Jerry Seinfeld May Be on Autism Spectrum, But His Self-Diagnosis Could Be Problematic
In a different take on his style of observation, Jerry Seinfeld said in an interview with NBC's Brian Williams on Thursday night he made a surprising and introspective comment about himself. Jerry Seinfeld suspects he is autistic to some extent. The 60-year-old comedian also discussed on NBC Nightly News his career, his venture creating the web series "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee," and the community of comedians that he's been the center of for so many years.
Seinfeld told Williams,
I think, on a very drawn-out scale, I think I'm on the spectrum. 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. But I don't see it as dysfunctional. I just think of it as an alternate mindset.
It's important to note that Seinfeld did not say that he was diagnosed professionally with autism, so it's seems as though he is self-diagnosing. But perhaps this is a suspicion he's had for quite some time, because his autism activism is nothing new. In 2009, for example, he headlined the Fifth Concert for Autism Speaks at Carnegie Hall along with Bruce Springsteen.
Seinfeld still performs relatively incognito at standup clubs unannounced to try out new material, even though he is arguably the most famous comedian in the world. He is still constantly honing his craft, and as he told Williams, "I know that that's the healthiest thing I can do. If you're more interested in what you have achieved or what your financial position enables you to do than that thing that got those things, you're screwed." His commitment to hard work is something that he recognizes and admires in his colleagues in the comedy world, which incited him to start his web-series "Comedian in Cars Getting Coffee," which offers a rare look at conversations between comedic giants and how they operate in their "normal" lives. I particularly love the first episode with Larry David in which Seinfeld gets his buddy to eat a pancake.
It's unclear how Seinfeld's autism comment will be received. The behaviors he describes do to a point seem to fit the layman's understanding of autism. I myself am no expert, but Seinfeld's statement does make me more curious about autism, and I think that alone is a benefit. In the span of public knowledge, much of what is known about autism comes from Jenny McCarthy's dangerous views that vaccinations cause autism, giving anti-vaxxers ammunition. Beyond that, there is the character Max on Parenthood who deals with Asperger's Syndrome, in an honest portrayal. (Parenthood's showrunner, Jason Katims, has a child with Asperger's.)
Though Seinfeld's interview may give pause to autism activists, because it is always a slippery slope to self-diagnose, there's really no better man to have speaking for your cause than Jerry Seinfeld, who has such a worldwide appeal. And it's also crucial because he IS so notoriously successful. Autism and other syndromes are often associated with a level of lesser capability on the success scale. If, in fact, Seinfeld is autistic, he's proof that it is not abnormal, simply atypical. As Brian Williams says of the comedian, "At age 60, he's still figuring out who he is," which is comforting to everyone.
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