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.
Is the Tourette’s painful?
No, I know I look like I might be in pain, but it does not hurt whatsoever. Occasionally I pull my neck if I jerk too hard, and that hurts, but that’s not too often.
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 misconception that all people with Tourette’s curse.
Most people with Tourette’s say other words, make noises, have bodily twitches, or a variety of other tics that even include singing. It’s a whole spectrum of severity as well, many people go completely undiagnosed.
Have you always had Tourette’s?
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. 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, so at that point it was obviously Tourette’s. I’ve got some different ideas about causes for why it got worse, but I’m still not sure.
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.
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 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.
Are you always cursing and shaking off stage as much as you are on stage?
No, my Tourette’s is usually not as severe off-stage. There are different things that make it worse. For me, some of those things are anxiety, stress, nervousness, emotional excitement, a change in sexual arousal, caffeine, sugar, adrenaline, embarrassment, etc. Being on stage in front of people telling jokes is a nerve-wracking experience that noticeably makes it worse.