Entertainment

Comic with Asperger delivers quick wit, awkward jokes and a lesson

Michael McCreary has Asperger's syndrome, a condition that made it difficult for him to connect with others. For years it left him feeling lonely and isolated. Now he's mining it for comedy — and to convey a bigger message, as well.

'Comedy is one of the only mediums that turns failure into a strength' says AspieComic Michael McCreary

AspieComic: "Comedy turns failure into a strength."

6 years ago
Duration 1:08
Michael McCreary has Asperger syndrome. Now, as AspieComic, he mines the condition for stand-up comedy.

Before he takes the stage, Michael McCreary gets the jitters. 

And boy, is that an understatement. 

He holds his knuckles to his ears. He shakes his leg as he lopes and paces around the dressing room. So prevalent are his tics, that you can't help but think that there's something more than pre-performance anxiety going on here.

And, indeed, there is.

McCreary, a 20-year-old stand-up comic from Orangeville, Ont., has Asperger's syndrome, a condition that falls along the autism spectrum. 

Along with a tendency to display repetitive movements, the condition is marked by difficulties making eye contact and communicating with others. At first blush, that makes comedy an unusual choice for McCreary — a profession in which performers must make a quick and strong connection with a crowd.

It's less like a comedy show and more like group therapy where everyone else is too polite to tell me to shut up.- Michael McCreary, comic

But McCreary, who first took to the stage at the age of 14 and now performs under the name AspieComic, isn't fazed. He considers his condition the fuel that propels his routine.

"Comedy is one of the only mediums that turns failure into a strength — turns it into a weapon that you can use to entertain people."

"When I go out there on stage," he says, "it's less like a comedy show and more like group therapy where everyone else is too polite to tell me to shut up."

You can watch Ioanna Roumeliotis' full story in the coming days on The National or online right now.

With files from Ioanna Roumeliotis

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