Edinburgh Fringe 2022
As an autistic person, Ian’s expected to have a ‘special’ gift, but lacking Rainman’s skill in counting matches, he’s settled on comedy. 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.
According to Ian Lynam most people start comedy because they’re funny, “Very few have a doctor’s note saying they can’t be.” He has this bruising encounter after an incident at primary school which marks him out as ‘abnormal’. Instead of shunning the psychologist Lynam makes him part of this show, an omnipresent arse lobbing grenades in pre-recorded voice overs.
Lynam asks for a show of hands at the beginning – who else has a formal diagnosis, who else thinks they may be autistic? It’s about 50/50 between those who could have autistic spectrum disorder (not a term Lynam likes) and those who think they have approved conventional behaviours. But this is a show for everyone, whether you want to laugh along with someone who gets you as you, or you are ASD-curious. Lynam is laugh out loud funny whether cantering through the grim history of autism (mis) diagnosis in the 20th century or dismantling popular cultural tropes as featured in A for Autism. Rainman of course makes an appearance for a gently ribbing but who knew Dustin Hoffman had an early career as a mental health nurse and therefore considered himself well-informed? Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Alan Turing comes in for a much harsher drubbing.
Jesus doesn’t escape – his well-known biography is used as a witty illustration to understand the still-used unimaginative diagnostic checklist (at odds with societal norms, repetitive behaviours, small circle of friends etc. and not a great outcome folks!). Autistic Licence is a not only stand up, it is in part an educational workshop (Lynam uses himself as exhibit A) and there aren’t always punchlines because the anger is justified. It is a three hander- Lynam, the unhelpful psychologist, and Lynam’s anxiety, invisible but constantly having a go as Lynam deftly dismisses popular myths and lazy assumptions. He has both verbal and visual humour in his armoury (the show opens with a groan inducing slapstick gag worthy of Tim Vine) as he shoots down lazy tropes one by one using his real life examples of proving lay people and professionals wrong – hello blue hair and jazzy bomber jacket.
The venue, the Snug at Patter Hoose, lives up to its name on a hot day. The show’s next outing should play to bigger audiences. Sometimes the automatic tech lets the timing of the comedy down but when this is smoothed out Lynam can lean into the performance element – his wit and verbal dexterity make him one to watch out for on the comedy circuit.