On Thursday evening, comedian Jerry Seinfeld sat down with NBC Nightly News host Brian Williams to talk about his current stand-up career and the second season of his web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
“I wanted to see if I could capture it and show people, ‘Look at this group of people. Aren’t they unusual?'” Seinfeld said about his online series. “And isn’t it unusual about how all these different people who do this thing are all kind of the same?”
Over the years the 60-year-old has also learned a lot about himself, especially with more information available now about the autism spectrum.
“I think, on a drawn out scale, I think I’m on the spectrum,” he told Williams.
The markers, he said, were that you are “never paying attention to the right things” and that 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.”
The realization first came to him when he saw a play entitled The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and saw much of himself in the main character, who has autism.
“In the play, the kid talks about the expression ‘the apple of your eye’…there are no apples in your eye. Why are you saying that? It’s over-literalizing.”
However, some feel that too many people, including Seinfeld, are too quick to self-diagnose.
Gardner Umbarger, a top commenter on Huffington Post, wrote, “Just stop it, people. No, you aren’t ‘on the spectrum’, you are a person who doesn’t always want to be around large groups of people. Being shy doesn’t mean you have autism. And no, you don’t have adult ADHD, either. You are just a person.”
But there are others who hope that Seinfeld’s words will help fight the autism stigma.
“What he said really struck a chord with the autism community,” said Amy Daniels of Autism Speaks. “I think as awareness grows in the community, stigma about autism decreases and I think more people feel comfortable talking about their own experiences.”
Currently in America, approximately 1 in 68 children are on the autism spectrum.