By Martha Hewett @martha_hewett
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Videographer / director: Ian Paine
Producer: Shannon Lane, James Thorne
Editor: James Thorne
Matty Oxley, an aspiring comedian from Middlesbrough, was born with VATER Syndrome, a set of birth defects that often occur together, and include the curvature of his spine, or scoliosis.
Matty told Barcroft TV: “I was born with different things wrong with me - I’ve got a curved spine, an arm that looks like an egg spatula and one kidney.
“I was also born with a hole in my heart, so it was a rough start.”
However, this hasn’t stopped him from fulfilling his dream: for the past five years, Matty has been performing stand-up comedy and has recently opened his own comedy club, ‘The Laughing Pug’, named in tribute to his two dogs.
Matty said: “I started doing stand-up in 2012 and I thought I was really good - it was a bit of a shock to the system."
For Matty’s twin brother Mark, he’s always been a bit of a comedian.
Mark said: “Growing up with Matty was a continuous laugh, obviously, he has his differences but it’s never bothered me, he’s just Matty."
Matty’s parents didn’t realise their twins were different until they were born.
Sharon, the twins’ mum, said: “We didn’t know anything, but the day they were born Matty had to go to Newcastle because they found some anomalies,”
At first, Sharon thought he suffered from a broken hand, but soon discovered there was much more to it.
“We asked if Matty and Mark were identical, which sounds weird now, but we went to see a genetics specialist in Durham and they told us they were 99.9 percent certain they were identical twins, but Matty was missing chromosomes,” Sharon said.
Despite this, Matty and Mark both feel it hasn’t affected their relationship.
Mark said: “I don’t see it as, I got all the good bits and Matty got the bad bits in the birth, and I don’t think he sees it that way either.
"We are in it together and we look out for each other."
Matty added, “We always did everything together, we played football together, went swimming. Being different – I think you just adapt.”
Although he’s comfortable as a performer now, Matty wasn’t always this confident.
Sharon said, “He was very quiet, and then we took him to Stagecoach (a performing arts school) which opened him up and gave him confidence.”
Mark added: “Matty’s been doing stand-up for the last five years, but he’s always been the comedic person in the family."
For Matty, comedy allows him to control the conversation surrounding his disability.
He said: “When I’m in the street and someone stares, that annoys me. Whereas when I’m on stage, before they have a chance to whisper I’m already into the act and can tell them why I look like this."
“My mum and dad never explained anything too much and I’m glad they didn’t – it’s the way they were bought up as well – things happen in life and people are different.
“I don’t think it needs to be highlighted, if someone is comfortable with being different then let them crack on – that’s what my mum and dad did,” Matty continued.
Although he doesn’t remember being bullied at school, Matty has always been aware that he is different.
He said: “When I was growing up, it was a bit of a shock because I was the only one.
“I was a bit of an ugly duckling – but look at me now!”
With his new comedy club, Matty hopes to encourage others to fulfil their stand-up potential.
He said: “I run the club, I book the acts, I pay the acts and I do a bit myself."
With regards to using his disability in his performance, Matty says he has moved on.
He explained: “I was trying too much, doing the whole, ‘I’m a disabled comedian’, but over this year I’ve really reworked my act.
“If someone asks me now about my disability, I’m like, who’s got a disability? I don’t class myself as disabled.
“I think it’s just a word, it doesn’t define who you are.”