SXSW Film Review: “Asperger’s Are Us”

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The Asperger’s Are Us comedy troupe. Credit: Alex Lehmann

“Asperger’s Are Us” follows a Boston-area comedy troupe that is comprised of young men who are on the autism spectrum. Noah Britton, Ethan Finlan, Jack Hanke, and ‘New Michael’ Ingemi met each other at a summer camp and, for most of them, it was the first time that they got to interact with other kids who also had Asperger syndrome. The one thing that they all had in common was learning to cope with humor, using it as a tool to assimilate more smoothly with the people around them and, in many cases, diffusing anger and sensitivity issues as a result.

After a few years of doing comedy shows together, Jack gets accepted into a study abroad program at Oxford University which leaves their future in doubt. Director Alex Lehmann explores the several weeks leading up to what could be their final show together and how the four of them deal with the preparation of ideas and costumes.

Noah, slightly older than the other guys, acts a mentor and tries to corral everybody into rehearsals. Early in the film, he wears a shirt that reads “Ask Me About My Fear Of Strangers,” mentioning that if anybody asks him that he’ll just scream at them and run away. That is a pretty good indicator of the whole group’s sense of humor – it’s often absurd and slightly twisted. While they hope to entertain the people who come to see them, their mission is not to connect with the audience. The troupe exists first and foremost to make each other laugh, utilizing scripted skits, video gags and props like “Cardboard Cutout Man” to do just that.

While mostly focusing on the comedians themselves, the cameras do pull back occasionally to also interview family members about their experiences and, in one memorable sequence, introduce us to Noah’s new girlfriend.

The first big documentary distribution deal at this year’s festival occurred this morning when Netflix picked up worldwide rights to the film in conjunction with its world premiere. With Mark and Jay Duplass on board as executive producers, you can expect to see this heartwarming documentary to debut on the streaming service later this year.

Other screenings: 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Alamo Ritz; 8:15 p.m. March 17, Marchesa; 2:15 p.m. March 19, Alamo South Lamar


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