Man who had fingers replaced with toes brings new comedy night to east London

Patrick Grafton-Green
Richard Stott was born with rare birth defect Poland Syndrome, which left him with toes for fingers

A man using laughs to fight the stigma of a rare birth defect that left him with toes for fingers has brought a new wide-ranging comedy night to east London.

Richard Stott was born with Poland Syndrome, a condition which resulted in him having no chest muscle on one side of his body and webbed fingers on one hand.

It affects 1 in 200,000 people and, for Mr Stott, meant the need for numerous operations growing up.

Without them he would have been left hunched over and with limited use of his left hand.

The 30-year-old performer, who lives in Camberwell, has been acting for ten years but his disability was the inspiration behind his venture into comedy.

Mr Stott's disability was his inspiration for going into comedy

He told the Standard: “My comedy very much focuses on my condition, how I have coped with it, battles with depression that have come with it especially when working in an industry which is very superficial.

“What it did to me is it caused me to have a misshapen left hand and no pectoral muscle.

“I was having surgery on my hand to improve movement from the age of three.

“At the age of 11 I had my two biggest surgeries – they took my shoulder blade muscle and placed it where my pectoral muscle should be, and amputated two useless fingers and replaced them with toes.”

The comedian is bringing a new show to east London

Growing up with the condition initially made Mr Stott self-conscious, and into his teenage years he would even hide his hand when he was on dates.

As his confidence grew in his 20s he decided to use it as the basis of a one man show, to make people more comfortable with issues surrounding body image and make people laugh at what they might otherwise find uncomfortable.

He said: “At one point I thought, I am going to write a show about it – here I am, this is me, this is what I’ve got.

“My show explains what condition is because not many people will know about it.

Mr Stott shows have focused on the stigma surrounding his condition

“There’s an element of catharsis, there’s also an angry undercurrent in there. But I’m also looking at positive things, like praising the NHS for how they’ve helped me.

“If I can do anything to make people feel a little less self-conscious, or be a bit more mindful about people who are self-conscious.

“People should be able to talk these things, they often think I have got this stigma and I don’t want to talk about it.

“I have really appreciated it when people have come up to me and asked. When they do I can be honest and open about it.”

Mr Stott’s new comedy night, Beasts of Hoxton, takes place monthly at the Number 117 Bar in Hoxton Street.

He describes it as “high quality, affordable comedy” with an “anarchic feel”, offering a wide range of performers, from stand-up to sketch.

US comedian Scott Capurro, who appeared in Mrs Doubtfire, is set to headline the next night on Wednesday. Tickets are just £3.More information can be found here.

Mr Stott's solo show, Wretched – A Thing of Poor Quality, will be next on at the Camden Fringe in August.