By: Beth Vaughan
Famous comedian Jerry Seinfeld sat down for an interview with Brian Williams on NBC’s “Nightly News” last Thursday and said he believes he has autism, on a very “drawn-out scale”.
Jerry was asking to further explain, and the 60-year-old comic said he feels he’s never paying attention to the right things.
“Basic social engagement is really a struggle. I’m very literal, when people talk to me and they use expressions, sometimes I don’t know what they’re saying,” Seinfeld said. “But I don’t see it as dysfunctional, I just think of it as an alternate mindset.”
While Jerry’s newfound revelation has drawn much attention in the media to the Autism Spectrum Disorder, there are many that believe that this isn’t the “right kind” of attention and that celebrity Autism claims distract from research and reality.
The danger with announcements like Seinfeld’s — or fictional portrayals of the Everyman autistic like Ray Romano’s Hank character on “Parenthood,” who self-diagnoses his autism after reading a book about Asperger’s syndrome — is that autism, a neurological condition, becomes almost fashionable. Who wouldn’t want some odd quirkiness to make you memorable?
Seinfeld told Brian Williams that one symptom of his autism is that he over-literalizes language — for example, the expression “the apple of my eye” makes no sense to him, as no one’s eye has an apple. Some have stated that you can hear echoes of his comedy in the statement, and the implicit takeaway becomes the idea that autism could be a desirable driver of creativity.
No matter which side you stand, Seinfeld said he hopes his announcement will help diminish the stigma of autism and has performed at a number of benefits for autism charities over the years, including Autism Speaks events and the 2012 “Night of Too Many Stars.”