Aspergian Humor

A few days back, one of you asked if I’d write something on my sense of humor. Well, here it is.

Some strange but true facts about my Aspergian humor.

I write my thoughts as they come. I don’t have the subconscious filter that most of you have, so I say things that, while true, may be startling. An example would be, “What happened to you? You’ve gotten awful fat since the last time I saw you.”

Most people’s internal governor would prevent them from saying that, even though it’s true. Not me. Some people find statements like that funny. Others find them interesting or embarrassing. Myself, it’s just how I am. If it’s true, and I think it, I say it.

People say, "He says startlingly insightful and honest things." Well, I just say what I think, based on what I see and hear. Other people presumably see and hear the same things, unless their sight or hearing is deficient as compared to mine. But their internal filters get in the way of accurately expressing reality. And I guess sometimes other people find reality funny, when I repeat stories of it, even though no one thought it was funny when we all stood around, observing it.

That's a most curious fact.

I write and say things that are funny, at unpredictable times and in unexpected places. I never really know when I do it, though. I have to rely on feedback from readers. For example, I can tell you what the funniest parts of Look Me in the Eye are. How do I know? My editors told me. I can’t see it myself.

I cannot “write something funny” on command. There’s no telling when funny things will come out. I can’t tell, at least.

I am very serious until I become relaxed around people. That can happen in a matter of minutes, or hours, or never, depending upon the people.

Sometimes things I write or say are funny because my thought process is different from other people’s, and my thoughts just naturally flow in unexpected directions. Sometimes if people think that’s funny, I do too.

I also interpret many things literally. For example, when I hear a joke that’s funny because someone is placed in an embarrassing position, I may not see it as funny. I may simply see it as a description of someone in an embarrassing position. I often don’t get other people’s jokes.

Sometimes, if I tell jokes I heard elsewhere, it’s because I think they are funny. Other times, I have learned people find a certain story funny, and I repeat it.

Aspergian humor is unpredictable.

And no one knows what to expect. The only Aspergian TV star I know of was Mister Spock, and that was a long time ago. And speaking of Mister Spock . . . as a fellow Aspergian, let me assure you that no real Aspergian would do most of the things attributed to Spock, McCoy, and the others in the dreadful fan fiction that has swarmed the net since the show ended.

Like me, Spock played it straight.


Katie Alender said…
Hi, John! I found your blog from Kim Stagliano's, and I also know you from Backspace.

Very interesting post! And yes, your last line about the unfortunate internet behavior of Mr. Spock and his colleagues is funny.

I look forward to reading more, and I can't wait to read your book.
John, interesting post (as always.) I am funny. I am told I am funny. I pretty much know I am funny. And yet, I've read that stupid people do not know they are stupid.

You are funny. But you don't know it. Do you know how smart you are? Does that feel different to you? Are you aware of your intelligence in so many areas and how it dwarfs others?? Like with engines and guitars and such. Do you feel like people should just "get it?" I feel that way about Far Side cartoons. HOW can people not get them? Yet many don't.

Polly Kahl said…
Hi John, Glad you bounced back from your predicted birthday afternoon slump. I'd like to be a fly on the wall, watching you and my brother. You two are so alike it's scary. I definitely have to bring him to meet you in NYC at the reading with your bro. Just don't bring up trees. We'll be there all night.
Drama Mama said…
I hear that Dan Ackroyd is Aspergian. Sort of in keeping with all that you describe.

I always find that people who do not know that they are funny are the funniest. I get turned off by the self consciousness of most comedians.

Entice us...what are some of the funny parts of your book?
John Robison said…
Well, Drama Mama, there's a funny part where I buy porn for my biology teacher and send him an inflatable doll.

There's another funny part where I tangle with a water moccassin at my hotel in Florida.

There's a funny part about a guy with a coke problem, when I was a toy designer.

And there's a funny part about the Varmint, the Cow Star and me.

That's four funny parts. Now, for the price of the book, that's less than six dollars - $6.00 - per funny part, if those were the only funny parts there were.


So the cost, per funny part, is really very modest. Pennies per part, probably, depending upon your ability to detect funny parts. And costs aside, the funny parts have been rated really funny by people who know. Experts. Professional deviants. As I've said, it's hard to say, myself, what's funny but the readers have been pretty unanimous on those parts.

So you can read with confidence.
The Muse said…

YOU are a professional deviant!

Your sense of humor is a cross between the logical intelligence of Mister Spock and the sweet naïveté of Forrest Gump. As with the character of Forrest Gump, sometimes you say the simplest things with such candor that it comes across as brilliant and insightful; and oftentimes I'm not sure if you truly realize the magnitude of what you have implied. (For example your AKC name) And then other times I think that you indeed understand exactly what you have suggested. You have a unique way of streamlining information that most people do not have. I believe that your writing strength is in your mischievous dark humor and your tall tales. I must say that when I read your book, in parts, I laughed out loud because I found your bizarre stories to be hysterically funny. The ridiculous situations that only you could find yourself in! Your use of linguistics and semantics are very witty, clever, and sometimes twisted... But always entertaining! Worth every penny...
Polly Kahl said…
My faves were your version of Red Fish Blue Fish, your description of your house compared to your brother's house, and the pranks you pulled on Varmint and others. Also love the image of you going into the woods to play a feral child. So much more fun than cowboys and indians.
This is an unusual blog. I'll have to drop in again sometime.
Actually, what you describe in this post didn't sound all that bizarre to me, but then I teach junior high. Kids that age have no filters either, so I'm constantly hearing things like, "You're fatter now than you used to be" or "That skirt looks funny." You have to be thick-skinned to deal with it all the time.
I suppose I wouldn't really notice if any of the kids were Aspergian, as they'd sound like all the others. (Note: I did have one Aspergian a couple of years ago. Teachers are informed of all special health concerns of students so we know what to expect.)
Anyway, nice post. I enjoyed it.
Stephen Parrish said…
I agree with Kim. You are very often very funny, and it's apparent you don't know it, at least not in the way a stand-up knows it, which makes the humor all the more infectious.

I'm unable to categorize your humor, to compare you to someone else I know (I've never knowingly known an Aspergian before, either). So I categorize it as "John Elder Robison humor." I define John Elder Robison humor as "humor characteristic of John Elder Robison."
John Robison said…
Paperback Writer, you make a good point. In many ways, a middle aged Aspergian like me acts like a child when it comes to saying unexpected things.

I have all the insight of a grownup, actually more than most because I'm smarter than many (another Aspergian trait) and nothing in my mind holds me back from expressing what I really think.

I never really thought about the comparison to high school students but that's really very good, and apt.
Tena Russ said…
You wrote: "I write my thoughts as they come. I don’t have the subconscious filter that most of you have, so I say things that, while true, may be startling."

What you say describes my writing process. It's as if my snarky inner teenager takes over my computer. This is probably a good thing because my protagonist IS a teenager. (Not a teenager in love, though.)

I agree with Steve Parrish, as usual, who said,"I define John Elder Robison humor as "humor characteristic of John Elder Robison." I wish Steve Parrish would say something I DON'T agree with.
NEW WORD! JERMOR. JohnElderRobisonHumor. JERMOROUS. You may all use the word, please send me $.10 per use. John, for you? A nickel.

Order the book people. It is funny in many spots. But pack the tissues too. Some parts are heart achingly poignant.
ssas said…
The thing about humor is that it's extremely subjective. I find many things funny that other people find totally crass. I can't help it.

In our family we have the Granddaddy Gene, which manifests itself in all sorts of ways. One of them is humor--the sort of humor that will have our family rolling in the aisles and anyone outside the family just rolling their eyes.

I do think you're often funny and poignant in the same breath, John, and I think THAT must run in your family. I like jermerous.

Crap. Do I owe you $.10 now?
Polly Kahl said…
John, what happens when Aspergians get together and there are uncensored comments back and forth? Even though you make these comments, you're very sensitive yourself, and as prone to having your feelings hurt as anyone, even if you don't show it as much. How do you react to having such comments said to you? Would your feelings be hurt if someone told you you've gained weight or look fat, or would you not mind, if it was true? Curious and would like to know. (In my brother's case, he would not mind, as long as it was true. And he is very sensitive. But doesn't show it.)
Ello - Ellen Oh said…
I am bummed that I have to wait til September 25th to find out more about just how funny your book is! But I have to tell you that Aspergian humor sounds alot like Korean Mother humor. Never met a Korean mom whose first response wasn't, "Just look how fat you've gotten!" or "What have you done to yourself, you look so old!" or "You know if you would only eat less fried foods you wouldn't have so many blackheads all over your face" etc, etc. It makes for hilarious anecdotes but can make for awkward moments depending upon the tolerance of the victim.

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