Skip navigation

Calls to Action

Ed Asner: Autism in My Life Makes Me a Better Man

July 03, 2013

  Ed Asner with his grandson Will on the streets of New York City

On Saturday, July 20th at 6 p.m. PT, actor Ed Asner is hosting the inaugural Ed Asner & Friends Poker Tournament to Benefit Autism Speaks at the Haworth Showroom in Santa Monica, Calif. Mr. Asner has been an illustrious advocate for the autism community over the years, and recently took some time to tell us why this is such an important issue to him. 

What was your motivation behind starting an annual Ed Asner & Friends Poker Tournament to Benefit Autism Speaks?

Anything to help the cause of Autism Speaks.  I love playing poker. I haven’t done that much of it in the recent past. But, I think it would be wonderful if, after I sponsored this tournament, that I could whoop everyone else’s butt! It’s a dream. I know it’s a dream not to be truly experienced but at least I have my dreams.

Which of your friends will be taking part in this year’s tournament?

Joe Mantegna will be there, as will James Woods. I think my buddy John Heard will make it.  Possibly Jason Alexander.  He is a poker nut.  I have invited some pretty amazing people.  Jon Favreau was going to make it but he is in the middle of shooting for a film.  He made a nice donation though. We will have a room full of amazing poker-crazy people.

What results would you like to see from the tournament?

I would like to see the occasion established. I think it’s a great idea to establish a gaming night for this solemn principle of autism. To throw a little levity into the area and get some cursing and drinking and tobacco chewing and snuff snorting and let’s see a wash of expectorated tobacco on the floor and a lot of great cursing all in the cause of Autism Speaks!

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a father with a child on the spectrum?

To be more of a human being.  We never fulfill our capacities in that respect… I don’t think…and it certainly has taught me and I have failed miserably at it both with my son and my grandson. I have to keep working at it and learn and practice and to do good.

How have your friends and relatives supported your family through the years?

Well…In the main they’ve been ignorant. The lessons really need to be preached and learned. Not only for my family but for society and that’s what Autism Speaks is here for. To get the word out and get it understood. To get the loving, lovely creatures recognized and helped.

As a father and grandfather of loved ones on the spectrum what can you share with our families whose children are just being diagnosed with autism?

Well… celebrate the fact that you are falling heir to this malady striking now.  I have a son that is 25 years old and the amount of information… the amount of intelligence that has been covered and practiced and used on this incident is enormous… and you are the beneficiary of this information. And more and more will be discovered as we go along. And more and more improvements will take place. And more and more will we find a way to truly deal one on one with this situation.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Autism Speaks community about your experiences as both a father and grandfather?

I can only say that having a son and a grandson with autism has made me a better man. I may not look like a better man. But, I know I am a better human being because of their existence and I hope they continue to improve me.

For more information on the Ed Asner & Friends Poker Tournament check out the Facebook page:


If you’d like to take part in the poker tournament, please visit before Monday, July 15th to register.