By Sarah Haley
Asperger’s: A tale of a social misfit is a stand-up comedy show that, as you may have guessed, is about Asperger’s. The performer, Adam Schwartz jokes about growing up and living on the spectrum while also giving subtle but poignant lessons about people with autism of all forms. Deeply rooted in Schwartz’s own experience living with a form of autism, the humor is heavily reliant on the common stereotypes and debunking them.
While he ventures into the uncomfortable realm of self-deprecation from time to time, Schwartz keeps the performance light, and the jokes relevant. Touching a wide range of topics from love to politics, this performance provides another perspective from a person living with autism. The jokes lean into the misconceptions of autism only to subvert them and educate the audience using humour. Schwartz is well aware of the common misconceptions that shroud people with disabilities and he uses the misconceptions to his advantage by way of cleverly subverting these stereotypes. As a comedian with Asperger’s, Schwartz explores and explains the different elements of his disability through his comedy.
The self-awareness embedded in the jokes can be uncomfortable at times, but it is in that discomfort that Schwartz excels. By leaning into the misconceptions aspergers for the jokes, it creates a sense of second hand embarrassment. However, Schwartz, the author of “I’ve Got Aspergers, So I’m Better Than You. Shh… Don’t Tell Mom!,” has no interest in pity. The crux of Schwartz’s jokes rely on the reality that many are unable to grapple: mental and physical disabilities do no preclude people from living normal lives, or even making jokes about their lives. Schwartz is conscious of uncomfortable construction of his jokes, and it extends beyond his comedy routine and into his performance space.
The small and intimate venue is an advantage to this production. By virtue of being a small and well-lit room, the show creates a certain connection between the audience and the performer. The friendly and open environment can sometimes feel a bit awkward to sit through and, without the ability to hide under dark stage lights, it is clear that the audience is being observed too. It is an honest show that often feels more like a conversation than a performance. Similar to many shows at the Ottawa Fringe forgo complex set design and tech, Schwartz relies on a strong routine of well written, well curated, and oft performed jokes to support him.
Despite its overall strong structure, the pacing of the performance is slow and clunky at times and the formula is a bit repetitive. Some bits, like the extended joke about the emotional range of people on the spectrum, could have been shortened. Furthermore, the transitions between segments are absent at times. The routine tends to jump from one segment to the other without any clear connection between them. However, overall, this routine witty and well written. Despite the lack of cohesion between segments, there are constant and clever call backs that always brought laughs.
Asperger’s: A tale of a social misfit is an intelligent and witty comedy routine. It is a deeply personal work that resonate throughout the audience and creates not only laughs, but combats ignorance as well. It subverts common misconceptions and stereotypes while easily weaving humor into the routine. A difficult balancing act, Asperger’s: A tale of a social misfit, manages strut the line well, creating a well balanced production.
Asperger’s: A Tale of a Social Misfit
by Adam Schwartz
Presented by Autistic Productions
BYOV D: The Courtroom (Arts Court)
Sarah Haley is a student at Carleton University. She is currently pursuing a degree in English Literature with concentrations in Medieval Studies and Theatre.