Sam Dealey Roasts Himself! An AMA on Comedy, Comics, Autism, Near Death Birthdays, and why Laughter is a Moral Imperative.

Samuel Dealey
Mar 6, 2018

In 2006, around the time I received my autism diagnosis, I began a career change from software engineering to comedy, publishing the webcomic woohooligan.com.

I published my first book, Woohooligan Vol 1: Into Dorkness shortly after diabetes put me in the hospital on my birthday, Nov 5, 2013.

On my birthday at the end of 2015, I got a cancer diagnosis and quit software engineering for good, to make laughter full-time in 2016. Now I'm publishing my 2nd and 3rd books, Woohooligan Vol 2: Laugh It Forward and Hellbent Vol 1: Hell If I Know.

After that, I'll look forward to the next life-threatening birthday illness or injury to see what that inspires! Maybe my 4th book, Woohooligan Vol 3: And All I Got Was This Lousy Tumor. Or maybe I'll run for president since the bar seems so low. :P

I'm on a mission to tell everyone why Laughter Is A Moral Imperative!

Samuel Dealey says:

This AMA will end Mar 8, 2018 10PM EST

Comments are locked

Conversation (174)

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Have you ever read Archie Comics? If not what are your favorite comic books?
Mar 8, 4:26PM EST0

Wow long read mate! What did you do to promote this AMA so successfully?

Mar 6, 5:36PM EST0

First I had to find a virgin, which isn't too hard. Like I did when I was a teenager, you can often find male virgins playing D&D. I lured him away and then with a little keymaster action I summoned Gozer.

That and I created the AMA two months in advance and built a little app for Twitter that regularly posts a few things I'm trying to promote every day. (I was a software engineer for over 20 years, so it wasn't too hard.)

All my tweets then get pushed automatically to my Facebook, so there was a tweet about the AMA on both of my social media accounts every couple days for a couple months. And then I waited. :D

Mar 6, 11:59PM EST0
Have you done standup comedy? Have you done videos? Would you if not?
Mar 6, 5:26PM EST0

Check out my answer to Lothric who was also asking about standup. There's a funny story about my first few open-mics in Austin. :D

Would I do videos? Yes! I would do sketch videos and improv, I love it all. My standup is super rusty, but when I got the video camera to record the video for our Kickstarter, I practiced with a new bit of standup about why I changed my birth name. You can check out that cringeworthiness here!

Mar 6, 11:49PM EST0
Would you really run for president? Who would you like to see running in any case?
Mar 6, 3:54PM EST0

Only if I can have Patton Oswalt as my running mate. You get him on board and I'll run.

I think there's a lot of great people running for office right now. I think there ought to be more scientists in congress, not just Jess Phoenix, who's a volcanologist (tells people whether they should shit themselves about the volcano they live next to). One thing I think would be truly useful would be cognitive science researchers in elected office -- the people who study human biases and can assess plans for things like health-care on the basis of behavioral research that shows how to really get people to keep up with their doctor visits.

I don't have anyone specific in mind. I do like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Maybe a ticket with Melissa McCarthy and Kate McKinnon. We could call it McCarthyism!

Mar 6, 4:12PM EST0
What is it with the dick jokes?
Mar 6, 3:30PM EST0

Why, are they too small? Flacid? Not satisfying your woman? Pfft. Women am I right?

Try new Jockulite Maxx to keep your jokes HaHaHaaard all night long!

True story, I'd had a table at a few comic conventions and so far I didn't seem to be getting much out of the investment, the time and money that goes into a convention. I certainly hadn't broken even yet. I just didn't seem to be getting much traction.

Then I shared a table with my friend Kelci Crawford at this tiny little one-day event out in south-east Ohio, called Rathacon. This was still during the tail end of the recession and the event wasn't doing too well for themselves or for any of their vendors, but they were sticking it out like troopers!

So Kelci and I were right in front of the front door, great placement for a con (or at least you would think), but it was really dead and we barely had anyone coming by, so most of the time we were just chatting, sharing marketing tips, etc.

About half-way through the event, I started saying "sophisticated dick jokes" as an off-the-cuff way of self-deprecatingly describing my work, and I noticed people's eyes LIGHT UP right away when I said it. I shit you not, TWELVE people signed up on my mailing list in the next few hours, probably in large part because of that phrase.

So, y'know what? I owned it. I'm not looking a gift-horse in the mouth. :D

Last edited @ Mar 7, 5:54PM EST.
Mar 6, 4:03PM EST0

When you make Superhero versus villian comics what is the mass, hero or villian?

Mar 6, 3:19AM EST0

When I make Superhero versus villain comics, the Mass (gotta get the capitalization right there), is a race of intergallactic parasites who attach themselves to people and animals and resemble cancer.

The longer a Mass parasite is attached to someone, the more conservative they become. At first this manifests as a resistance to universal health-care, because keeping people from the doctor facilitates the Mass infecting more people and maintaining control of their hosts.

As the influence of a Mass parasite progresses the host eventually latches onto extreme conspiracy-theory news outlets like Breitbart and InfoWars. This helps to discredit the infected host, ensuring that if the host ever realizes that they don't actually have cancer and are instead a host to the alien parasite, no one will believe them.

I'm sorry, I may have misunderstood the question. :P

Mar 6, 1:16PM EST0

hi i hope you recoverd very well from every illness you got. let me ask you simple but honest question. autism how do you feel and what is like to have it. i know a kid that have autism and he don't look at anyone or speak to anyone. how it feel to have it. god bless on your journey

Mar 5, 9:22PM EST0

Hi, Jennie! Thanks for asking. It's a little different for each autistic person. It's like when people are born with physical deformities, and they're not all the same. Someone born without a leg has a very different experience from someone with extra thumbs.

Some autistic people are unable to speak -- that doesn't mean they can't understand you, and as they get older sometimes they learn to communicate by writing things down or typing. Autistic people who can't speak are out there, but there aren't very many of them.

Autistic people who don't like to look at others (or at least don't like to look at eyes or faces) are pretty common.

Most autistic people are more like myself, and a large number of them are never officially diagnosed with autism. There are some examples of people who seem a little autistic on TV in recent years, like Jamie Hyneman from the Mythbusters.

Outwardly, we mostly just look like nerds. We tend to be very technical, good with computers or other machines. I was a software engineer for over 20 years. We tend to have very specific interests (the stereotype is the guy who can't stop talking about trains).

Internally, it's mostly just a bit of a struggle to communicate, because we have difficulty reading facial expressions. And most of us also suffer from a lot of social anxiety and depression because of that difficulty. I still have the anxiety, though thankfully I've mostly overcome the depression.

And then there are some just plain odd symptoms, like what the doctors call "hyperfocus". That's when I'm working on something and I become so involved in it, that my wife can't get my attention. She'll be standing right behind me and she'll have to call my name five or six times before I even hear it. And then I lurch out of the fugue state like a trauma victim with a thousand-yard stare and unable to answer simple questions like "have you taken your insulin?"

Sometimes it really is that bad, I'll be aware that Tiffany just asked me a question, but my brain won't allow me to think about her question or respond for 15 or 30 seconds until I first finish thinking about whatever other thing I was doing. :P To be honest, it's frustrating for both of us.

You might also enjoy my answer to Farayola Funmilayo.

Last edited @ Mar 6, 12:42AM EST.
Mar 6, 12:40AM EST0

What do you think is the future of comics in the digital age?

Mar 3, 3:58AM EST0

I think they'll be digital.

Actually I don't lend any credence to the idea that print books will go away. The way we produce paper may change to become a bit more sustainable, but people like print books. David Barnett wrote a good article in the Guardian about the current challenges and the persistence of print.

The only major change I see, and it's one that's already an ongoing transition for a couple decades now, is that Marvel and DC are going to continue to lose some of their market dominance and there are going to be a lot more independent comics because of long-tail economics.

The thumbnail synopsis is that the advent of less expensive on-demand printing and crowdfunding like Kickstarter makes it easier for independent creators to produce a wider variety of comics. When that happens, readers' buying habits change. They buy fewer of the mainstream books and more of the indies because those books speak more directly to them and their personal (niche) interests. When I was growing up in the 80s there just wasn't much of an indie comic market and so the only books we really could buy were from the major publishers (who at the time distributed to almost every grocery store and 7-11, which they stopped doing in the 90s, contributing to Diamond's distributing monopoly).

Many of us might have liked to see comics about gay or lesbian characters, but the only thing available at 7-11 was Superman or Spider-Man, so that's what we bought. There's been talk lately that these more diverse characters have hurt Marvel and DC, but that's not at all true. Asher Elbein wrote about that in the Atlantic last year.

I know that brick and mortar comic shops have been struggling in recent years, but that's in large part because they're still only buying from Diamond, who distribute precious few indie titles. As long as that's the case, a lot of readers will opt to back Kickstarters or buy directly from their favorite indie creators. Eventually someone, (maybe Diamond) is going to figure out how to make distributing smaller numbers of a wider range of titles profitable.

Last edited @ Mar 6, 1:43PM EST.
Mar 3, 11:17AM EST0

If you had to contract another life-threatening birthday illness or injury (I hope you never do again! That's rough!) what would you pick?

Mar 2, 8:36PM EST0

Like Mae West, the one I've never tried before. :P

Actually I'd want it to be like my cancer, something I knew I'd probably survive, like Pneumonia is relatively easy to treat in the first world. And definitely not Ebola, I could do without a colon canon.

Mar 2, 11:55PM EST1
What is next in your career besides publishing a new book? What do you expect to obtain from creating such an AMA like this?
Feb 27, 10:22PM EST0

I'm going to erect a giant statue of Donald Trump's ass across the street from Mar a Lago. There will be a pedestal at the base with a button that plays a recording of Trump from a speaker positioned right between the ass cheeks. Random sound bytes from trump, but definitely "bing bing bong bong" will be in there, as will, "I know words, I have the best words, but there's no better word than stupid."

I'm not real sure what the next step in my career is after more books. I'd like to do more stand-up. Maybe produce a comedy album at some point. Maybe I'll have some TV appearances? I haven't really mapped anything out beyond the current books.

From the AMA? I'm just hoping to reach more people with my message of hope. :D

Mar 1, 9:52PM EST0
About your life as a cartoonist: When did you start and what catch you into the business?
Feb 27, 6:52PM EST0

I started illustrating in third-grade... how old is that? But I didn't make comedic art with any regularity. I  drew superheroes, X-Men, Spider-Man, a lot of my own designs. And later sci-fi and fantasy art.

I started cartooning in 2006, the same time I tried my first stand-up comedy open-mics. No joke, it was inspired at the time by suicidal depression. You might think I'm describing a psychotic break, but actually I reached a point where I had a fuck-deficit for all the wholly unreasonable bullshit that other people were demanding from me. (And the unreasonableness of those demands was later affirmed in court.) So once I was past thinking about whether I should continue or not, I thought about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, for myself, and top of that list was make people laugh. :D

Last edited @ Mar 2, 12:59PM EST.
Mar 1, 9:41PM EST0
Have you ever done stand-up comedy? If so, are you planning on participating on events anytime soon?
Feb 27, 5:53PM EST0

I have, although it's been a pretty long time. My first stand-up appearances were in 2006, at the open-mics in Austin Texas at the Velveeta Room and anothe rcomedy club I don't remember the name of. It was a bit intimidating starting in Austin where the unofficial city slogan is "keep it weird". This is a city where a local celebrity and chronically homeless, thong-clad transvestite, Leslie, once ran for Mayor and got 11% of the vote. So I expected it to be a really tough room, but they surprised me and were great audiences! In fact, surprisingly, I don't recall any of my punchlines failing in my first five-minute set.

After I got a camera recently to record our Kickstarter video, I practiced a little in my living room and I'm damn rusty! I also used that video to help me learn how to use the video editing software, which is why there's canned laughter on it. In any event, it's a five-minute routine on the reasons I changed my birth name, and you can see it on my YouTube channel here: Sam I Am.

I'm not sure how much standup I'll be doing in the near future, but I do enjoy it and hope to do more of it eventually.

Last edited @ Mar 6, 1:43PM EST.
Mar 1, 9:25PM EST0

Did laughter help you in any way in the process of overcoming your disease? Would you likely recommend it to others who are suffering?

Feb 27, 4:31PM EST0

1) No. Not to say that it never does, but I didn't have that kind of illnessm, and/or it wasn't severe enough to notice that laughter had any effect on it. My oncologist did enjoy my cancer jokes though. :D

2) I always recommend laughter, especially to people who are suffering!

It's bad enough that you're already suffering, there's no sense in making it worse by refusing to laugh. I mentioned this in my manifesto, there's no sense in avoiding parties to prepare for an apocalypse. Even if it comes, you'll regret wasting that time prepping for it.

Secondly, being in a better mood actually makes you a better problem-solver, so if there are solutions to your problems, you're more likely to think of them when you're in a better mood. ;)

Last edited @ Mar 2, 1:05PM EST.
Mar 1, 9:19PM EST0
Do you have pets, and if yes, how do you find them helpful?
Feb 27, 3:54PM EST0

Tiff and I have two cats. My kids have two dogs. All boys. My mom moved in with us last year and brought a cat and a dog, both girls.

My wife, Tiffany had a tortoise for a few years until our circumstances were such that we couldn't really take care of her anymore.

I don't find the dogs we have helpful. If it weren't for the kids and my mother-in-law, Tiffany and I would have taught them not to bark, but Carol and the kids encourage them. So they cause more stress for me than they relieve.

Playing with the cats mostly helps my stress. Except ever since the girl (Luna) arrived, the younger boy (Dexter), who's big and muscular, has begun harassing the other boy (Mocha). They're all fixed, but he's still got to pull this weird, macho-male bs, "oh my god, there's a girl, I'm gonna show her I can be a dick to the other guy. Chicks dig that!"

Dexter's more Tiffany's cat, he insists on sitting on her chest and generally making a nuissance of himself to get her attention every night.

Mocha's more my cat and is very sedate and mostly wants to be left alone to nap, or occasionally to cuddle, but never to play. His opinion of toys (pretty much regardless of the kind), is "okay, I batted at it once, this is boring now." If he'd gone to high-school, he'd have been voted "least impressed" in his Senior yearbook.

Mar 1, 9:12PM EST0
What are some unchecked boxes on your bucket list?
Feb 27, 1:33PM EST0
  • As best I can tell, comedian is the only career choice in which people have "make someone piss themselves" as a life goal. :P
  • Publish a book I've worked on for a long time now called the Optimist's Wager. Though I guess first I would have to find the backup files, since I haven't worked on it recently.
  • Get drunk. I seriously never have been and I think it's pretty lame. I've been slightly tipsy, but never drunk. I think I should at least have to deal with a hangover once in my life.
  • Catch a fish with my hands. Not noodling, that's cheating.
  • Have a motorcycle. No ape hangers. I want to look cool, not like I lost a bet.
  • Vacation in Vegas and avoid Elvis like the plague (I hear the last part is the challenge).
  • Have a stand-up comedy show / tour.
  • Promote one of my books on the Daily Show.
  • Host Saturday Night Live
  • Be abducted by aliens
Last edited @ Mar 2, 7:10PM EST.
Mar 1, 8:59PM EST0
Are you religious/spiritual?
Feb 27, 7:44AM EST0

I'm a Unitarian Universalist. I don't really consider myself religious. I'm a positive agnostic. If an agnostic is someone who shrugs and says "I don't know if there's a god", a positive agnostic is as close as agnostics come to being evangelical or missionary about it. Positive agnostics listen to atheists and evangelicals and shrug and say, "yeah, you don't know either."

Feb 27, 12:46PM EST0
What is the best experience of your life?
Feb 27, 4:16AM EST0

Sex. That's why I got into comedy: all the women. They love a guy who can have a woman laugh at his penis and say, "I can do something with these lemmons!"

Honestly, the thing I live for is helping people. It doesn't really matter whether that's helping a specific person or helping people in the abstract through my performance and advocacy. Certainly it feels great when a specific person thanks me for my help, but I'm going to keep trying to help people, whether I'm thanked or not.

Although I know comedy doesn't solve a lot of problems directly, the boost we get from laughing helps us keep ourselves up and active and working on those problems. So it's good to know that I'm helping people do that. :D

Feb 27, 12:42PM EST0
How has it been for you to deal with cancer ever since you got diagnosed with it?
Feb 26, 9:33PM EST0

Oh, I deal the same way. Five card draw with a two-card flop, suicide kings and one-eyed jacks wild.

I was lucky, as I've said, my cancer wasn't threatening, and to be honest, I'm glad I had it because that little voice in my head that, despite knowing I would be fine kept yelling, "YOU'RE GONNA DIE" got me off my ass and moving on my life goals. :D

Feb 27, 12:25PM EST0
What are the demographics you're mostly searching to attract with your books? Have you ever thought you wanted to reach a certain audience?
Feb 26, 10:59AM EST0

I'm trying to reach people who sell Kaiju insurance. You know, Godzilla, Mothra, Gigan. It's a small market, but I think people who make their living out of disasters get me. :P

To be honest I don't really think much about demographics. My conversations with fans are frequently with women, but that may be because they're more likely to strike up a conversation with me. I haven't measured it. I think Millennials are savvier than older generations, and the internet may be part of that, but I'd be flattered to have them as fans.

If I had to describe a demographic of people I'm trying to reach I would say it's progressive nerds and activists. People like me. People who enjoy sci-fi like Star Wars or Star Trek and also promote important causes like racial and gender equity, GLBT rights, economic justice, etc.

And after thinking a bit more about it, I think it would have to be the kind of people who enjoy late-night TV like Colbert, Full Frontal, and the Daily Show, and a basic cable rating. So I'm not sure who that is specifially other than I'm obviously not tryint to appeal to grade-school kids with dick jokes. :P

I can describe a few demographics I'm definitely NOT interested in, like evangelical Christians, zealotous atheists (the ones trying to eradicate religion), Libertarians, vegans, and people who rail against oxford commas or use of the word "literally" as an intensifier.

Last edited @ Feb 26, 3:00PM EST.
Feb 26, 12:08PM EST0
Does any of your books reflects your life, your suffering or anything from previous personal issues?
Feb 26, 5:50AM EST0

Not really my suffering... such that it is, as I've said, I have overcome severe depression from the earlier part of my life. My work hasn't really touched on that. I have mentioned events in my life (and rarely the subject of autism), like conversations with my kids.

This strip from 2010 is a conversation I had with my oldest daughter, Alex, almost vertabim.

She probably qualifies for an autism diagnosis, but she's already an adult and moved out with her boyfriend and likely won't get one any time soon, if ever. We tried to get a diagnosis for her while she was in high-school. Unfortunately the school psychologist was retiring at the time and took her as his last case as he was rushing out the door. I looked him in the eye as he told me (a man with an autism diagnosis), "your daughter can't be autistic because she made eye contact with me." So that's the rigor you get from a psychologist who's phoning in his last week at work forever, like a high-school senior's last pop-quiz.

"What natural barrier lies between India and China?  Deez Nuts!"

Feb 26, 10:20AM EST0
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