You’re Going to Want to Bow or Curtsy to ‘Fern Brady: Autistic Bikini Queen’

The ‘Taskmaster’ alumna’s special makes its American début. It should be the first of many
You’re Going to Want to Bow or Curtsy to ‘Fern Brady: Autistic Bikini Queen’

“It’s been really hard for me ever since I’ve started telling people I’ve got (autism),” says Scottish comic Fern Brady in the earliest moments of her new Netflix special, Autistic Bikini Queen. “’Cause there’s not a lot of representation of hot women within the autistic community, so I figured, be the change you want to see in the world. It’s just me and Greta Thunberg, representin’. She solves the climate crisis, I continue to do meaningless jokes about cum.” The joke establishes what Brady’s going to ephasize through the rest of the hour: Autism is only part of her story.

Brady is not (yet?) a household name in the U.S.; my first exposure to her was during her stint as a contestant in Series 14 of Taskmaster.

Brady’s time on Taskmaster came around a year after she publicly shared that, in her mid-30s, she’d been diagnosed with autism. (It’s unfortunately fairly common for women to be diagnosed much later than boys and men.) In her 2023 memoir, Strong Female CharacterBrady describes Taskmaster as “unintentionally the most autism-friendly job (she’d) ever had because it’s a show that values being yourself. … I’d opted to say my first instinct rather than focus on the correct thing to say and was encouraged when it was met with laughs instead of derision. I felt a very pure happiness that I didn’t feel in the hellish forced group banter of panel shows.” 

Another year passed before the filming of Autistic Bikini Queen in 2023, and Brady seems to have fully settled into the post-diagnosis phase of her career, including acknowledging that she’d chosen a title for the show that would attract an audience that takes things literally, and warning that segment of the viewership how little of the set is actually about autism. While she’s still on the topic, she explains that she disapproves of her mother’s expectation that Brady hug her during moments of high emotional tension: “Why would I? I’m not datin’ the woman. Disgusting!” 

She objects to neurotypical people’s “pathological” need to smooth things over when her autism comes up: “They’ll say back to me, ‘Don’t worry, Fern. It’s a superpower.’ ‘Is it? Would it have been as good a film if Superman, instead of having superhuman strength, and being able to fly around the world at a moment’s notice, instead monologued at you about the 1960s depressive poet Sylvia Plath, with no ability to register your disinterest in any way whatsoever?’” 

Brady is hilariously frank making herself the butt of jokes like this, while also pointing out the absurdity of the social conventions she knows she’s supposed to observe in order to be, as she frequently puts it, “normal.”

Brady has gained self-knowledge in other areas of her life, too. “If you grow up Catholic in Scotland, it’s really one step removed from being Amish,” she says, before describing her gran’s correction upon the discovery of tampons in Brady’s room out of fear for Brady’s virginity. (Brady presumably unlearned sex shame in an earlier era, as she tells stories about her time working as, to use her term, a stripper — employment that brought her into contact either with “Colonel Gaddafi’s nephew” or just someone purporting to be.) Brady’s Catholic lapse is so complete that, as we hear, only a health scare can convince her to consider marrying her live-in boyfriend; she imagines wedding vows about the real reasons people get married, like improving their credit.

Much as she has to resent about her Scottish youth, however, Brady may save her worst vitriol for London, her home of more than a decade. While a genetic test revealed that she’s 98.3 percent Irish despite having never lived there, she posits that the 1.7 percent British in her DNA is from the guy who, when she first moved to England, spat in her eye. She blames Richard Curtis romcoms for misleading her about what her life in London might be like and demands “better, more accurate” ones set there — a couple fleeing a fellow bus passenger who’s trying to kill them before kissing in front of a burning trash can. But, she admits, at least you can say the word “abortion” in England without getting chased with pitchforks. (If her Scottish loved ones don’t vibe with that gag, they’ll probably really bristle at the extended bit in which she imagines her now-drooping breasts reminiscing with one another about their adventures in perkier days.)

After making her way through material ranging from the week she spent stinking up a hoodie she mistook as her boyfriend’s, sincerely loving her cats to a humiliating degree and how the most sexually jealous women are the ones dating “sea monsters” (“I’m glad you’ve pair-bonded, but nobody wants Big Ugly Tony”), Brady returns to the subjects of both autism and normality with a sweet and salty closer. She’s right: Despite the title, there isn’t really that much on her being autistic. There also isn’t a bikini, come to think of it. But Fern Brady is a queen.


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