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Tourette’s without regrets: the fight club of underground art

Flow artist Revolva performs for a full audience. (Allison Leader)
Flow artist Revolva performs for a full audience. (Allison Leader)

It was about 8:30 p.m. when hundreds of people lined up in front of the Oakland Metro Operahouse, just like every first Thursday night of each month. The crowd buzzed as they waited for one of the most talked about events of the Bay Area: infamous variety show Tourette’s Without Regrets.

Inside the dark venue, blue spotlights beaming onto the stage, a sea of people were seated in the Operahouse. Ready for a good time, the crowd eagerly awaited the beginning of the show.

Once the lights dimmed, music began to blast and the host of the evening came out on stage in a suit and fedora — Jamie DeWolf, co-creator of the show and great-grandson of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology.

Since 1999, DeWolf has ceaselessly devoted his life to making Tourette’s Without Regrets a one-of-a-kind experience for both performers and audience. Commonly known as “the fight club of underground art,” the variety show acts as a playground for some of the most eccentric and fearless people in the Bay Area.

DeWolf began to engage the audience by demanding everyone to “f—ing stand up” and hug someone they didn’t know. Some members of the audience hesitated ,but DeWolf soon dashed off stage and threw his arms around the doubters in the audience. He then darted back on stage to fill everyone in on some rules.

No cellphones. This is the rule DeWolf was most passionate and adamant about.

“Join us in something called REALITY!” he said. “No one on Instagram gives a f*** about what you’re doing right now!”

The audience cheered. Now the debauchery could officially begin.

DeWolf picked five members of the audience to be judges for the performances that night. He called them up on stage to give them each an equally ridiculous scenario to act out individually as a sort of initiation ritual — party hats included.

A headless mannequin from backstage soon became the co-star of a few of the judges interpretive performances.

Performer’s “donut dance” wins over the audience and judges alike. (Allison Leader)
Performer’s “donut dance” wins over the audience and judges alike. (Allison Leader)

The acts that night were diverse, ranging from stand-up comedy to interpretive dances and dramatic monologues. Not one person in the audience was safe from being the punchline of a joke, especially during the poetry slam and stand up performances.

One act involved a man who performed a clown pantomime with a powdered doughnut. He took the stage in a blue striped t-shirt and red athletic shorts. Carl Orff’s “O Fortuna”  started to play and he began dramatically dancing with his beloved doughnut.

His dance was a kind of sloppy ballet that made everyone in the room laugh and shout with delight. As the song reached its most dramatic point, he proceeded to smash the doughnut in his face. His interpretation resulted in a cash prize of one hundred dollars.

After a few acts, DeWolf stopped the show to start a game of musical chairs for eight willing audience members. The winner of the round would receive any drink of their choice from the bar. DeWolf wanted everyone in the room to be a part of the show in one way or another.

The room was completely at his command. If DeWolf said “make some noise,” everyone would scream. If he picked someone to come up on stage, there was no getting around it. He wanted a spotlight on as many people as he could find. His passion for performance wasn’t just communicated through what he would say, but was even more obvious through his demeanor. He made everyone feel equally comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time.

Tickets for the show are $10 dollars at the door. Audience members are advised to leave their modesty and inhibitions at home and prepare to be shocked.