Jess Thom

Comedian and Theatre-maker

Jess Thom is a comedian and theatre-maker who co-founded the social enterprise Touretteshero. This project reclaims Tourette’s Syndrome from the cliched jokes while celebrating the humour and creativity of the condition. The main symptom of Tourette’s is involuntary sounds or movements called ‘tics’. Jess’s verbal tics are often funny and unlikely images – as well as her most frequent tic: the word ‘biscuits’. 

Jess began making inclusive art after her own experiences of being made to feel unwelcome in the theatre because of her tics. Jess works hard to embed accessibility throughout her work – from wheelchair accessibility to relaxed performances where audiences are welcome to make sounds or move around if they need to. 

The website shares Jess’s tics and invites people to take them as creative prompts to make their own art. In 2014 Touretteshero’s Edinburgh Fringe debut Backstage in Biscuit Land won the Total Theatre Award for Best Emerging Company. The show has since toured internationally.

Last year Jess and the Touretteshero company curated Hacks for the Future, working with the National Theatre of Scotland to create collaborative work with young disabled people from across Scotland. The inclusive project had discussions and workshops as well as installations and performances. 

This year Jess has worked at London’s Battersea Arts Centre, curating the Rest and Resistance festival of disability arts and culture. Jess also starred in a unique run of Samuel Beckett’s Not I, a challenging monologue by a character Jess relates to as neurodiverse. British Sign Language performer Charmaine Wombwell interprets the play live – incorporating Jess’s tics which are different every time. 

Jess has given a TED Talk and appeared on television numerous times as an artist, a comedian and a spokesperson, including with her BBC 2 documentary My Mouth and I.