By Max W. Lauf
On Friday, June 10, I took an hour and a half bus ride to Salem Depot so that I could conduct an interview with the four members of the comedy troupe “Asperger’s Are Us,” which is exactly what the name suggests, i.e. four guys with Asperger’s who perform sketch comedy.
About the Aspies and the show at the Somerville Theatre on the 23rd:
Max Lauf: So, for the record, what are your guys’ full names and applicable personal information?
Noah Britton: I’m Noah Britton, I am 28, from Salem, and my favorite animal is…[accompanied by a pantomime of large chomping jaws] the crocodile!
New-Michael Ingemi: New, hyphen, Michael Ingemi, 18, and I am from Beverly, Massachusetts, and my favorite animal is…[at this point N-M.I. makes the same jaw pantomime as N.B.] the alligator!”
Ethan Finlan: Ethan Finlan, eighty-one , Rockport, MA, and my favorite animal is…[identical jaw motions with his arms as the last two] the dinosaur!
Jack Hanke: Jack Hanke, 18, Newburyport. And my favorite animal is… [see above] the centavo!
N.B.: The centavo? That isn’t an animal. What is a centavo?
M.L.: It’s a unit of currency.
J.H.: A centavo is a Mexican penny.
M.L.: So you guys have a show on the 23rd, at the Somerville Theatre (55 Davis Square, Somerville, MA, Davis Square T-stop on the red line).
N.B.: June 23rd, at 8:00, and admittance is ten dollars. We’re rehearsing, promoting, writing, and starring in this entirely on our own, working for six hours a day for months. We’ve written about two hours of material, compiling the best sketches we’ve ever done. It’s been really, really hard, but worth it. It’s going to be hilarious, and appropriate for ages fifteen and up, though no one will be turned away.
About how Asperger’s Are Us formed:
N.B.: We all met at an Aspie camp on the North Shore. I was their counselor. The first thing I noticed when I started working there, other than that the camp was the first place that made sense to me, was how hilarious these guys were. So when they graduated from the camp, we formed a comedy group. All of us are equal here; there are no leaders and no followers.
Aspies on Asperger’s:
N.B.: None of us are on meds, proudly.
Ethan: We are, however, on crystal meth.
N.M.I.: Crystal meth IS medication. It’s the cure for neurotypicals.
M.L.: Crystal meth is the cure for your looks.
N-M.I.: The cure for your bank account.
E.F.: We have this sketch about calling 911, and we were rehearsing it at Noah’s apartment, with the windows open, and one of the neighbors heard Noah yelling “Help! I’ve been beaten and robbed!” and the cops actually showed up. We told them we were rehearsing for a comedy sketch, and all they had to say was, “Well, so far, it’s not very funny.”
N.B.: With Asperger’s, confrontation with authority is very difficult. The great thing was, since we all understand this about one another, we knew that we’d all need several hours to recover. If there had been any neurotypicals there, they’d only take a minute to switch gears, but we knew we wouldn’t be able to rehearse anymore that day.
N.B.: What else do we need to discuss? Oh yeah, we hate AutismSpeaks. It’s run by neurotypicals who want to eliminate autistic people, and they’ve consistently refused autistics’ offers to help in any way.
E.F.: AutismSpeaks is like the Klan holding a fundraiser for black people.
N.B.: No, it’s like the Klan running the NAACP and not letting any black people in. Well-meaning people donate to them (they’re the fastest-growing charity in the country right now), because people hear about autism and then they don’t know what to do. But AutismSpeaks really is the worst place you can donate money to if you want to help autistics.
N.B.: Another problem with the perception of autism today is this idea that autism is a childhood condition. Autism is a life-long condition.
N.B.: Autism is legally a disability because autistic people need to be treated differently than neurotypicals. The problem with this is that people think that it needs to be cured or medicated because you need to be treated differently. But this just creates stigma. Also, if you’re a non-verbal autistic, like my hero, Amanda Baggs (who made Youtube’s “In My Own Language” video), people assume that you can’t communicate and have nothing to say. What is actually true is that you communicate differently, but very few people realize how to do this, so you get treated like you’re mentally incompetent, and you end up with a first grade education, and then you really are developmentally delayed.
E.F.: One of the unintended consequences of autism awareness in recent years has been that people think that autistics are insensitive and unable to empathize. Because we perseverate on things, they think that we’re in our own little world, that we can’t understand them. Honestly, I have met very few autistics who are characteristic of the stereotypical depictions propagated by the media.
N.B.: Not every Aspie is funny, but a lot of them can be.
N-M.I.: The best way to help an autistic person is to give them a dollar.