Ian Lynam: Autistic License

This personal account from Ian Lynam draws on his own experiences and research to break down the superficial stereotypes, misleading media presentations, and poor psychological practices behind how we’ve come to define and perceive autistic people.

An amiable introduction to one man’s life on the spectrum

The performance begins with a recorded reading of his diagnosis notes, which claim that Lynam cannot understand humour. For a boy who later finds joy in being a stand-up comic, they are more cutting than the most scathing review. But is it true that autistic people can’t be funny? Austistic Licence is Lynam’s attempt to explore where this prejudice originates from and thankfully manages to bust this myth along way.

That’s because Lynam keeps the show lighthearted by peppering his monologues with funny asides. Despite dwelling on some serious topics, such as accusations towards those who have defined autism in medical science over the past century, including Nazi sympathising, misogyny, and murder, there’s plenty of levity too. You shouldn’t arrive expecting the most laugh-out-loud hour of your life, but his witty interludes quickly build a rapport with the audience, and their chuckles are very much evidence that being autistic and being funny are not mutually exclusive.

Towards the end, Lynam conducts a kind of a meta-analysis of his own creation, acknowledging the show’s flaws. By including a critical look at the history of autism alongside his own personal experiences, he knows he is attempting to pack a lot – perhaps far too much – into a single hour. Even his choice of framing device (a disembodied recorded voice that switches between his anxiety personified and a therapist) gets a deserved ribbing. Lynam is clearly talented and interesting, but it seems that even he agrees that this show could be reworked.

If you’re autistic, it’s likely that there’ll be a lot in his anecdotes you’ll recognise. If you’re not autistic, this is an amiable introduction to one man’s life on the spectrum. After all, everyone’s experience and presentation of autism is unique to themselves, and Lynam is very clear to emphasise that he’s not trying to be a spokesperson for all autistic people. And if you’re still convinced that autistic people can’t be funny, here’s the proof that you’re wrong.

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Reviews by Elanor Parker

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The Blurb

Most people start comedy because they're funny. Very few have a doctor's note saying they can't be. As an autistic person, Ian's expected to have a gift, but with no skill in counting matches, he's settled on comedy. Thrust into a world that told him he could achieve anything but connecting with people, Ian perseveres. In a stand-up comedy show exploring diagnosis, relationships, sexuality, creativity and the history of autism, Ian sets out to prove autistic people have more to offer than being good at maths. But can Ian prove it to himself?

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