On Tour with Asperger’s Are Us had its World Premiere at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival and debuts on HBO on Tuesday, April 30th.
By Rachel M.
This six-episode television series, Executive Produced by Mark and Jay Duplass, follows a sketch-comedy troupe, Asperger’s Are Us as they embark on their first cross-country tour, crammed into an old RV. Since 2010, the four-member team has performed more than 100 shows in nine countries. Meeting more than a decade ago at a camp for kids on the autism spectrum, Noah Britton (a counselor at the time), Ethan Finlan, Jack Hanke and New Michael Ingemi formed Asperger’s Are Us, performing shows that feature original absurdist sketches and conducting post-performance Q&As, where they speak about their experiences as comedians.
Challenging themselves to leave their comfort zones, Noah, Ethan, Jack and New Michael embark on their most ambitious venture yet: a six-week, multi-city journey from Boston to Los Angeles, along the way sharing their unique perspectives on life as an “Aspie” and the community they’ve found in performing together as a comedy troupe. As they travel in an old RV that often leaves them stranded, the four endure highs and lows, playing for alternately enthusiastic audiences and nearly empty houses.
According to Director Alex Lehmann, the series stemmed from a documentary he had made about “these guys” that was premiering at the SXSW Film Festival. “It was the first time we’d seen them ‘out of their comfort zone’ and they were just tearing up the town and owning the festival. It was obvious they’d be a lot of fun to film on a cross country tour. Mark and Jay Duplass are enablers in the very best way. When we were at SXSW about to premiere our documentary, Mark turned to me and asked ‘Do you want to make a series with these guys?’ That was it; that was the greenlighting process for this docuseries. And I think he was really excited about helping the guys get more experience and exposure.”
The show strikes just the right balance between shadowing a comedy troupe and exploring living with Asperger’s. Each comedian is very honest about their strengths and weaknesses and what its like to work with other “Aspies.” It’s quite touching to see how they answer questions from parents of children with Asperger’s who come to see the group perform. Lehmann has definitely accomplished his goal, “to entertain people with the wittiness and charisma of Asperger’s Are Us. We’d also love it if people can be inspired to do what they love and express themselves…no matter how scary or challenging that may be sometimes.”
TV and City was able to ask the troupe (Noah Britton, Ethan Finlan, Jack Hanke and New Michael Ingemi) some questions about the film and their work. The tone of their answers and their literal interpretation of our questions provides an accurate feel for their comedy.
Was it difficult for you to be observed/interviewed for the documentary?
It was pretty easy for us to be observed because they had access to sophisticated infrared camera equipment that could see us even in the dark.
Was it hard to be open/be reflective about your personalities?
The autistic people we based the characters in this series on were surprisingly open about their personalities. As actors, we, of course, have no real personalities of our own.
Of the shows featured in the series, which city/show was your favorite?
We haven’t seen the series yet, did the show in Kalamazoo where Ethan caught on fire make it in?
Which was the hardest audience?
The presidents at Madame Tussaud’s, literally NOTHING made them laugh.
What’s next for “Asperger’s Are Us”?
Passing away! But first, come see us on tour: http://www.aspergersareus.com
How will you balance your comedy troupe work with your other work/studies?
This question is far too depressing to answer. It reminds us that life is nothing but toil until we return to dust.
The six-part documentary series debuts on HBO with two half-hour episodes back-to-back on Tuesday, April 30 (8:00-9:00 p.m. ET/PT), followed by two more episodes on both of the next two days, Wednesday, May 1 and Thursday, May 2 at the same time.