Brisbane performer Nikki Osborne has been dumped from speaking at a disability expo because her stand-up comedy routine makes light of what it is like to be a parent of an autistic child.
Ms Osborne faced a backlash even before the act's debut performance.
She said her comedy routine On The Spectrum is about how parents handle children who can be both brilliant and challenged at the same time.
"My show is about the irony of these milestones we set up for kids, the norm, and how these kids are achieving all these other things that are really quite phenomenal, but because it's not normal we'll all have big conniptions and panic attacks," she explained.
Ms Osborne's stand-up routine about autism debuted at the Melbourne Comedy festival.
But she said it was slammed based on the advertising posters alone.
"It was somewhat amusing that people are petitioning to have a show that they know nothing about removed from the festival, purely based on the poster," Ms Osborne told AM.
She was later invited to speak at the Source Kids Disability Expo in Brisbane in July, but says people started defaming her and the organisers.
"As a result I was unceremoniously dumped by email, just going: Oh, we've copped a lot of flak, see ya.
"And I was like, oh, alright, there goes freedom of speech."
Nikki Osborne Official
So I'm just going to put this out there because people are upset and that's never good.
I did a show called 'On The Spectrum" for the comedy festival.
Some people were concerned about this. They shared their concerns on my page. However concerns quickly turned into nasty debate from all parties. I had to block people. I had to block some people that I really didn't want to but I could see them being persecuted and I couldn't defend them. So I just took people out of the battle arena for mental preservation.
What I want to say is that even if I blocked you, it doesn't mean that I didn't listen...I just didn't want to argue. I can see that you are someone advocating hard for autism, I respect that. F*&king good. You don't agree with my platform for advocating that's fine, you don't have to, we can agree to disagree. That's life. Let's resolve who's right about vaccinations shall we? I'm kidding. You catch my drift.
People raised concerns over consent which I believe are valid. So, I have altered the show to be a collective of stories.
People didn't like the poster. I couldn't change that for the festival as that had gone to print in brochures etc months before. I'm changing it now however.
People said I can't speak on behalf of autistic people. I don't. I speak on behalf of me, and I'm speaking to parents of children on the spectrum and parents of children off the spectrum...because I've been both which leads me to this:
Why did I do the show? When my eldest started kindy I was "warned" by other parents that there was an autistic kid in their class. So my reaction was "okay, I best keep my son away then"............YES! THAT'S RIGHT! I WAS AFRAID OF IT AND KNEW F ALL ABOUT IT! The irony is that my son ended up best mates with another kid who was later diagnosed so that was lesson number one right there.
So then came my turn. Shoe on the other foot. I knew the general attitude of NT (see, I'm learning) because I had it only a few years prior.
Feedback from my final two shows (as I did a lot of re-writing...because-in spite of my own depleting mental health- I was quietly listening to the critics) was how they loved that my son was the hero of the story. Because he is. This is the sentiment I am trying to spread. These kids are cool. Not to be avoided. Just educated, positive acceptance. Invite them for a play date FFS. Get over this idealist attitude of normal.
(My husband said this to me the day of diagnosis. "Fuck normal'. In fact, that should be my shirt.)
I thought comedy would be a good platform for reaching those outside the community of autism as everyone loves comedy but not everyone wants to sit down to an SBS documentary about the condition. They're too busy watching Bachelor in Paradise.
The other reason I did the show is for the parents of newly diagnosed littlies. To dismiss the feelings and needs of the parents is horribly unfair. Marriages break down. Depression sets in. Isolation. It's all driven by fear of the unknown. I know. I've been there. I didn't want counselling. I just wanted hope and to be cheered the f*&k up. I needed upbeat stories. I needed optimism. I needed my show 5 years ago.
At the end of my last two nights I had parents in tears, hugging me because they felt happy. They laughed. They resonated and left with the feeling of "fuck normal".
The final reason was to shine a spotlight on the current system. The confusion. The acronyms. The terminology. The gauntlet to get help. There have been OTs and Speechies who have been to the show who completely agree with how difficult it is to navigate.
So yes, I've written a lot here. I'm an incredibly sensitive soul who has taken all of this to heart despite many urging me to fuck'em. A lot of tears have been shed (and 5 kilos). I thought it important to tell you that I value your thoughts. I've listened. I've altered. I've done my f*&king best. It's not easy making all of your mistakes on stage in front of people. I came home from my first few shows going "yuk, I hated that bit. That bit felt negative. Why did I say that? Okay, I need to write more bits about that. Oh god, I'm not happy with this bit). Then I open FB and I see nasty comments about the bits I already knew sucked but unfortunately, the jury was already out on that show so I just tried to fix the rest. Anyway, I reckon I had it right by the second last show. I think it's in a really good space now.
I'm sorry if I've blocked you....it's not personal. I wish you all well. Keep fighting your fight but your quarrel should no longer be with me.
Making jokes about autism not appreciated
The CEO of Source Kids, Emma Price, declined to be interviewed but in a statement said:
"Source Kids is a not-for-profit organisation and our intention is to deliver a disability expo for everyone in the disability community.
"The response from our audience in announcing Nikki as a speaker made it clear that her presence would prevent some members of this community from attending.
"Unfortunately Source Kids has borne the brunt of a debate that has now become about the content of Nikki's show, which is an entirely separate matter from our expo."
Nicole Rogerson, CEO of Autism Awareness Australia, understands where Nikki Osborne's comedy is coming from.
"As an autism mum, there are times over the years that have been very humorous, and good luck to you if you can laugh with it; I've always tried to," she said.
But Ms Rogerson sees the other side, too.
"For some people on the autism spectrum, they don't really appreciate people making jokes about them," Ms Rogerson said.
"I can see all of the sides and it's just unfortunate because it could have been a great awareness moment, but hey, I guess we're talking about it this morning, aren't we?"
Nikki Osborne says the ordeal has given her fresh material.
"The next one's already half written itself — PC Gone Mad, I think that's what it'll be called."
Nikki Osborne defends autism show after being barred from a Brisbane disability expo
ACTOR and comedian Nikki Osborne has continued to defend her stand-up comedy show about parenting a child with autism after she was this week barred from speaking at a Brisbane disability expo.
The Brisbane-born Hoges star, whose son Teddy, 6, has high-functioning autism, had been invited to speak at the inaugural Source Kids Disability Expo at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on July 7, but has since been removed from the program after organisers received a barrage of complaints on their Facebook page.
Advocates questioned Osborne’s involvement in the expo, accusing her of offending people with autism and making fun of her child’s disability with her show, On The Spectrum, which is about how she gets by as a mother.
“I’m not going to take down autism advocates but there’s a line when an advocate becomes a cyber bully and there are a few that have crossed the line,” said Osborne, 36, who will perform the routine at The Paddo Tavern’s Sit Down Comedy Club on July 8.
“(The show) is not about (Teddy); it’s about what we go through as parents through a diagnosis. The only bits about him are the really good bits. My conscience is pretty clear there.
“If he saw my stand-up show, I’m not worried, but I do have concerns about what he is going to read online out of context, those advocates paraphrasing what they think I’m saying.”
Of her decision to remove Osborne from the program, Source Kids Disability Expo founder Emma Price said: “Unfortunately, we have already borne the brunt of a debate that is not ours regarding this matter. Our intention is to deliver an event that is helpful and enjoyable for the everyone in the disability community.”
Osborne was previously forced to defend her show before its debut at the recent Melbourne International Comedy Festival in April when advocates lobbied to have the City of Kingston remove it from the line-up.
The mother of two said she “lost the plot” when Teddy was first diagnosed and, having to stop work, was forced to rent out their Melbourne home on Airbnb every weekend to earn an income.
She said the show, like popular Channel 7 drama The Good Doctor, was an “outlet” that highlighted the extraordinary skill set of those with high-functioning autism.
“I needed to see my show four years ago, but there was nothing out there. It was all very serious, help books and documentaries. It was all very heavy and I just needed to feel like it was OK,” she said.
“I could write a book about it but I couldn’t write a book. I do comedy.
“For anyone who has actually seen the show they walk out going ‘my kid’s a superhero’.”