Jamie DeWolf is most well known for being the host of Tourettes Without Regrets, a renegade show in which he displays weird, artistic, hilarious, vulgar, sexual, and insanely talented performers. Tourettes has won "Best of the Bay" from the SF Guardian and "Best Underground Cultural Event" by the East Bay Express.
You might also know that DeWolf is very charismatic, with an on-stage magnetism and swagger that few can rival. What you might not know, however, is that DeWolf is the great grandson of L. Ron Hubbard, the man-made saint of Scientology.
Since he was a kid, DeWolf always knew that he was different. He loved to write, starting at a very early age. While most artistic talent in kids is embraced, DeWolf had the opposite experience; from his earliest memory, his writing has always been a problem.
"It was around fourth grade that they started sending me to the school shrink, because a lot of my stories would get to a point where my entire class was in it, and we would all be under attack." While his teachers and classmates found it disturbing, DeWolf was excited. "That's my first murky memory of writing something and performing it in front of an audience, but I also realized that my writing was always a little racier than any of the other kids in class."
Challenging the powers-that-be seemed to be something DeWolf excelled at. In sixth grade, he was placed in a Christian school. Being a devout Christian, he had a lot of questions. "Christians don't like questions. Faith does not support any kind of interrogation at all." In true DeWolf form, he decided to start an underground zine that he would take to school and pass out like pornography. "It was my weird little contribution."
DeWolf's signature issue was "a three page rap about a student uprising, where all the teachers are killed by name specifically and in a myriad of ways. I wrote it, and some kid made a copy of it and left it in bible study class. It was found, and I was expelled that day," says DeWolf, laughing as he recounts this story about his troubled childhood. After this, DeWolf was forced to go to public school, and the same sort of issues resurfaced.
One of his assignments was to write about the signing of the Declaration of Independence. DeWolf was already bored and said, "I wanted to come at it in a fresh way." He wrote a story called "Time Kill," which depicted a sociopath traveling back in time to the day of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and killing all of the men who signed it, and then hunting down Benjamin Franklin and murdering him in the snow.
Again, the school psychologist was called. "I would have arguments with the school psychologist about what was art and what was good writing. Pretty much after that, my writing was systematically a problem. I would always at some point challenge what was acceptable."
After DeWolf was expelled from high school for his writing, he enrolled in community college. He got kicked out of two creative writing classes there as well. "I had a massive chip on my shoulder, because my writing kept getting me into trouble." This was a low point for DeWolf, where he was willfully self-destructive. "Creation and destruction go hand in hand. You go through destruction and creation comes out of it." Depressed, he composed an eight chapter suicide note that he wanted to publish, and then, in dramatic form, kill himself. He began to go to open mic nights and read portions of this suicide note to an audience. After reading it, DeWolf was always asked not to return.
Enraged, dejected, and with a feeling of wanting to be heard, he thought, "There had to be a place where truth existed that was this ugly." This led him to San Francisco, where he attended his first poetry slam. DeWolf performed a poem about sadomasochistic sex with a Christian girl. He came in dead last, but they didn't ban him. "It made me start to learn and evolve, because I began to learn how to candy coat poison, "says DeWolf.
In 1999, DeWolf made his way onto the first Oakland slam team, which dominated the competition, and he began to feel what winning was like. His daughter was born, and that caused him to grow up quite a bit. DeWolf started Tourettes out of revenge for all the stages he had been asked to leave, and he carried his flair for confrontation onto the Tourettes stage, challenging his audience to fight all the time.
One evening he was being even more antagonistic than usual, and an audience member hurled a backpack filled with books straight into DeWolf's face, knocking him out cold. After DeWolf came to on the sidewalk outside while someone else was hosting his show, he realized there had to be a better way. Instead of antagonizing his audience, he learned to seduce them instead.
Around this time DeWolf began teaching at high schools with kids that were a lot like he used to be. "It gave me a driving force to help the kids like me and give them another model. It made me realize I had survived and chosen art as an escape route. I need to convey that to kids, because for a lot of them it will save them and help them to write their way out of hell."