Jennifer Belander’s 2014 Edinburgh Festival Fringe offering, is MommAutism, a one-woman show about raising a son with autism. She created the show to highlight issues most parents of autistic children have to deal with, whilst having a good laugh about the whole experience. Martin Walker finds out more.
Being a parent with an autistic child can be genuinely hilarious sometimes, though I have to stress that my son is not the butt of any of the jokes.
“The show is what I like to refer to as subversively educational… mostly because I am a bit of a geek and I love the ridiculousness of the history and science relating to autism, almost as much as I love my son, who has autism.
“I wanted to be able to share what I've learned but in a more fun and accessible way, so comedy seemed to be the best forum for that. I find people learn and remember more when they laugh. I had a punter at a preview ask me, ‘is education supposed to be this much fun?’ Ideally, yes."
How do you find the funny in having an autistic son?
“I tell anecdotes and stories about my son growing up and the ludicrous situations we’ve faced as a family as a result. Being a parent with an autistic child can be genuinely hilarious sometimes, though I have to stress that my son is not the butt of any of the jokes.”
Has your son seen the show?
“He’s seventeen now. He’s aware of what I do and what the show is about, but there is no way he could sit still that long for anybody. Especially his mom.”
Why did you choose to perform as part of Laughing Horse?
“My friends have done Laughing Horse and I am a sheep. Seriously though, I like Laughing Horse, I like the Free Fringe, and their forms were easiest to fill out.”
Why did you get into performing comedy and how did you get started?
“I started out as an actor, but there is so much waiting time between projects I wanted something I had a little more control over, so it was either stand up or waiting tables. I suppose I could actually do both, but waiting tables seems much more like actor work. Perhaps bar work is more the secondary stand up career choice...
“I’ve been successfully performing as an actor since I was fifteen years old. I only started stand-up two years ago but it’s going very well so I’m going to stick with it for a bit and see what happens.”
Tell us your best experiences as a comedian.
“I did a gig recently in a room which consisted of mainly rowdy women. I was doing my usual club set and it was going well, so I decided to take a risk and do some of my new autism material. During the interval I went over towards the ladies toilet were there was the usual queue. I really wasn’t sure how the new stuff had gone down, but they were all telling me how much they’d enjoyed it.”
Have you been to Edinburgh before?
“I shared a bill with another comedian last year, but this is my first solo stand-up hour.”
If you were curating a stand up show for television, who would be your guests?
“I don't really know, there are so many wonderfully funny people I would love to play with! I would love to do a breakfast round table type of thing, mostly because the idea of watching someone like Joe Wilkinson trying to eat cold cereal makes me laugh.”
Broadway Baby Listing and Edinburgh Fringe Box Office: http://www.broadwaybaby.com/shows/mommautism-a-love-story/702335