Born in Sacramento, California, Michael O’Connell was diagnosed at 2 1/2 years old with Muscular Dystrophy. While able to walk in his youth, he eventually, due to the degenerative disease, had to start using a wheelchair full-time.
A career auto claims insurance adjuster, he found himself suddenly out of a job in 2009. After over a year of unemployment, an old friend called him with an out-of-the-blue idea: just for kicks, why didn’t they go to a comedy open mic night and try doing some stand-up, just to see what it was like?
Never having attempted comedy before, Michael took the stage that night. And he won the competition. And he never looked back.
He began appearing in comedy clubs and rooms all over Sacramento, had a story written on him in the Sacramento Bee, and competed in the Tommy T’s Talent Search Finals, finishing second overall in the championship round. He also ended up doing a comedy show with the legendary Bobby Slayton. All this within his first five months in comedy. SacramentoComedy.com wrote, “Michael O’Connell is taking the comedy scene by storm. His recent successes have been the talk of the town.”
Several Hollywood celebrities viewed his YouTube videos and began corresponding with him, and self-help guru Tony Robbins, after reading an interview with O’Connell in Quest Magazine, invited him to be his guest at one of his seminars in L.A. Michael began to work other cities, from L.A. to San Diego to San Francisco to Portland to Seattle, both in club performances and corporate shows.
He went on to co-found The Comedians with Disabilities Act, a comedy troupe made up all disabled comics, who after their first sold-out show got booked in such famed venues as San Francisco’s Punch Line and the Laugh Factory in Hollywood. He also founded Ramp Up Productions and began producing comedy shows, including “Smokin’ & Jokin’“, a regular cigar lounge comedy event, and “The Mikes“, a tour featuring a group of comedians all named Mike.
Both in his solo performing and when touring with the Comedians with Disabilities Act or The Mikes, Michael turns what some would call tragedy into what he sees as comedy, finding the funny in all his challenges and inviting delighted audiences into the “secret world of wheelchair living”, telling hilarious stories from his everyday life and poking fun at the “abled”. Whether performing for grownups in comedy clubs or speaking to disabled teens at MDA camps, he mixes laughter and inspiration into an unforgettable entertainment experience.
“You killed it!” — Dan Finnerty, The Dan Band
“You’re going to love this guy.” — AmericasComedy.com
“Michael O’Connell, the self-described ‘wheelchair comedian’, has exploded onto Sacramento’s comedy scene in the past year, quickly earning himself a reputation as a thoughtful and hilarious comic.” — Sacramento365.com
“Michael O’Connell is a comedy ninja!” — Brian Crall, owner, Sacramento Comedy Spot
“I ****ing LOVE that guy!” — Bobby Slayton
“The funniest man on wheels.” — Ellis Rodriguez
“You’re an inspiring man!” — Tony Robbins
“Bravo!” — Adam Baldwin