Johnny Walsh won Madison’s Funniest Comic Contest this year, and Mike Walsh has moved to Brooklyn, New York.
The brothers, sons of former UW Regent and retired Madison attorney David Walsh, have Usher syndrome. It’s a genetic disorder marked by significant hearing loss at birth and progressive loss of peripheral vision after childhood.
As the Wisconsin State Journal reported in a profile of the brothers in 2014, Johnny Walsh, now 36, is an estate planning and business law attorney at Axley in Madison.
He also does stand-up comedy, drawing from the law, bachelorhood and his extremely limited tunnel vision for jokes. He is legally blind.
“I had the great joy of babysitting my 4-year-old nephew this afternoon,” he told the audience in March during the comic contest finals, at Comedy on State.
“So if anybody knows where he is right now ...”
His 10-minute set won him first place out of more than 100 contestants, and he continues to frequently appear at the comedy club for open mic nights on Wednesdays.
In 2017, Johnny was named Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year by the State Bar of Wisconsin.
Mike Walsh, 40, whose vision isn’t quite as limited, moved to Brooklyn in 2015. He is developing a computer app to help people engage more with family and friends, and is substitute teaching in New York City’s public schools.
“It’s rough, it’s beautiful, it’s full of angels dedicating their lives to children who are less fortunate,” he said of the school system.
Mike said he appreciates New York’s assistance for people with disabilities. He has received a subway card and financial help with glasses and hearings aids. “I expect to be out here a long time,” he said.
Previously, he traveled internationally and raised awareness about blindness through a blog called Flight for Sight.
He has also worked as a professional sports mascot.
The Walsh family continues to raise money for vision research at UW-Madison, including work by researcher David Gamm.
Johnny Walsh said his vision is like looking through straws.
A few years ago, his vision took a turn for the worse, with the limited sight in his right eye becoming like a cracked mirror, he said.
He now uses only his left eye to read, one word at a time.
“It takes a little longer,” he said. “But I have adjusted to the new challenge put forth.”
He also listens to many books on Audible.com, having achieved “master” level status, with more than 1,000 hours of listening.