A cross-country road trip can be challenging — cramped quarters, car trouble, friendly conflicts.
Add in the autism factor and those trials can balloon from mole hills into mountains.
At that point, everybody just needs a good laugh.
It's all that and then some with Mark and Jay Duplass' latest project, "On Tour With Asperger's Are Us." The Duplass brothers, who grew up in Metairie, are executive producers on the six-part HBO documentary series debuting Tuesday through Thursday.
"We look for subject matter that we think is unique or a story that hasn't been told before," 42-year-old Mark Duplass said from Los Angeles. The brothers also worked on HBO's "Room 104," "Togetherness" and "Animals."
This series, airing in three sets of back-to-back 30-minute episodes, goes on a road trip tour with the comedy troupe Asperger's Are Us.
Its four members — Noah Britton, Ethan Finlan, Jack Hanke and New Michael Ingemi, all from the Boston area — met at a camp for children on the autism spectrum and formed their group in 2010. The comedians were the subject of a 2016 feature-length documentary, also executive-produced by the Duplasses, which garnered praise at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.
"But it was just really scratching the surface of the story," Duplass said of the original film. "So then we had this idea, 'How cool would it be if we could really get these guys out on the road, and get their career a boost, and it was what they really wanted to do?′″
They pitched their idea to two companies, but were turned down.
"So we just took a leap of faith, and I just paid for the thing myself, so we made it all independently," Duplass said. "Alex (Lehmann, director on the original documentary) and a couple of his best friends went out on the road with the boys and then we took it out afterwards and were lucky enough to have HBO partner with us on it."
Duplass' association with Lehmann goes back to his seven years starring on "The League" on FX and then FXX. Lehmann, 37, was a camera operator on the series, Duplass' first big TV acting gig.
"When I watched the doc that we first made, the feature documentary, I was really ready to get behind the guys and support them, I guess, in many ways to becoming real role models for the whole community," Duplass said. "And they didn't want that, and continue to not want that. And it's a fun form of bickering between us because my point is like, 'Guys, everybody is looking up to you, everyone is using you as an example of what can be done and how amazing you are.' And all they can say is like, 'We don't need that ****. Like if you think we're funny, then come watch our show.' And I just love that about them. … It was very eye-opening for me."
The troupe supports its "we just want to be funny" aim by not referencing their autism in their original absurdist sketches, although the subject does surface during their post-performance Q&As, likewise sprinkled with humor.
But getting on the road came first.
With a director on board, Duplass said they set up the comics with some things necessary for their expedition, including a booking agent and a well-used RV.
"We both wanted to see their careers excel, we wanted to give them opportunities to do more shows and create a fan base," Lehmann said.
"I spent the month there (in Boston in 2016) shooting them before they went on the road, so we made buying the RV part of the story because it was really funny," he added.
"This one smells like a dentist's office," one of the guys is heard saying in the first episode as they check out one of their prospective homes for the next six weeks.
"The thing that really struck me is sort of how facile they are, and how incredibly emotionally evolved they are to function the way they do in the world," Duplass explained. "When you and I go on a road trip as neurotypicals, there's always frustrating things that are difficult for us. For someone who is on the spectrum, it's obviously multiplied.
"I watched their everyday interactions that are mildly stressful to me, are completely exacerbated for these guys, and you realize through that … to me when I watch it the guys are just like, they're kind of heroic to me."
Their multi-city shows from Boston to Los Angeles attracted the average college-student crowd, Duplass said, but the many sold-out shows also drew in parents of children who are on the spectrum.
"They (the parents) were taking a lot of inspiration and just sort of really in love with the fact of how much they were doing and really kicking ass out there," Duplass said.
Off-stage time afforded its share of laughs for the documentary as well.
"Those four young guys, entertainers, on a pretty crazy schedule and then a small film crew — everybody crammed into that RV, it was smelly and cramped, and we all had to get to know each other really well really quickly," Lehmann said. "Turns out everybody got along really great."
While the troupe slept in the RV, "we'd cram into one or two bed bug-ridden motel rooms so we were roughing it just as much as the guys were," he said. "That was really important to me, was that we weren't somehow staying in better accommodations than the guys."
Lehmann's challenge, he said, was to make them feel respected and not picked on, but not treat them with kid gloves, either.
"If me and my friends were emptying an RV (specifically its sewage storage tank) and it got all over us … that would be funny. It has nothing to do with autism, that's just funny," he said.
And yes, that did happen and is included in the series.
"What's funny to them is their perspective. They have a different perspective on a lot of things than we do, and it's often times really clever or really absurd, sometimes it's very punny," Lehmann said. "But they're not afraid to share their perspective.
"Ironically, these guys are less afraid to be themselves and to share what they think is funny instead of just trying to appeal to other people, which is a great message for the autism community."
Duplass agreed that audiences will be learning while they're laughing.
"There's a gentle education about what people who are living on the spectrum are like in a day-to-day sort of quotidian way that you don't often see," he said, "because you get to really spend three hours with these guys, and so I think there's some real value in that."
'On Tour With Asperger's Are Us'
WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday
CHANNEL: HBO (premium cable Channel 300 in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, premium cable Channel 200 in New Orleans)