Illustration of a fast food chicken restaurant

Initially dubbed “little professors” by Viennese paediatrician Hans Asperger, autistic individuals have typically been considered a slightly severe bunch.

So do autistic individuals also have a sense of humour?

A brand new BBC podcast, 1800 Seconds on Autism, goals to dispel that no-humour fable, amongst different assumptions – with razor-sharp wit working by means of it.

The primary time you heard that random joke, “What’s brown and sticky?” did you get it instantly?

Robyn Steward and Jamie Knight, two autistic BBC presenters, throw the outdated gag round within the newest version of their podcast.

“Poo,” solutions Robyn.

It is logical to suppose that this tripper-upper of a joke would push the thoughts of most individuals in that specific course however Kate Fox, who describes herself as a “half-out autistic comic” says: “It is as a result of we consider poo, that it is humorous that it is a stick.”

“However sticks aren’t essentially sticky until they’ve had a snail on them or one thing?” says Robyn, nonetheless occupied with stickiness slightly than an object that’s stick-like.

Jokes can take some understanding and turn into even much less humorous when it’s important to clarify them.

In a 1944 examine, Hans Asperger confirmed humorous cartoons to kids on the spectrum. Once they did not chuckle at his examples, he concluded that his ‘little professors’ had an absence of humour – an concept which form of caught.

On the College of Kent, Shaun Could has been learning autism and comedy for quite a lot of years, and is organising an autism arts competition in Canterbury subsequent 12 months.

He says: “What’s occurred in psychology is that it is inferred there’s a deficit in sense of humour, however my hunch is it is simply completely different. Simply since you or I would discover issues humorous, it does not imply we’ve roughly of a way of humour.”

That phrase “deficit” comes up lots, as a a lot disliked phrase once you discuss to autistic individuals. It grates. It upsets.

For a full breakdown of ‘Why did the rooster cross the highway?’ Robin and Jamie-style, listen to 1800 Seconds On Autism, on BBC Sounds.

Many autistic individuals who have talents which is likely to be seen as higher than your common particular person, like the flexibility to give attention to element comparable to laptop code or manufacturing strains, don’t perceive why they’re then considered missing.

Fritz Anderson, a listener to Robyn and Jamie’s podcast, wrote in to say: “When you personal autism, what had been a constellation of character defects condenses into one thing (vaguely) comprehensible. You possibly can clarify it is like a colour-blindness that may’t see inexperienced, however can see ultraviolet.

“NTs (slang for neurotypicals) and I’ve our methods of constructing sense of the world, not all of them in widespread. It isn’t that I’ve a deficit, it is that our acuities do not totally overlap.”

This concept works throughout the plain and contains humour.

On this one 12 months – 2018 – autistic comedians have loved appreciable limelight. Robert White got here second in Britain’s Acquired Expertise. And Hannah Gadsby, whose Netflix particular Nanette focuses on gender and sexuality, was an enormous hit.

In an interview with Stylist journal, Hannah Gadsby talks about being autistic and the way she recognises patterns in life.

“I additionally know that I perceive issues lots deeper than lots of people,” she says, though she’s not speaking about computer systems right here, she’s speaking about emotions, like these she has poured into the writing of her extremely private present.

As with humour, Prof Asperger laid down the preliminary concept that individuals on the spectrum lack empathy and social understanding. Although Hannah says she now avoids social conditions for her personal wellbeing, clearly her evaluation of emotions and feelings has hit a chord with many viewers.

Wanting on the humour of others on the spectrum – comparable to stand-up Don Biswas, artist Tim Sharp or the absurdist Asperger’s Are Us troupe as an example – it is not doable to pin down a single autistic sense of humour, says Shaun Could.

“I believe autistic individuals use humour in several methods,” he says, “in all probability fairly akin to neurotypicals.”

Kate Fox has had her personal comedy programme, The Value of Happiness, on Radio four.

She says: “When sure psychologists say issues like: ‘Autistic persons are not humorous or do not have a way of humour’ – other than the truth that it shows that they have not spent any time within the firm of autistic individuals – who personally appear to me to be the funniest individuals round – they’re additionally ignoring the truth that the very situation of being autistic in a non-autistic world is humorous. It is filled with humour. It is filled with incongruity and that is good.”

The methods through which thought processes differ can in themselves be humorous. Jamie performs on this within the podcast, and when doing shows about autism. He talks about an incident which occurred when he was being taught the best way to dwell independently.

“A few years in the past I used to be residing someplace and I would been on trains lots … and also you get ON a practice, however actually you get IN a practice. Anyway, I would been making these pizzas within the microwave and I would say to the carer: ‘These pizzas, they’re bloody terrible. They’re so crunchy they make my tooth harm – I am unable to end a complete one’.

“Then lastly any individual stopped to look at what I used to be doing and I would confused IN and ON. So I used to be following the directions to the letter: I used to be strolling as much as the microwave, opening the door, placing the pizza on prime of the microwave, closing the door and turning on the microwave – cos I would combined up IN and ON from these trains.”

Step-by-step cooking directions are a very good instance of the place data may be overlooked as a result of the author assumes a level of primary information or linking of concepts.

Knight says they’re “by no means full” and that he wants to completely perceive each idea earlier than he can attain the specified finish outcome. However he additionally is aware of it is a comedian instance of what can go awry if you happen to’re autistic.

Let’s take that outdated joke concerning the rooster – of which, apparently, there are 23 billion of on the planet at anybody time.

Jamie asks Robyn: “Why did the rooster cross the highway?” He shortly offers the reply: “To get to the opposite aspect.”

“That is a garbage joke,” says Robyn. “I’ve received a greater chicken-crossed-the-road joke – why did the rooster cross the highway? To get away from KFC.”

After pausing to suppose, Jamie says: “The difficulty once you say ‘chickens’ is that I simply see a really small velociraptor. And when you keep in mind that chickens are small dinosaurs you simply see them in a totally completely different mild.”

“However see,” says Robyn, “if there was a rooster that knew what KFC was, they might truly cross the highway to get away from it.

“If there was a human consuming store, we might cross the highway to keep away from it as a result of we would not wish to stroll close to it – particularly if we had been small and the store was big.”

If Prof Asperger had been round now, he could possibly be updating his paper to incorporate stand-up, absurdist and – because of Robyn – darkish humour too.