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How Doing Stand-Up Comedy Changed My Life as an Autistic Person

The Mighty logo The Mighty 11/16/2019 Siobhan Neely
a person standing in front of a building: Siobhan Neely doing stand-up comedy. © The Mighty Siobhan Neely doing stand-up comedy.

I’ve been told two things my entire life: that autistic people can’t be funny, and that women can’t be funny. Well, I guess two wrongs make a right.

Autism is something I’ve dealt with since the day I was born. The world wasn’t geared for me, and I did years of therapy just so I could learn to survive. Times did get tough, of course. But I managed to get through it somehow, even if just barely. But then life started getting better.

I stopped seeing my autism as something that made me inferior and worthless, and I started to realize I can do anything I put my mind to. And I put my mind to one thing: being funny. I have enjoyed humor since I was little, even if I didn’t get all of it. I would watch sitcoms as a kid just for the jokes, not really for the plot. As I matured, I started watching shows like “Saturday Night Live,” where the goal is to make people laugh and entertain. I always enjoyed seeing the stand-up comedians on shows like “America’s Got Talent” as well. And one day, I decided: I wanted to learn to be funny.

I tested the waters of stand-up in 10th grade, and people thought I was somewhat funny. After 11th grade, I took a rest for a while to pursue other goals and finish high school. In college, something in me went off that I should try again. I joined a comedy club called UpChuckles, where we workshop our jokes every week. Around this time, I also really discovered I enjoyed comedians who had disabilities and were able to make fun of themselves and the world around them, such as Drew Lynch, Ryan Niemiller and Brad Williams. I decided to give it a try at my first stand-up show, and the audience roared with laughter. In that moment, I felt immense joy and satisfaction.

There may be some things autism makes me worse at than the rest of society, and that’s OK. Others have things they are bad at too. I discovered turning my experience into jokes helps ease the overall tension surrounding my disability, and even erases some of the stigma. Comedy has done amazing things for me, and I can’t wait to see where I can go with this!

Related video: School janitor comforts elementary student with autism [via TODAY]

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