Rowan College at Burlington County students muses on life on the spectrum to win comedy competition

Harrison Brown defeated more than a dozen students with his comedy routine to take first place at the school’s Student Life Talent Show.

Harrison Brown, a 19 year-old Rowan College at Burlington County student, defeated more than a dozen students with his comedy routine to take first place at Rowan College at Burlington County’s Student Life Talent Show, which was coincidentally held in April, National Autism Awareness Month.

Brown wrote what he knows, as his jokes revolve around school, summer jobs and even his life on the autism spectrum.

“I wasn’t expecting to be in the top three, let alone win,” Brown said. “My heart skipped a couple beats when they announced I had won first place.”

Although life with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may not seem like a laughing matter, but Brown says he is just “wired a little differently.” He also said it helps to find humor in everyday life, and it doesn’t hurt that he has an incredible capacity to remember jokes.

“One of the top reasons Rowan College at Burlington County is the number one community college in the state, is because of our students,” said RCBC Acting President Michael Cioce. “Our community of students are tireless, dedicated, and supportive of one another. We encourage them to find their voices here, just like Harrison did.”

The Cherry Hill resident and Cherry Hill East graduate, said that he has been honing his comedic skills since elementary school. His father is in comedy too.

“I wanted to tag along with my dad to his gig, and he jokingly said I could come along if I would get on stage too. He was only joking, but I took him up on it,” Brown said.

For the past five years, Brown has been doing open mic nights and a few professional local shows.

“I love commanding an audience with laughter and it helps that the world is all yours for five minutes,” Brown said.

He edits his show as needed to make it more appropriate to the audience and rehearses jokes with his dad to see what will get the best response.

In addition to a great memory for jokes, he explains that he is hyperlexic and was reading books by the time he was just 3 years old.

“I have a fantastic memory, especially in math and science,” Brown said.

Brown hasn’t decided on a major at RCBC yet, but is leaning toward chemistry. After getting his associate degree, he is considering transferring to a four-year school where he can study food science.

“I’m obsessed with nutrition,” Brown explains. “I read ‘Eat This, Not That’ and I’m really into healthy food.”

He admits his “tastes” have changed over the years. For instance, now he listens to heavy metal, mostly the band Disturbed, but when he was younger, loud noises really bothered him. He also didn’t like crowds, but now he is performing his own comedy on stage in front of large audiences.

He attributes the changes to becoming accustomed to a new normal. His parents also arranged for therapy, including occupational therapy to help refine his motor skills, at a young age because of his ASD. He also found the help he needed at RCBC.

“The Testing Center, tutoring, Office of Student Support — have all been very helpful,” Brown said.

He likes his classes at RCBC so far, especially the math and sciences, but he says he doesn’t have a plan set in stone for his future.

“It depends on how life goes. You can’t be sure what will happen,” Brown said.

Although he is unsure of the path he will take, it is undoubtedly paved with some great new material.