester and Mark Ivy are blind and were diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa as adults. Leon started losing his vision 7 years ago. 

"It was hard at first because I had always been very independent, worked a full-time job," he said. "I was like what am I going to do now?"

Leon took a comedy class in 2016 and quickly found his purpose. 

"I started my own comedy tour called Walk By Faith Not By Sight and from there it just took off," he continued saying, "I went to San Antonio, Texas, Austin, Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. I took over the market as the blind comedian, funniest in the world."

Leon and Mark crossed paths at a comedy club, not knowing they both were receiving services through NewView Oklahoma.

Mark said he struggled at first coming to terms with the fact that he was going blind.

"Emotionally how does losing your vision make you feel? For me, angry, very angry. That is when I started joking about it a lot because that is how I have handled tough times trying to find the funny in it," he added.

Making people laugh brought light into his dark world, but Mark said that was not enough. He also had to learn how to be blind. 

"They taught me how to use a cane, how to change my daughter's diaper, really anything to get your independence back."

President and CEO of NewView Lauren Branch said empowering people experiencing vision loss has proven to lower their chances of depression. 

"We do not cure vision loss, but we certainly help people adapt to the vision loss and be able to maintain their quality of life and enable them to continue to do the things they love to do," she said.

This is why the organization asked Mark and Leon to perform at its annual luncheon in front of a crowd of more than 370 people. 

"By NewView giving me the opportunity to perform and this platform is huge to be able to tell clean jokes, make everybody laugh, bring the community together. It is all about love and unity," said Leon.

It is an opportunity Mark said he might not otherwise get and wanted to make the most of. "I want people to leave forgetting almost we are blind, but not forgetting how we got here which is the services that NewView provides."

To learn more about NewView and the services it provides visit https://nvoklahoma.org/.

Leon the Jokester also has more upcoming shows and tours. You can find a full schedule at https://www.leonthejokester.com/.

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