Every small town has a few local celebrities and in Robe it’s no different.
Comedian Elise Lehmann recently had her celebrity status raised when ABC Backroads aired a feature on Robe. Using her unique sense of humour, Elise makes people feel at ease about her disability – however once you’ve met Elise you wouldn’t call it a disability.
At the age of two Elise lost her eyesight to a brain tumour and with no concrete memories of sight, Elise quickly built up a sense of humour.
“People sometimes think it is the worst thing on earth that I can’t see, they think I can’t do things,” she says.
“But when I make light of things and they can have a laugh along as well it breaks the ice and it sort of shows people that it’s not necessarily a disability it’s just what people make of it.
“I was always quick witted as a kid, at school I would always make jokes about things, funny things teachers would say.”
Using her sense of touch, Elise works as a massage therapist and volunteers as a trainer with the local Robe Football Club. It is here she got her comedic break.
“I was always giving the coach and players a hard time,” says Elise. “I got a chance to tell a joke about scratcher (coach at the time) and have been telling jokes at the club since.”
It wasn’t until South Australian funny man Dave Flanagan visited that Elise’s star began to rise outside of her hometown.
“Somehow the club invited Dave down for a comedy night, he was running late, so the club president asked me to settle the crowd while we waited, and Dave walked in while I was telling my jokes,” says Elise.
“After the show he came and spoke to me and asked me to come to his comedy school. The experience was great.”
From there Elise went on to perform in her own show at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, Has Anyone Seen My Dog. She had the crowd in stitches during four different shows, averaging 50 to 60 people.
“I was really nervous, but loved it,” she says.
Last year Elise also performed in Mount Gambier as part of the Fringe.
Not only is she a talented comedian, the 31-year-old also plays Goal Ball at a national level. The Paralympic sport pits teams against each other to block a ball from going in the goal square.
“It’s a great team sport, anyone can play,” says Elise.
“There are a couple of fully sighted people who play, but everyone has to wear blacked out eye shields so we are even.
“I’ve played in Goal Ball Nationals for the past five years now, and at Nationals last October the Australian women’s coach asked me to attend the women’s training camp, they have a few training camps and then they will select a squad for the Paralympic games in Tokyo 2020.”
Elise has been travelling to Sydney to take part in training camps, and has her fingers crossed for a spot on the squad. But if she doesn’t make it she’ll be happy to keep playing at her current level.
“It’s a great sport,” she says. “It’s challenging and high speed, you only have a split second to make your decision and go with it.”
And if that doesn’t make her busy enough, Elise is also completing a certificate in Education Support and hopes to work with vision impaired children at the South Australian School for the Vision Impaired in Adelaide.
“I have been working on the course for a couple of years now and should hopefully finish it this year.” Elise says it is great to work with kids who are vision impaired and show them how independent they can be.
“Sometimes parents don’t realise what potential there is for their kids who have lost their sight, and they sort of do everything for them and don’t allow them to learn to do things for themselves,” she says. “I like being able to show them they can be independent.”
Setting her goals high, Elise credits not only her family but her upbringing in the small close-knit town of Robe for the opportunities and support she has.
“I’m not just a blind person, I’m a person who just happens to be blind,” she says. “I’m not really that different to anyone else.”
Source: Brand SA News, 15 January 2018