“He doesn't care what you think,” Jack Gallagher said about his son Liam. “Liam is a different kind of cool.”
Liam, 14, has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. He is Gallagher’s son. And he is the subject of the Sacramento writer/comedian/actor’s new one-man show, which opened last week at the B Street Theatre.
Gallagher performed “A Different Kind of Cool,” his fourth one-man show, on Thursday night. He still performs his previous one-man shows – ”Letters to Declan,” “Just the Guy and “What He Left” – in various venues. All of Gallagher’s one-man shows are based on his life.
Gallagher tells very personal stories during his plays, but he tells his “stuff,” as he puts it – not his wife’s or his children's.
Gallagher walked onto the stage with a beach bag in hand and began to tell a story of a trip to Sea Street in Cape Cod, Mass. “I don't know anyone that goes on vacation with their family,” he said. “Most people go on vacation to get away from family.”
As Gallagher told his story of his family, you could see the passion, joy and sadness in his face. When he spoke of their trips to Sea Street, his eyes sparkled. When he spoke of his son Liam, he smiled like a proud father. But when he talked about his son’s autism, his eyes watered, and his voice got shaky.
“It’s so hard when there is something wrong with your kid,” Gallagher said “What did I do wrong?”
In Gallagher’s story he admits to the struggle that he had with Liam trying to “fix” the problem. Gallagher worked with Liam every night on his homework. “But we were still coming up short,” he said. “And at times I was embarrassed.”
He spoke of a time when they were waiting to cross the street and Liam started to shake his hands, also known as stimming, and Jack put his hand on his shoulder and gave him a look, as if to say “not now buddy.”
“I kept trying to fix him,” Jack said. But instead, he started to notice Liam’s skills. “We love labels in this country,” he said. “They said my son was something, but he is Liam.”
When Liam wrote a script for the hit television series, “The Simpsons,” Gallagher told him it was good, and Liam said, “I know.” Liam sent it in and received a letter back thanking him for the script, but apologizing for not being able to use the script.
“They told him to keep writing,” Gallagher said, “and I told him not to send it in.” Realizing that as his father, he hadn't been as encouraging as he should have been.
“We all know cool when we see it,” Gallagher said. “But its another thing trying to replicate it.”
Cool is original, cool is one of a kind, he said.
When Gallagher asked Liam if he could write this story, Liam asked, “Will you make fun of me?”
Gallagher replied, “No, I’ll tell jokes, and hopefully people will laugh.”
Liam replied, “Will you inform people of my mishaps?” Again Jack said no. “I didn't think you would,” Liam said. Then he added, “Yeah, you can.”
This story perfectly portrays the struggles of a parent with a child with autism. We hear so much in the media about new drugs or therapies that may or may not work; we hear from experts and doctors who have no clue about what causes or cures it. But so rarely do we hear from the parents, the ones who face this on a daily basis. Jack Gallagher uses humor to show a different perspective on this ever-growing disorder.
“A Different Kind of Cool” continues at B Street Theatre’s mainstage through Nov. 7. Showtimes and tickets are available at bstreettheatre.org.
Photo by B Street Theatre.