In Darksiders Genesis, War said to his brother Strife the following after the latter said that the former should have some more creepy faces on his armor:
Must everything be a joke to you?
Living with ASD, I find myself asking people the same question. Some people rely on humor to cope with their stresses in life, and their way of doing so is considered way different than how I do it. Sometimes I find that people treat everything as a joke, I get told I need to lighten up, and I do, but not the way society does.
When it comes to humor, there are things that make me laugh and there are things that don’t that everyone else would find funny. Lots of people seem to laugh at themselves when they trip over a sidewalk crack but I don’t. I fail to see anything funny about bonking your head on the roof of your car as you’re sliding inside of it for example. Instead I see it as a nuisance that I wish did not happen, especially if it hurt even if it wasn’t bleeding or bone fracture.
One of the most significant challenges of living with ASD is the lack of ability to understand a joke or sarcastic comment. That being said, there are some that I do recognize, but it would have to be very transparent or in connection with something I like, like a video game. Otherwise, I may not respond to it, pretend to understand by laughing randomly, or make a literal comment/action.
One evening after I got home from work, I was checking Discord to unwind before going to help make dinner, my mom called from downstairs and asked if I wanted to make my lunch for my shift the next day and said I should do so before my brother took all of the leftover chicken. I dropped everything and scurried down the stairs worried that there would be no chicken left, but it turns out my mom was joking and there was plenty left for me to use.
Or how could I forget the time I was on the off-topic section of one of the Discord servers I was a member of? I shared in that thread something about a conversation I had on another server. Somebody responded telling me to not advertise other servers in that thread even though they were not a moderator. I responded defensively that this was the off-topic thread and asked them how much they planned on annoying me. Turns out they were joking according to another user, but I still got angry thus had taken it literally.
Those are just two of hundreds of thousands of examples of situations I encounter in in-person and online conversation that I will deal with for the rest of my life. It’s a pain when you think about it because I do want to be able to interact with people but I get frustrated when people make jokes constantly.
It’s not that I have absolutely no sense of humor at all, I would call that a stereotype for people on the spectrum. It’s just that my sense of humor is different than others. Want to know what makes me laugh? Things like episodes of Looney Tunes, cat videos, funny moments in video games, or say a character I like has a cute laugh and then I laugh with them (okay that’s not really considered funny but still), everyone gets knock-knock, riddle and dialogue jokes like:
Teacher: Why are you crawling into the classroom thirty minutes after nine?
Student: Well, you said not to walk into the classroom late!
So yeah, I can understand those too.
Even when I was watching Neil Newbon’s Twitch streams in July this year so I could see him sign my Heisenberg print, there was a lot of hilarious banter between signings between him, his main mod Blue, and the chat before I joined in, most of it caught on and made me laugh my ass off. One time someone requested on their print that he write a statement with his signature that made him and Blue crack up so hard I almost fell out of my chair, like that moment where you laugh excessively you almost cry or feel like you can’t breathe! The dude’s got a sense of humor that I can understand (with an adorable laugh to top it off) and that’s what I love about him.
But, if it’s jokes that are subtly inserted into casual conversation say like you joke to me about planning a party and tell me that I can do all the host work while everyone else has fun, and I respond literally like:
No, this was my idea and I’m going to have fun too!
You might get shocked and tell me to relax because it was a joke. But it wasn’t one in my mind, and that’s how I perceive things differently. Sometimes, my friends and even my own family get frustrated with me because of this and it’s not something that I do on purpose, it’s just the way I am. I do try to improve it, like the strategy of just laughing casually seems to work the best, but it’s not something that can be cured. I have no desire to cure my ASD if such a thing existed. I would rather be accepted and understood because it’s what makes me unique.
Does it have its disadvantages, sure, maybe this is one of them, but on a positive note, I can find my own sense of humor and my own way. I think my humor comes from making references from movies, TV shows, or video games I love. The hard part though is that most people will not understand my humor, it’s like society expects everyone to have the same sense of humor, but that is not the case for people with ASD. We’re not incapable of laughing at something, but we just laugh over different things and may not like the jokes that you tell.
That is why we sometimes might get frustrated when we feel like everyone is joking around us and we can’t have a serious conversation. We might also feel upset when we try to insert our own humor and no one gets it, unless they’re on the spectrum too or know us really well.
I feel embarrassed when I have to ask for clarification on a joke that someone makes to ensure I don’t take it literally. It makes me feel like I’m dumb, but when I do it, people are surprisingly understanding. Or if there’s a time where I do take it literally, and someone gets surprised, I apologize and say that jokes like that are not my forte, and I might even disclose that I have ASD if they seem nice enough.
I’m sure anyone on the spectrum can relate to this 100%, it’s an ongoing lifelong challenge for sure.