It’s a myth people with autism don’t have a sense of humor. Matt Kaiser proves the stereotype wrong.
By Matt Kaiser
My name is Matt Kaiser. I am 42 years old and am on the autism spectrum. For the last 10 years, I’ve been a performing stand-up, improvisation, prop routines, clowning and more. Currently I am teaching a comedy workshop at the Hussman Center for Adults with Autism for Towson University in Maryland. I’ve been teaching this workshop for almost five years.
I’d like to expand on this comedy workshop. I’d like to do workshops for colleges and universities for people with autism. I’m experienced in public speaking. Elements of my comedy workshop have been done at public speaking events.
Over the last 5 years, I’ve seen many students come out of their shells and put on amazing routines and performances. Each semester I have new mentors, Towson students, who work alongside people on the autism spectrum.
In my very first semester, I had a student tell me he had a stand-up routine. I let him perform in front of the class, and in hindsight I should’ve pre-screened it, because he talked about 9/11, the Oklahoma City Bombing, and Hot Topic. He received no laughs, and this was devastating for him.
Later in the class, we play a game called Party Quirks, and he impersonates Gilbert Godfried. I warn him to keep it clean, and he does a “gibberish” version of Gilbert Godfried that almost made me fall on the floor laughing… talk about redemption.
Another student who participated in my workshop was born in Isreal, so English was his second language. Many times, we explain what we are doing in class as he often misunderstands. He tells me he has a routine… a scene from The Brave Little Toaster. I told him we have a lot of things to cover, and after some insisting and begging from him, I allow him do the routine. I’m hoping this won’t be a repeat of the previous student, and was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting something that wouldn’t make any sense, but instead, he drops into place, gets very focused, and gives a very compelling and funny performance, and his facial expressions were priceless.
As for my own goals, I wanted to be an actor or performer. I performed in high school and college plays, usually as part of the “ensemble cast,” never any large roles. After graduating from Catonsville Community College, I went to UMBC, where I ran into problems with faculty and staff who didn’t understand my autism. At that time, I knew nothing about autism myself. I didn’t learn about autism until I was 35. I never passed an audition and teachers weren’t willing to work with me. With reluctance, I dropped out from UMBC and later transferred to Towson University.
Towson too, was a struggle, but this time the theatre staff was more open to working with me. With great luck, I got into the acting program and discovered a class called Techniques in Comedy. I felt right at home, and developed comedy routines in stand up as well as prop routines.
Just before I got my job at Hussman, I applied for a scholarship at Second City in Chicago. To my delight, I was granted the scholarship, and was lucky enough to continue taking classes over the last 5 summers, under scholarships. Working at the Hussman Center has given me a purpose and an identity. Just like my students, I feel I express myself best through comedy, giving good natured wise cracks at any opportunity. I wouldn’t want to think of what life would be like if I didn’t have a comedy workshop.
I feel laughter is the greatest thing in the world. If you are a student interested in one of my workshops, or someone affiliated with a college or university interested in my workshops, please contact me.
Matt Kaiser has been teaching comedy workshops at the Hussman Center for Adults with Autism for almost 5 years. Matt discovered his love for comedy in 2006 when taking a Techniques in Comedy class at Towson University. Since then, Matt has done independent study of comedy at Towson, and has performed stand up comedy and done public speaking events which include elements of his comedy workshop for various organizations. Matt has also taken improv and writing classes at Second City in Chicago over the summer for 5 years. He wishes to teach more comedy workshops for colleges, universities, and anyone else willing to have him.
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