Voices: Why two autistic women decided to laugh at autism – on our own terms

We are far from the first to turn our autistic experiences into comedy. Unsurprisingly, our community seems to be drawn to it (Getty/iStock)
We are far from the first to turn our autistic experiences into comedy. Unsurprisingly, our community seems to be drawn to it (Getty/iStock)

Two late-diagnosed autistic women. One (arguably niche and specific) idea. What do you get? We hope you know the answer – contrary to tropes around autism, both of us are pretty bad at maths.

We were two comedy writers who’d decided to start a new project: a satirical news website based on our experiences of being autistic. Our vision was modest – we didn’t expect to attract a crowd (we’re autistic, we never do). By midday on launch day, our phones started buzzing. We’d expected a light smattering of interest. Within hours, the traffic had crashed the site.

The Daily Tism was born from a place of fun and frustration. We were both a bit fed up: one of us was fresh off the slowest year of her comedy writing career, and the other kept locking herself in the work toilet every time she said something weird. Mainly we had things to say and needed a place to say them without self-censoring, which is something we constantly have to do in our day-to-day lives. We were bewildered and delighted to find we weren’t the only ones who needed it.

We are far from the first to turn our autistic experiences into comedy. Unsurprisingly, our community seems to be drawn to it. “Normal” jobs can feel like smashing a lid down on ourselves that doesn’t quite fit, leaving us leaking unpleasantly into unwanted places. Comedy allows for that lid to come off. Our autistic traits – thinking outside the lines, questioning and critiquing social norms, shocking and surprising (and often disgusting) others – are suddenly necessary. The parts of us that are routinely rejected are sought after and celebrated. For both of us, that’s quite an emotional thing.

The Daily Tism felt like a much-needed dash of salt among some of the saccharine content out there. In the media we’re portrayed as either tragic or magical, and almost always inhuman. Autistic people are repeatedly infantilised and reviled, patronised and vilified – and there’s the thing with non-autistic people seeming pretty determined to pat us on the head. God forbid we swear, or have sex, or – let’s be honest, this is more than likely – tell you about it.

Even the many wonderful own-voices stories are more than likely to, at some point, have been filtered to appeal to an allistic audience. Somewhere in the production process, a gatekeeper will have asked “Will everybody get it?”, or “Does this chime with my pre-existing idea of autism?”. There’s the phrase “nothing about us without us”. With autism, even the things made with us are not really about us.

The Daily Tism is distinct in that it’s written specifically for an autistic audience. We poke fun at industries that are built around “fixing” us, community-specific experiences and, most importantly, our own foibles. Admittedly, a lot of it is telling on ourselves. Some of those traits and flaws are specific to our neurology – but many of them are universal experiences, just dialled all the way up. We’ve heard from neurotypical friends that they’re surprised by how much they relate. Though contrary to popular belief, that does not make everyone a little bit autistic (no matter how on trend we are).

Being two autistic women with similar senses of humour makes our partnership a unique joy. Our communication is direct, which means many of the issues rife in non-autistic workplaces just don’t apply. We both love nothing more than making the other one laugh. And perhaps most crucially, we both feel safe enough to pitch each other ideas knowing it won’t get either of us sent to HR.

Our ultimate hope is to bring in even more autistic comedy writers further down the line. The goal is to be able to hire autistic freelance writers and bring in voices from all walks of life. Whilst we might have a shared neurology, autistic lived experiences are all vastly different. We want to make sure The Daily Tism represents the full autistic spectrum (the real one — not the made-up mild-to-flaming-hot-chilli one).

We’re optimistic that one day we will also be able to bring neurotypical people in on the jokes, but we’re aware there’s some way to go before we have the societal understanding required. Still, if you aren’t autistic and you don’t get all the gags, don’t worry: you can nod along as if you understand and fake laugh in all the wrong places. Trust us, we do it all the time.

You can find more humour by and for autistic people at The Daily Tism