Autistic comedian Ian Lynam skewers expectations and misconceptions in his bold debut, Autistic License – and there’s a lot of them, beginning with the box his own diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome puts him into, which is played aloud at the very start of his hour-long show at the Edinburgh Fringe.
As the show’s description details, autistic people supposedly can’t be funny, and yet the Irishman stands on stage and immediately strips down to a brightly coloured vest to really challenge the view someone can’t “look” autistic. He’s direct and cutting in his commentary and criticism, which one could say is to be expected when autistic people are often labelled as being rather to-the-point. Like many of the other perceptions about his autism, however, Lynam uses them to his advantage – like a license, if you will.
The narrative is smart and clever, as is how much he manages to cram in so much into so little time. Descriptions of masking and stimming are imaginative, deeply visual and accessible. His rundown of the history of autism is as informative as it is silly.
Yet at the same time, there is a sense that he is utterly exhausted by all of the questions fired his way – a lot of them presented in the form of a female voiceover who is sometimes more disorientating than grounding. Lynam’s exploration of the ‘advocate trap’ – that is, in my view, the view people from minority groups have to be seen to be able to answer every question about their identity – is refreshing to witness.
Yet as a Fringe show, one must be sympathetic to the fact that the production is scaled back somewhat. We’re told the real thing would come with fake snow as he attacks a snow globe with a hockey stick (there is a reason for it, which I’ll refrain from mentioning so as to preserve spoilers). Even if it is to be left to our imagination, it’s as if Ian is literally smashing expectations placed on him, and breaking out of the box he is being unfairly placed into.
In that respect, Lynam’s debut comes full circle in the most masterful way.
Autistic License is now playing at the Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2022, until 28 August.
Production Images: Ian Lynham.