Make Them Laugh

I’m not funny.

Believe me when I say that wasn’t easy to admit. I love making people smile. The moments when I can get someone laughing are moments I look forward to experiencing. It’s simply a shame I can’t do it on command.

Some people just got that talent. The way they speak and move just exudes funny. They know how to entertain people. I’m so jealous of that. I would love it if all people found they could enjoy themselves just by being around me.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not boring. Not if you take time to get to know me. But comedy is all about timing. You have to hook people in with the few seconds they are willing to give you. That’s a lot of pressure.

As a kid I would copy the comedians I listened to on TV. I wanted to make people laugh the same way they did. That wasn’t such a good idea. Tell one Denis Leary joke at school and you’ll end up visiting the guidance counselor for the rest of the year.

The things I do that make people laugh the most is my blatant confidence. They find it funny when I talk big. It’s kind of like when people hear a child talk like an adult. They probably think I am punching above my weight.

A lot of people I meet find my way of speaking to be entertaining. It can work against me quite often. Sometimes when I am talking with someone they begin to smile because they think I am leading up to a joke and they get disappointed when I finish my thought and it turns out to not be funny at all. You can’t be normal and funny at the same time.

I just don’t do jokes. Jokes are so hard to get right. I’d rather just point out what is funny in the moment instead of preparing the funny for a future time. Want to hear one of my prepared jokes? “The best thing a person with anger issues can do is become an astronaut. They just need a little space.” See what I mean?

It’s okay that I’m not funny. I can still make people smile when given the chance. Being accidentally funny isn’t so bad either. As long as I have a crowd of people around enjoying their time with me, I’m happy.

Synopsis

“What if your life was just like it is in the movies?”

INTERVIEWER: Good afternoon, Mr. Mann. Glad you could make it. Please, have a seat.

MAN: Thank you.

INTERVIEWER: Now, this hiring process may be a bit more in-depth than you are used to. Start by telling me a little about yourself.

MAN: Okay. Well, my name is Avery Mann. I was born in a small town in America. My childhood was nothing unique. It was mostly spent inside a fantasy world I entered into through the attic in my house. I did that for a while, slaying dragons and saving kingdoms, until I eventually overcame my personal fears and learned to trust in my own strength. After that, my family moved into our new house. We stayed there for about a week until we discovered the house was haunted by the ghosts of the previous tenants. We really came together as a family at that time. Those of us who made it out moved to our new place on the west coast. It was a bit of a rough transition moving to a new town. Fortunately, I partnered up with a group of kids over our mutual love for sports while gaining a valuable lesson in friendship and perseverance. Beyond that, I was a pretty normal student graduating at the top of my class despite peer pressure, social injustices, and feelings of inadequacy.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Describe a time you were faced with a challenge. What did you do?

MAN: Let me think. Well, there was that time I had to battle an alien invasion. I was originally going to follow the crowd and trust the government to handle the situation, but I decided to take responsibility and use my own wits to come up with a solution. I eventually uncovered one fatal weakness in the alien army’s defense and exploited it to quickly make an end to their campaign. That was a good weekend.

INTERVIEWER: How do you handle working in a high stress environment?

MAN: I’ve had good practice. Just last year, I had an existential crisis I overcame by getting into my new music career as a professional beatboxer. Turned out there is nothing you can’t overcome if you believe in yourself enough.

INTERVIEWER: Why did you decide to leave that career path?

MAN: The industry was moving in a direction I didn’t agree with. It was getting monotonous with all the murder and intrigue. I was able to finally reveal the truth after following a series of clues leading to the identity of the true culprit. Turned out my brother was behind it all. We had an epic showdown on top of the roof of a building where we fought to the death. I took this as a sign I needed to move on. Plus, the hours weren’t great.

INTERVIEWER: Alright then. One last question. If you were an animal, which animal would you be?

MAN: I would have to say a dog. My father was turned into one by some unidentified supernatural cause where he had to break the curse by learning the value of humility. I think I take after him in that respect.

INTERVIEWER: Nice. I’m just going to call it right now. I want you to have the job.

MAN: Thank you very much. You know, at first I thought you were going to make me go through a rigorous hiring process requiring me to compete against other people for the job in the hopes of showcasing our flaws and strengths while fighting the temptation to give up.

INTERVIEWER: Usually we do, but for you we’ll make an exception. I think you’ll do just fine as our new secret agent. We just need to get you your company badge and sign some paperwork. For now, he’s your company issued handgun and a license to kill.

MAN: Sweet.

INTERVIEWER: So, when can you start?

MAN: I’m pretty open. My car doubles as a time machine so I can start literally anytime.

INTERVIEWER: Splendid. I’ll see you yesterday then.

fin

From Autistic to Autastic

Autism is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.

Hi. My name is Joseph Meldrum. I have a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome. For those unfamiliar with Asperger’s, think of it as being a part-time autistic. All it means is that I stand out. I’m still a perfectly normal-ish human being. Consider me an artist who happens to be an autist.

Humor is necessary to understand reality as it stands. Every joke you’ve laughed at relates to the human experience in some way. Recognizing the absurd can grant us insight into what it means to be human.

You might feel it is offensive to make fun of autism and anything related to it. I choose not to view this as a black and white issue. It’s not even in the gray area. More like a dark brown region. In other words, humor is neither good nor evil. Comedian Erik Charles Nielsen described it best when on June 1 of this year he tweeted:

“Why can’t people with Asperger’s play pool? Because they’re overwhelmed by the social context of the pool table. Also they don’t get cues?”

We need to look at the funny side of having a behavioral diagnosis if we want to bring to light all the nonsense surrounding it. Nobody ever asks me about my experience with getting diagnosed. This isn’t because people are trying to be sensitive. It’s because people don’t expect to find my story interesting.

Making things funny allows us to explore human experiences unabashedly. Why should a relevant subject that affects everyone become too taboo for comedy? I was in high school when my family first told me I had a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder. Apparently I was considered to have delayed development as a child. It finally explained why in Kindergarten I was sent to the “special education” class to be with the weird kids. I remember being required to make regular visits to the school guidance counsellor for help in understanding social situations. They could have saved a lot of time if they simply told me what the visits were for; lessons in not looking too stupid in public.

The ADD diagnosis didn’t last long after I graduated from school. I upgraded to Asperger syndrome a few years later. My mother felt I needed a more hip and happening diagnosis. I can remember on the test they gave me I was asked whether I prefer being with a group of friends or sitting alone reading a book. Apparently I chose the wrong answer. I should have gone with the book. Now I’m diagnosed with Asperger syndrome thanks to a bubble sheet I filled out in 2006. It would have been cool to be labeled instead with “pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified” because I could then say, “What’s wrong with me hasn’t been specified. I just know it’s pervasive.” In 2013 the scientific community redefined Asperger syndrome as being part of Autism Spectrum Disorder. It seems the doctors can’t make up their minds about my mind.

I recognize making jokes about my diagnosis can offend some people. I just feel sharing my experience through humor is more constructive than complaining, venting, blaming, or ignoring the whole thing. And why should anyone get offended? It’s not like I have autistic pride to uphold. I didn’t come from a long line of autistic people who crossed the plains to settle in Seattle. You don’t see me bragging about my autistic accomplishments and how I’m the best Asperger boy in the world. Rather, I would change the perspective people have of autism through humor. I’m not worried about crossing a line because I’m too busy pushing the boundaries. Besides, the humor exists whether we create it or not. Better to be the one telling the jokes than the butt of the joke.