Since its description by Hans Asperger in 1944, it has been suggested that people with Autism Spectrum Conditions lack, or have an impaired, sense of humour. This alleged humourlessness has been challenged in recent decades by the psychological literature but it is still an enduring myth and an under-explored research topic. Moreover, as Andrea Samson argued in a recent literature review, ‘most of the studies up to the present have focused on humor processing, but almost none of them has examined humor production in the laboratory or in everyday life’. (2013:404) This project attempts to redress that.
Working with individuals on the ‘high-functioning’ end of the spectrum, we will run comedy workshops in which participants develop their own material. Informed by the literature that suggests a fondness for slapstick and wordplay amongst individuals with autism, the workshops will have two strands – clowning and stand- up – led by experienced teachers with professional experience in those forms. In doing so, we will challenge the myth of autistic humourlessness and seek to understand autistic humour on a model of difference rather than deficit.