Forget David Cameron, Meet The Original Mr Tourette

This week David Cameron had to apologise for joking about Tourettes. The syndrome became a household name back in 1989 when a nervous Scottish teenager appeared on screen spitting his dinner across the family table and called his mum a ‘fucking slut’ as she shopped for cat food.
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This week David Cameron had to apologise for joking about Tourettes. The syndrome became a household name back in 1989 when a nervous Scottish teenager appeared on screen spitting his dinner across the family table and called his mum a ‘fucking slut’ as she shopped for cat food.

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Tourettes unleashed in John's Not Mad

He was John Davidson and we were told he had a traumatic affliction called Tourettes Syndrome. We didn’t care – swearing’s funny. We decided to track down the original Mr Tourette, so we drove to the Scottish border, wound down the window and cocked an ear for the inevitable tirade of cuss-words. Nothing happened. So instead, we carried on to the Galashiels community centre where we knew John works.

It didn’t start well. John’s friendly and articulate but after two minutes he calls your correspondent a ‘poof’ and tries to punch me in the face. I grit my teeth and continue…

In ‘John’s Not Mad’ in 1989, you were the star of one of the most memorable documentaries ever shown. How did that affect you? 
It changed my life in a huge way. It led to public acceptance of me. Before it I knew that my mates’ parents were saying ‘stay away from that John, he’s not quite the full shilling, he makes funny noises’. People did genuinely think I was mad. Since the documentary I don’t feel that people are picking at me like that any more.

It’s a serious condition, but let’s face it, a fucking funny one. Any memorable Tourettes–based incidents?
I was in the supermarket once and there’s a little old lady leaning right into the deep freeze trying to get something out. As I walk past I shouted ‘Fuck!’ and she shit herself, let go of the freezer lid and it came down on top of her. She almost ended up inside the fucking freezer. Part of the condition is that you’re compelled to shout out the worst thing you could possibly say. If I’m walking down the street and I see someone trip on a kerb or walk into a lamppost I’ll shout ‘stupid cunt’ or ‘Ha ha’. Or if I see someone overweight I find myself shouting ‘fat bastard’.

It must have narrowed your possible choice of career after you left school? 
I’d have loved to have been a soldier but if I was hiding from the enemy, I’d be sitting there ticking and swearing. It’d be useless. I can’t do pub quizzes cos if I know the answer I’m compelled to shout it out. When I was a kid I couldn’t play hide and seek cos I’d be always making noises and shouting ‘I’m over here!’

"John’s friendly and articulate but after two minutes he calls me a ‘poof’ and tries to punch me in the face."

It didn’t start well. John’s friendly and articulate but after two minutes he calls your correspondent a ‘poof’ and tries to punch me in the face. I grit my teeth and continue…

How long do you reckon you’d last in a call-centre?
Five minutes. The first phone call I’d have I’d probably tell someone to fuck off. It would be a peach, me trying to sell them something and they’re telling me to fuck off. I’d be like, ‘No, you fuck off!’

How do you get on when you’re trying to chat up women?
I’m usually trying to make a good impression and then suddenly I’ll shout ‘Fuck!’ or ‘Get your tits out!’ Sometimes I’ll tic and reach out and grab their breasts. If I’m with my mates sometimes I’ll tic and hit them in the nuts.

Most people think having Tourettes gives you the chance to shout ‘cuntybollocks’ at people with no comeback. What’s the worst thing about it?
The obsessive-compulsive side. You get these horrible thoughts going round in your head that you can’t make sense of. If I don’t do a certain thing, like step on so many of the cracks in the pavement, I think something bad’s going to happen to someone I love. You come to terms with the thought, you know it’s not real and then five minutes later it’ll come back and keep coming back again and again.

Do you still get any hassle in this age of Tourettes enlightenment?
Aye, sometimes. Me and my friend were flying to Dublin recently and the bastards wouldn’t let me board the plane unless I was sedated and had a doctor with me, in case I shouted out ‘Bomb’ during the flight. That really pissed me off.

With the swearing and that, do you get arrested much?
A couple of times when I was younger. The police would try and lift me for breach of the peace and I tried to explain but they were all, ‘What are you talking about? You’ve got what syndrome?’ But they’re great now and new officers get told about me. They say ‘that’s John. If he shouts ‘fuck the pigs’ or ‘black bastards’ or ‘filth’ just let it go.

What’s your number one swearword?  
‘Fuck.’ It’s a classic isn’t it? You can’t argue with it.

Too fucking right.

Thanks to www.tourettescotland.org for putting us in touch with John.

TITS! WHAT EXACTLY IS TOURETTES THEN?
It’s a neurological condition which affects sufferers through a whole array of symptoms. Involuntary motor and vocal tics are the most common, including head and shoulder shrugging, along with vocalisations such as animal-like noises, facial grimaces, grunting and squealing. Lots of the vocal tics come out as swearwords, otherwise known as coprolalia. Sufferers also have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, hyperactivity, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. There’s no cure although medication such as a mild anti-psychotic drug can help alleviate it. Sufferers usually end the day exhausted through the constant physical tics.

PRICK! ANYONE FAMOUS GOT IT?
PETE BENNETT – BB7’s swear-spewing fanny magnet. Pete tries to hide the word ‘wanker’ by coughing and hitting himself but he’s kidding no-one.
TIM HOWARD – Everton’s on-loan stopper. Fans sing ‘Tim Timminy, Tim Timminy, Tim Tim Cheroo, We’ve got Tim Howard and he says ‘Fuck You!’ Classy.
PAUL GASCOIGNE – Gazza lists Tourettes amongst his spectacular list of disorders which also includes OCD, ADD, OMD and TFI Friday.
MR TOURETTE – rude-sign-painting star of Channel 4’s wondrous ‘Modern Toss’ series. Ask him for a ‘For Sale’ sign and he’ll paint ‘Whore’ on a board instead.