Author’s Note: A member of the troupe, Jack Hanke, is a personal friend of mine. And he is the kindest, funniest person you will ever meet. You’ll find out when you work for him someday.
This movie won’t let go of me. I’ve tried to stop thinking about it and focus on other tasks, like work. But I can’t. It keeps coming back, making me smile, inspiring me to be a better person.
Not only the title of the movie, Asperger’s Are Us is the title of a traveling sketch comedy group featuring members Noah Britton, New Michael Ingemi, Ethan Finlan, and Jack Hanke. The twist? They all have Asperger’s syndrome.
Not that it matters. The film follows the troupe as they put together one final show before Jack goes to Oxford for a year to continue his schooling. If the film began with the show, you wouldn’t know these extremely funny men have a hard time connecting with people. As Jack describes it early on, affection “is like giving food to a skeleton.” It has no effect.
While it may not be the draw of the show, it is the draw of the movie. All four of them live and work in different places, only able to connect through the Boston commuter rail. And a big show would stress anyone out, especially those who are hypersensitive. Breakdowns do occur. Highlighted by some extremely touching interviews with a couple of their parents, who get a chance to explain just how far they have come.
The narrative lead is Noah Britton, around a decade older than the other members. He was their counselor at a camp for ‘aspies.’ You can always tell when Noah flips into teaching mode. Letting another member work through their issues whilst steering the conversation back to the practice he knows they need. A great moment occurs with a random bystander, a little boy reading the train announcements next to the group as they wait for a ride. Noah points out that the boy is putting his fingers in his ears, so he doesn’t have to hear the troupe talk or respond when they try to talk to them. Noah calmly offers the boy a train schedule to look at. He happily accepts.
It’s a small moment, but it’s a reminder about how far they have all come. And the show is a reminder about how much farther they will go. Do you hate fruit-forward reislings? Do you love toast with nothing on it? Then you’ll be ready for the driest kind of humor. Puns, wordplay, everything that makes a child groan at their father is on display here. It’s so good. I couldn’t stop laughing. But I recognize it’s not for everyone, highlighted by the cameraman catching a couple leaving the show a couple of minutes in. My personal favorite joke has the members on stage, pretending to cut their wrists. They all writhe in pain before one of them yells out, “I wish there was a better way to test razor blades!”
For those who wait it out, the final product is amazing. The film is full of “squishy” moments between members, and especially between New Michael and his father. It’s also full of hilarity. It will inspire you to work hard, to do the thing you love, even if it’s difficult. You might not be as funny as these guys, but you can at least give them money. That’s all they ask.
3 1/2 out of 4 stars. I knocked off half a star because I didn’t get nearly enough of Ethan and Jack’s backstories. It’s probable they were just busy or had personal issues that couldn’t coincide with filming, but it does mean the movie is heavy on New Michael and Noah. Nothing wrong with that, I just wanted to see more of the other members too.
Want to see them live? Head here. They just finished a nationwide tour, but they’ll probably do another one, especially if you live in the northeast.