James Durbin of American Idol fame didn’t talk that much about his Tourette’s Syndrome, but it was obvious to me that he had tics, particularly when he would finish singing and was waiting for feedback from the judges.
I recently gave a lecture at the University of Utah in the linguistics department. I asked the question: Who can name some famous people Tourettes? Not one answer, and I couldn’t even find it in me to tell them about James Durbin.
Back when my mother was trying to find out if I had Tourette’s, she hunted for role models for me, just in case. The results weren’t that encouraging. She read a book that mentioned that Mozart might have had tics, and that some of the poor suckers from the Salem Witch Trials might not have been possessed by the Devil after all, but may have just been twitching like yours truly.
In the past year I have gotten more interested in finding out if how many famous people are out there with Tourette’s.
This list will be a work in progress. If you have an addition, please tell me and I’ll add it. Some of the names below (like Mozart) will be based on speculation. I’m also going to toss in some fictional characters who have TS or pretend they have it.
One other note: sometimes any sort of Obsessive Compulsive Behavior (OCD) gets lumped in with or diagnosed as Tourette’s. For instance, soccer player David Beckham is listed on a couple of sites as having TS, but most of what I read simply sounds like he has OCD.
Not everyone, even among specialists, agrees exactly what TS is or when it starts.
Famous people with Tourette’s Syndrome
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- Those poor Salem Witches, maybe
- Eric Cartman (one episode of South Park)
- The main character of Jonathan Lethem’s novel Motherless Brooklyn
- Samuel Johnson (famous lexicographer and a man after my own heart–I’d be thrilled to find out he actually had it)
- NBA player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (original name was Chris Jackson)
- Howard Hughes
- Dan Ackroyd
- Howie Mandel
- One of Deuce Bigalow’s dates
- James Durbin
- Baseball player Jim Eisenreich
- Musician Micheal Wolff
- Tim Howard, soccer player for Manchester United
- Josh Hanagarne, Z List celebrity (that’s me!)