“To me, taking care of (an autistic child) is like taking care of your best friend after they’ve done waaaayyy too many ‘shrooms. While at the same time you, yourself, are on a moderate amount of ‘shrooms. I’m not confident with every decision I’m making but I do know you should not be eating a mouse-pad right now.”
The above joke is part of a stand-up routine by comedian Ron Funches who has a child with autism. I heard it on the Autastic: A Comedians Guide to Autism podcast which was started by Graham Kay and Kirk Smith – two comedians living in L.A. discussing the lighter side of living with their autistic family members.
Obviously these guys use comedy as a mechanism to help them deal with the serious topic of autism and as a parent who also has a son with autism, I certainly see the need for ways to release some of the stress and anxiety that comes with raising a special needs child. (Hence, this blog I guess.)
In addition to the jokes, however, they also give their personal accounts of their own struggles as well as those of their children. Through their words (and humor), they’re educating others on autism and God/Allah/Buddha/Elvis knows we could use a lot more of that.
Kirk Smith from the podcast published a book in 2013 titled Rice Krispies with Ketchup: A Comedians Journey with an autistic child. I’ve not read it but the reviews have been incredible.
But I have to ask: where is the proverbial line drawn? Is cracking jokes like the above ok? Is it acceptable to laugh at some of the quirks or actions of a person with autism? A part of me says YES, it’s fine. Another part of me actually isn’t sure.
Years ago on TV I saw a mentally handicapped comedian who spent most of his time on stage making fun of himself and his own disabilities. At first it felt awkward to watch and listen to, but admittedly he was kind of funny and as a comedian, laughter is the primary measure of success.
He seemed happy and made others happy as well. What’s so wrong with that? Nothing as far as I can tell.
Yet that brings up other questions: is it ok for parents or relatives or friends of someone with autism to make the jokes themselves? It is only ok for person with autism to make the jokes? How close do you have to be it in order to joke about it?
Maybe most importantly: how do the kids with autism feel about all of it? Hearing the jokes and anecdotes themselves?
I don’t know the answer(s). I do, however, firmly believe that people need to lighten up; that the politically correct movement is hurting this country. People get butt-hurt over far too many things.
We need to laugh, we need to joke and we shouldn’t be afraid to say or do things that might be considered offensive especially if that’s not the real intent. In our society, we’re turning a blind eye to a lot of serious issues because often times we’re afraid to talk about them in real terms – even in comedy.
And yes, I know I’m hypocritical (and you are too) because I laugh at black jokes, jew jokes, handicap jokes, ethnic jokes and stereotypical white-guy humor as well just about everything on Family Guy.
Yet in this case, I just don’t know how I feel. And until I know how my son, himself, feels – I’m not so sure I can ever feel comfortable with joking about autism.
I get the intent of these comedians, I really do. I’m just not sure I can get on board with it yet.