Yo! I’m a stand-up comedian with Tourette’s currently living in Philadelphia. Most of my jokes are very short and about dirt and birds and stuff. I am ten thousand years old. If I could be any animal, I would be a mountain goat, they seem rad.
Comedy Credit Stuff
- I was interviewed about my stand-up and Tourette’s on Tosh.0 on Comedy Central
I perform regularly at Good Good Comedy Theatre in Philadelphia and various other bars and locations throughout the city.
Internet comments from people who hate me
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Before I get into the questions:
I want to make it clear up top that you should not base your understanding of Tourette’s on my personal situation. Other people with Tourette’s have had very different experiences with very different versions. It is important to note that I have been lucky enough to not have the major tics for most of my life, and I’m lucky enough to be able to catch and control the tension of the tics to some degree. I do not even think I have severe Tourette’s. I think I more specifically have severe looking tics, but a more mild condition overall. Many people have had tics since they were children, cannot control them whatsoever, don’t have tics that are so obvious, among other major differences.
I want to stress the fact that I think that my version is significantly less severe than you may think, or than other’s, despite the appearance.
Do people with Tourette’s actually curse?
Yes, but only like 10% or less of people with Tourette’s have the cursing type, called coprolalia. It’s a common misconception that all people with Tourette’s curse.
Most people with Tourette’s have a variety of other tics including body twitches, making different noises, or saying non-curse words. It’s a whole spectrum of severity as well, and many people go completely undiagnosed.
Is the Tourette’s painful?
No, I know I look like I might be in pain, but it doesn’t hurt whatsoever. Occasionally, I’ll pull my neck from jerking it back, and that hurts, but that’s not too often. They can get tiring though, especially if the same part of my body tics repeatedly, but certain muscles are more used to that by now. The release of tension can even feel good, but it’s not like distinctly pleasurable. It’s more like how scratching an itch feels good because it temporarily alleviates the itch, but also maybe feels good beyond that somehow, you know what I mean?
Is there a physical sensation with the tics?
Yes, it’s sort of a mental tension that briefly grips my mind, or specific muscles. I don’t always notice it if I’m not thinking about it, especially if it is a faster or smaller tic. I sort of divide them into faster bursts that I think of as tics, and slower waves that I think of as more like OCD compulsions. The compulsions are much more of an obvious thing to feel mentally, because they stick around for a lot longer. As examples, a tic might be something like a quick arm spasm, whereas a compulsion might be me repeatedly slapping my neck for a few minutes.
It can also feel good to purposefully trigger them, which is known as stimming, short for stimulating. The idea is like purposefully stimulating the movement, in order to get the tension release feeling, even if the tension was relatively low.
Have you always had Tourette’s?
Not the severe type! I had a mild form of undiagnosed Tourette’s growing up. I would clear my throat and twitch my head fairly often, but I just assumed these were just nervous tics, as opposed to Tourette’s. I likely developed the mild form of Tourette’s when I was 7 or so. When I was 21, I developed the more severe form of Tourette’s.
So you just suddenly developed severe Tourette’s out of nowhere at 21?
Basically, yeah. Here is a link that discusses adult onset tic disorders. I have pretty much exactly the situation described in the results section. Over the course of several months I slowly started shaking randomly and initially thought I might be having mild seizures. I went to a doctor who said it was likely Tourette’s and that I should see a neurologist. By the time I went to the neurologist, I had already started cursing, making clicking noises, and doing other vocalizations, so at that point it was obviously some form of Tourette’s.
Another member of my family has actually also developed Tourette’s at the age of 18, so it seems like we just have unusual genetics. Prior to them also developing Tourette’s, I thought it might have been from certain drugs that I took before developing Tourette’s, but that seems less likely now.
Wait, so you literally developed Tourette’s right before you started doing stand-up? That seems suspicious.
That’s a fair concern! Some people think I’m just doing a marketing scam to suddenly become “The Tourette’s comedian” in order to play that unique sympathy card for exposure. I’m aware that this is something people are wary of. I want to make it clear I specifically do not want to be known just for the Tourette’s, and would much rather have people like my stand-up for the material. To be honest, I do use it as an initial foot in the door, but I have no intention of basing my act around it.
As for the time frame of it, I actually started doing comedy in late 2013, specifically doing improv. I also started doing stand-up in 2014 and even have footage of me performing one-liners without Tourette’s. The Tourette’s became more severe over the course of several months in late 2015. I took time to adjust my personal life to this new situation, and figuring out how to fit it into my act. That second part didn’t take long to be honest, since my jokes are short enough for me to methodically hold and release the tension while performing. (Improv was harder since scenes are longer, and the joke was that all my characters just also had Tourette’s). The first video that hit the front page of reddit was filmed in mid 2017, after more than a year and a half of adjustment.
Why don’t you hold it while you are on stage?
It’s like blinking. Most of the time you just blink without thinking about it, but you can hold your eyes open if you want to. When you try to hold your eyes open for an extended period of time, you feel the tension build up like you really need to blink. Then when you do blink, you have to do it a bunch. Imagine if you tried to hold your eyes open the entire time you are on stage telling jokes, it’s extremely difficult and you would probably break part way through.
Do you exaggerate it on stage? You mostly only curse between jokes, that’s seems too well timed.
Right so, I don’t exaggerate it, but I do let it happen. I can hold it for short periods of time, but it’s like a tension that builds up and gets worse when I do finally release it. So I actually do try to purposefully let it happen between jokes so that the tension is released, and not an issue then when I am actually telling the joke. This allows me to temporarily get rid of the tension that would otherwise pop more randomly, interrupting the jokes.
From what I have heard though, this does not seem to be a universal experience with having Tourette’s. Do not expect other people with Tourette’s to be able to manage it in the same way that I do! It seems that I am lucky enough to have a type of Tourette’s where I am relatively able to catch and control the tension.
I think it’s fake! Do you have proof that it is not fake?
A lot of people think I’m faking the Tourette’s, which is very funny to me, but I understand the skepticism. Seems like fake Tourette’s is a thing, like with Cartman in South Park and the Tourette’s Guy channel on youtube. Anyway, the main proof I have of it being real would be testimony from people who interact with me regularly. Roommates, coworkers, classmates, friends, family, people that I scare on the train, and so on. I also have my neurologist’s diagnosis with like brain scans and shit (I dunno if those show Tourette’s though?), and my extended family’s medical history of OCD and Tourette’s.
Are the Tourette’s joke riffs planned?
Sort of! The bottle riff in the 2018 video was not intentional, that was just pure luck, but I do have some of the riffs semi planned. The thing is, certain tics have to happen before I can do the riffs. The Zelda noise one is actually one I have done before, but I only do that riff if I happen to have that specific noise tic while I’m on stage. Same with the “fuck — the police” joke.
Are you always cursing and shaking off stage as much as you are on stage?
No, my Tourette’s is usually not as frequent off-stage. Honestly, it’s like night and day between when I am calm and anxious. There are different things or triggers that make it worse. Some of my main triggers things are general anxiety, stress, nervousness, sudden strong emotions, sexual arousal, caffeine, sugar, adrenaline, embarrassment, etc. Being on stage in front of people telling jokes makes me anxious fairly consistently and that noticeably makes it worse.
One of my weirder triggers is that I usually tic if someone winks at me. Use this power wisely.
Are you on medicine? How about CBD Oil?
Not currently, but I was previously on guanfacine, a blood pressure and ADHD medicine. The thing with Tourette’s medicines currently is that they are all medicines for other things, like anxiety or ADHD (both of which I also have though), that sometimes happens to work for Tourette’s, but none of them are for Tourette’s specifically. The medication I was on was actually working for me, but it also hurt my heart, so I stopped. CBD oil seems to help, but I’ve only recently started trying that out. The next step is figuring a good amount to take and then seeing how it affects my stage performance.
If you want to ask me something else, you can send a question from the contact page.