Marc Elliot
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Marc Elliot

Allendale, Michigan, United States

Allendale, Michigan, United States
Band Comedy


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The best kept secret in music


"Harvard Medical School Referral"

March 12, 2009
By Steve Fiascone, first year medical school at Harvard Medical School

I am writing to express my sincere gratitude for your visit last week to Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. As future doctors and dentists, we
routinely learn important lessons about empathy, understanding and life from professors and patients. These lessons are taught with varying degrees of relativity to our prior life experiences, and thus they can be taught with variable levels of efficacy. How rare and powerful it is when such lessons come from one of our peers. Your talk was captivating, honest, and meaningful due to the instantaneous connection you were able to make with your audience of medical students. I noticed my classmates hanging on your every word, and they have been talking for days about what an impact
you made. I would not mention this if it were a typical reaction to our guest speakers. As you will see, it is very easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of a medical education
and forget that every person has a unique story and a set of gifts and challenges that are specific to him or her. Our time with you will be memorable for being a novel reiteration of this message; while we are only beginning to understand the science behind the gifts and challenges in your life, your visit helped each one of us clarify our understanding of what it will mean for our patients when they experience life’s successes and setbacks. Thank you for sharing your time and consideration with us. I speak for all of the future
physicians and dentists who attended your talk when I say that we are better and more caring people for having known you. We wish you the best of luck, and we hope that you will continue to educate our future colleagues in your uniquely personal and powerful

- Steve Fiascone

"Wash U. Alum Uses Hiis Condition to Teach Others"

September 2, 2009
By Caitlin Campbell

�I just want to let you know, I have something called Tourette�s syndrome, and it causes me to make noises and say some things that I can�t help. I�m sorry if it bothers you. I promise, it bothers me more.�

This is the way that Marc Elliot, a Washington University alumnus and St. Louis native, introduces himself to those he meets to help them understand his condition. He travels throughout the country preaching tolerance and encouraging others to accept those with differences.

Irritating sensations constantly plague Elliot, and he feels an omnipresent itch that compels Elliot to say a word or make a noise he otherwise wouldn�t. Obsession revolves around a word unless that word � often socially inappropriate or offensive � leaps from his lips. Once said, the itch has been scratched and Elliot feels relief. That is, until another word arrives to exasperate Elliot further.

�I can�t control the itches that I have,� he says. �My Tourette�s syndrome combined with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder forces me to fixate over a word until I say it. I usually can regulate when I�m going to scratch, but I definitely know that I will scratch it at some point.�

In a roundabout way, Tourette�s provided the initial spark for Elliot�s public speaking career. �In 10th grade drama class, we consistently made our teacher furious from goofing around, so she required us all to teach a five-minute presentation, and I gave my presentation on Tourette�s.�

Elliot enjoyed the experience so much that he began to visit other high schools in the St. Louis area to talk about the syndrome. Elliot found a balance between theater and his craving to help people through his speeches. Wherever he speaks, Elliot encourages his audiences to embrace tolerance by acknowledging the beauty of individuals and their differences.

Even though Elliot overcame many challenges, he still encounters tough situations, especially at the airport. Once at a security checkpoint, the irritating sensation provoked a desire to say something inappropriate. What is the most inappropriate thing one could say at an airport? �Bomb,� of course. As the itch ensued and became more and more aggravating, Elliot couldn�t deny the urge to scratch it anymore, resulting in him getting searched.

When Elliot goes to see a play, he stuffs a washcloth in his mouth so as not to disturb the performers and patrons with his noises. He does this out of respect for those around him.

That respect is rarely returned to him. A particularly shocking instance occurred at a Wendy�s restaurant when Elliot, standing in line, began making noises due to his disorder, and as usual turned to the woman next to him and apologized for the disturbance. He explained to her that he has Tourette�s syndrome. She just laughed and announced, �Don�t worry everyone. He�s retarded.�

But Elliot remains positive, explaining, �It would be wrong for me to be mad at people who don�t understand. There have been a lot of instances in which my friends would get furious seeing how I was treated sometimes, and I just tell them, �It�s OK, don�t worry about it.��

It is instances like these that fuel Elliot to continue his work across the country. Originally Elliot had planned to only take a year off after college to tour the country with his speech, �Don�t Judge a Book by its Noises,� before returning to medical school. However, Elliot found his niche, and he plans to turn his tour into a business.

�Elliot�s a phenomenal speaker. His message of tolerance, combined with his ability to make the subject matter fun, really shows how impressive he is,� says Steve Della Camera, chair of the Great Issues Committee at St. Louis University, where Elliot recently spoke.

So far, Elliot has been equally elated with his career.

�This has been such an absolutely overwhelming experience and my audiences do nothing but empower and inspire me to continue my efforts as an inspirational speaker,� he said. �I�m putting an important message out there, and it�s being embraced.�

- West End Word

"Carmel High Speaker Teaching 'tolerance, tolerance, tolerance'"

March 16th, 2009
By Vincent Pierri

He knew the students were trying not to laugh. He's seen it before.

Covering their mouth with their hands, many kids were snickering as Marc Elliot began his speech. In some ways, the giggling was understandable.

Speaking about his childhood, Elliot suddenly swiveled his hips like Elvis. He unexpectedly chomped the air, clicking his teeth loud enough to be heard across the field house. Odd grunts and groans were coming in between sentences.

The crowd was uncomfortable, which is exactly what Elliot wanted. It was a teachable moment.

Diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome when he was 9, the 23-year-old St. Louis native spoke for nearly an hour with a mission of teaching tolerance. Invited by Carmel Catholic High School's Diversity Club, he spoke to an assembly Monday at the school in Mundelein.

"This is an absolutely crazy disorder, absolutely crazy," he said. "But it's also completely involuntary on my part."

The neurological problem causes bodily movements called "tics," according to the National Tourette Syndrome Association. In addition, people with TS have vocal tics, including throat clearing, shouting, barking and other random noises.

Trying to explain what TS feels like, Elliot likened it to an itch.

"You know what it's like to get an itch on your arm or back. Your first instinct is to scratch it, right?" he said. "Well, imagine you have 10 to 15 different itches at the same time. And imagine that even though you scratch them, they come right back."

Contrary to popular belief, Elliot said fewer than 15 percent of people with TS utter obscenities or racial slurs. However, Elliot is in that group.

"If there was one thing I could change, that would be it," he said. "People get extremely offended, and rightfully so. But it is completely involuntary on my part. That is hard for people to understand and accept. The positive thing that has come of all this is that I've really seen the importance of tolerance in our society," he said. "We need to live and let live."

Elliot's message resonated with junior student Bridget Egan. "I thought his personal stories were not only emotional, but funny too. He really kept our interest," she said. "He reminded us that we shouldn't make assumptions about people. That's something that will stick with me."

TS was discovered in the late 1800s, but its cause is unknown and there is no cure. Most people with TS get better as they get older. As many as one third of patients experience remission in adulthood. Nearly 100,000 Americans have TS.

While it would be easy to feel sorry for Elliot, pity isn't on his radar screen.

"I'm not sharing my story to get sympathy," he said. "The stories show that people make assumptions about each other without knowing that person. Tolerance, tolerance, tolerance."

- Daily Herald

"Greek Life brings alumnus back to speak on diversity, tolerance"

April 22, 2009
By John Scott

Elliot, whose visit is sponsored by the Greek Life Office, Women�s Panhellenic Association and the Interfraternity Council (IFC), has Tourette�s syndrome and an intestinal disorder called Hirschsprung�s disease

�The thesis of my speech is basically that I try to convey the value of tolerance and the basic attitudes and behaviors that allow it to flourish,� Elliot said.

�His message is quite serious, but he presents it in a very light-hearted way, so it really allows you to connect what his message is and it really allows you to hear a perspective that you don�t really get to hear about a whole lot,� said Ryan Jasen Henne, director of Greek life.

Elliot said he is excited to be back at the University.

�The last two months, I�ve been all across the country, speaking to complete strangers, so it�s really neat to be able to talk to a group of people who know who I am.�

Elliot believes all attendees will benefit from his speech and from learning about his experiences in dealing with Tourette�s.

�A lot of people didn�t know me personally, but they knew there was a kid with Tourette�s on campus because it�s very visible,� Elliot said. �I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised, thinking they might know me, and realize there�s a lot you don�t know about people.�

Elliot�s speaking career has taken him to middle schools, high schools, colleges and nonprofit organizations across the country.

�It�s really has been a wide range of audiences, and each time, depending on the audience, I try to make it conducive for that type of audience,� he said.

Henne said the speech fills a gap in discussions on campus, since disabilities often do not come up in discussions about diversity.

�It is a serious topic that doesn�t really get a lot of air time, so to be able to educate people on Tourette�s syndrome and also on his personal life of being a man growing up in the world with a disability, it�s something that not a lot of people have had a whole lot of exposure to,� Henne said.

Junior Kevin Smith, IFC president, said there were several reasons why members of the University community would benefit from Elliot�s program.

�I don�t think there�s any one specific reason for [students] to attend. His speech is a positive message basically good for anyone to hear,� Smith said.

According to junior Amanda Coppock, WPA president, Elliot�s visit is the result of a collaboration between multiple campus organizations.

�The WPA and IFC and all the exec boards sat down, and we talked about it and decided for any community, it�s important to talk about diversity, and this was a great way to do it. Marc talks about a really unique part of diversity that I don�t think gets discussed in depth all the time,� Coppock said. �We decided it would be an excellent event for Greek life and the Greek Life Office and WPA and IFC to host for the entire Wash. U. community.�

Coppock believes the University already does a good job in addressing tolerance and diversity but thinks more discussion can always be beneficial.

�I think that our campus tries to be really progressive and tries to have a lot of conversations about diversity and important issues, and this is another way of doing that,� she said.

According to Henne, the Greek community has a special connection to Elliot, who was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon, but Elliot�s message applies to a much broader audience.

�For us, he is a Greek man, but the cause that he represents and the issues that he�s going to speak about really do speak and transcend all boundaries of race, gender, ethnicity, etc,� Henne said. �It�s truly an opportunity for us in Greek life to be a frontrunner in presenting to the campus-wide population an issue that affects people of the world.�

Henne believes anyone can rally behind and discuss the issues Elliot will address.

�We�re hoping what�s going to happen is that people are going to hear this message and start having more conversations about it,� Henne said.

- Student Life - Washinton University in St. Louis

"Tics, compulsions and tolerance: Young man faces Tourette Syndrome with humor and openness"

February 18, 2009
By Andrea Waxman

Imagine yourself as a student in a classroom with an uncontrollable urge to blurt out the word �boring� over and over again. Or in an airport � but now the word you can�t stop yourself from repeating is �bomb.� How about in a Greyhound bus and the word erupting from your mouth is �nigger�?

Such compulsions and their consequences are just part of the challenge that Marc Elliot, 23, wrestles with everyday. They are caused by Tourette Syndrome, a neurological disorder, accompanied by obsessive-compulsive disorder, which drives Elliot to involuntarily think of and say the riskiest word or phrase that he can think of in a given situation.

Elliot has experienced all of the situations described above. In fact, in the Greyhound bus incident, which occurred when he was 16, he was thrown off of the bus on his way home from camp and the police were called.

In addition to such verbal tics, some of which are insulting words and others are barking and other sounds, Tourette also causes motor tics. The most noticeable of these, at this stage, for Elliot is a reflexive facial spasm in which he repeatedly and forcefully snaps his teeth together.

Last week, on Tuesday evening, Feb. 10, the St. Louis native spoke to some 100 teens and adults at The Shul East in Bayside. His audience included teen volunteers of The Friendship Circle of Milwaukee, a Lubavitch of Wisconsin program that pairs local teens with children with special needs. The program was part of the group�s disability awareness training for its volunteers.
Not a victim

Telling people openly why he has tics is one of Elliot�s most effective coping strategies, he said. It is also his way of promoting tolerance in the world.

An attractive, poised and articulate young Jewish man, Elliot described the trials of life with Tourette Syndrome with humor and frankness.

He was diagnosed with the disorder at age 9 after his father read an article that described his symptoms � blinking, eye rolling and repetition of phrases � that began to manifest themselves when he was 5-years-old. Since his diagnosis, he has been treated with hypnosis, biofeedback, prescription drugs and Botox injections in his head and neck, the latter of which stopped the intense head shaking he suffered between the ages of 10 and 13.

But Tourette Syndrome is not Elliot�s only physical disability. He explained that he suffered from a severe gastrointestinal disease called Hirschsprung Disease for which the only treatment is surgery. As a result of many surgeries, he no longer has the disease, but he now has only four of the original 25 feet of large intestine the human body normally contains.

One result of this, he said, is that everything he ingests passes through his system very quickly and in a completely liquid form. Though, unlike Tourette Syndrome, the effects of this condition are not visible, Elliot said, they are much more of a challenge.

In a self-effacing and comic style, he quipped, �I might be one of the only people in this room who has his own rectal therapist.�

The subtext, throughout his presentation, was that he chooses to live his life not as a victim, but rather, as a typical 23-year-old, as much as possible, and as an advocate for himself and others with special needs.

�Overall, I lead an incredibly normal life,� Elliot said. Prior to college, he took drama classes and at Washington University, where he majored in biology, he participated in sports, belonged to a fraternity and studied in Italy.

Though it may not seem so to most who hear his story, �There have been some positive aspects� to these challenges, despite the stress they have caused, Elliot said.

The Tourette Syndrome, especially, has given him the chance to see how people react to those who are different. And he has taken the opportunity to explain that whatever people may think when they observe his symptoms, he is not retarded, crazy or someone to fear.

As Jews, he noted, we, too, are different from the majority. His central message is, don�t make assumptions about people. Accept that they have reasons for the way they behave and be tolerant.

Though he is allowed, by law, to go where he wishes, Elliot said that he does not always ask others to tolerate the noises he cannot help making.

For example, when he attends a play or a movie, he sometimes stuffs a washcloth into his mouth to muffle those sounds. Though it�s uncomfortable, he said, he needs to be tolerant of others� needs if he expects them to tolerate his.

Elliot is taking his presentation on the road this spring and summer, and if it goes well, he may continue to speak through the summer of 2010. After that, he plans to enter medical school.

Elliot�s appearance in Milwaukee was co-sponsored by Jewish Family Services, Inc., and B�nai B�rith Youth Organization.

To see Elliot talk about his experience with Tourette - The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

"Making a Difference"

Fall 2009
By Candida B. Korman

"Don't Judge a Book by its Noises' is the title of 24-year-old Marc Elliot's entertaining motivational speech. A recent graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, Marc's plans for medical school took a sharp turn in a new direction when his speaking career took off. He's become a sought after speaker on the college circuit and for wider audiences in community and business group settings. Marc addresses the challenges he's faced with Tourette Syndrome, but his message is the broader goal of spreading acceptance - of oneself and of others. Judging from the great responses he's received in the press, including a rave review from the the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Marc will be taking his unique mix of messages and fun to new and larger audiences for a long time. Marc's take on 'live and let live' challenges people to look deeply into their own lives and to examine their own perspectives. "Living with TS, I have learned firsthand what it means to be so different than everyone else. And from this dfferent perspective of life, the greatest lesson I have learned is the importance of living your life, while at the same time letting other people live theirs." - National Tourette's Syndrome Association Quarterly Newsletter

"Washington University in St. Louis Referral"

July 31, 2008
By Jill Carnaghi

I am delighted to lend my support to Marc Elliot's ability and skill as a motivational speaker. I first met Marc at a scholarship dinner in 2004 when he was a freshman at Washington University in St. Louis (WU). During his four years as a WU undergraduate, I saw and interacted with Marc on an informal and fairly regular basis.

Marc is one of the most optimistic, upbeat, can-do individuals whom I've had the pleasure to get to know. From my first meeting, Marc was very forthcoming about his Tourette's and really worked to put others at ease. He would take the lead in explaining this disorder to his peers in a way that invited questions as well as acceptance and understanding. I had no idea until the end of his senior year that Marc also suffered from an intestinal birth defect. A whiner...Marc is not. He quickly became a most active and involved student leader: joining a fraternity, being selected into a sophomore honorary, studying abroad, assuming leadership roles within his fraternity, participating in community service activities. I provide this context for you to understand that he not only speaks well, but he also "walks the talk." Marc is a role model for others, and his peers looked up to, accepted him, and respected him and what he did while he was a student here.

If you're looking for someone to tell a poignant story with appropriate humor and to have folks walk away reflecting on what was said and how it has significance in their own lives, Marc would be a great choice. Marc is simply a delight and by telling his story, he covers topics related to celebrating diversity making the most of what you have and who you are, and acting with grace and dignity under just about any circumstance. I highly recommend him. And I am more than happy to answer any questions you have regarding Marc as a good "fit" for your audience. - Jill Carnaghi

"Blair Academy Referral"

June 2009
By Dr. Martin Miller

April is not the cruelest month! On April 28, 2009 Marc Elliot spoke at the Society of Skeptics series, a weekly evening forum for lecture and discussion, and stunned the packed auditorium of students and faculty with a wonderfully evocative, personal tale and heartfelt call for tolerance. Any number of students stayed well after the 8:00 PM conclusion to speak further with our guest; many students wrote to him as a follow-up to the program. Why the unique reception for someone speaking (and demonstrating!) about Tourette's syndrome? Well, he grabbed everyone's attention by being brutally honest, hilarious (no hiding of embarrassing moments ) and, perhaps most importantly, he rose above the story of a young man facing serious hurdles to make a plea for all those who are mistreated and bruised simply because there is a lack of understanding about their condition---or religion, race, you name it. I invited a wide variety of guests to this year's lecture series, some twenty three writers, filmmakers, soldiers, protestors, scholars, newsmen, athletes, et al. I'd consider the 2008-09 program arguably the most successful since I began directing the project in 1985. And Marc was at the top of the list in terms of rousing students to ask questions and having them leave the auditorium just a bit more sensitive and informed. It really was a joy to host Marc. After 25 years, I usually divide lecturers into basic categories: interesting or boring, easy to deal with/difficult to host. Marc made things easy on both scores. He connects with people, all sorts of people. I was one of them. In short, I recommend Marc Elliot as a speaker at any and all schools: public, private, high school, university, etc. On second thought, he would also be a fine selection to lecture at local clubs and to other civic groups. And, yes, I will invite him back to Blair to find out more about the challenging life and times of Marc Elliot. I expect a standing room only crowd!
- Dr. Martin Miller

"Washington University Brother Overcomes Challenges, Inspire Communities"

Spring 2006
By Eric Wasserstrum

There was something noticeably absent from the recruitment event at the chapter house last week. The air was filled with echoes of small talk and the motion of brothers and rushees alike. Unheard, though, was a sound that has become part of the chapter over the last semester.

The familiar ring from Marc Elliot '08, is the result of Tourette's Syndrome. The condition, which he he has had since childhood, is characterized by uncontrollable vocal outburst and involuntary physical motions.

Marc was out of the chapter house that night. He was, as he often does, giving a motivational speech. That Friday, he was addressing the St. Louis Tourette's Association.

Outspoken Brother

Marc regularly speaks to audiences about the challenges growing up with Tourette's syndrome and how he succeeded in the face of adversity. Being a native of St. Louis he has spoken at the Missouri Teacher's Conference and to over 20 local schools about making students comfortable in the classroom and creating an environment conducive to learning.

Marc's active involvement in the local community is matched by his participation in SigEp. He is currently spring recruitment chair and, after winning second prize for a freshman in the Balanced Man scholarship last year, was appointed to this year's BMS committee.

While his roles in the leadership of SigEp are impressive, Marc's personal impact on the Fraternity tells a more compelling story. He brings with him good cheers and an encouraging outlook on life that radiates a positive influence on the brothers around him. He lives by the principles he speaks publicly on, and the chapter is better off for it.

In school, Marc is majoring in biology and is on the pre-med track. He wants to become a pediatric surgeon, a goal inspired by Dr. Jessie Ternberg, the doctor who saved Marc after an intestinal birth defect threatened his life. The intestinal abnormality left Marc in the hospital for the first six months of his life, and in and out of the operating room until he was four. Despite the residual complications of the defect, Marc lives a remarkably normal and healthy life.

There was, to be sure, some initial concern about Marc's potential place in SigEp. It was perhaps unclear to what extent his condition could effect his participation in all aspects of fraternal life.

These misgiving were, to say the least, grossly misguided. But, to attribute Marc's success in the Missouri Beta Chapter to a good-natured brotherhood would be to give the latter too much credit, and the former not enough. Marc is a brother not because we have gone out of our way to make it so, but because he has.

Marc's challenges do indeed set him apart. But it is a pleasant irony that, in so distinguishing Marc, his traits now make him more noticeable in absence rather than in attendance. That is why we do not say that Marc "fits in" here - as if his place in the chapter is so artificial that it requires continuous reinforcement. Marc's place in the chapter now is so natural that, like last Friday night, we are only reminded of it when it is missing.
- The Journal of Sigma Phil Epsilon

"Saint Louis University Referral"

October 4, 2008
By Dr. Mark Clark

I write to thank you for the presentation that you gave to my Medical Humanities class last week. Everything about your presentation was simply outstanding - it was, honestly, one of the best guest-speaking performances I have witnessed. You speak with honesty and sincerity, and you have a truly remarkable sense of the rhythms of emotion by which an audience may be stirred to sympathetic anguish, laughter, inspiration, and awe. My students were absolutely engaged in and delighted with all you had to say. This is more of a compliment and testimony to your public-speaking ability than you might recognize; keeping college students completely entranced - especially in an early morning course, for an hour and a quarter is not an easy thing to do.

I think what really moved us all them most was the sense of hope and optimism that you embody. You recognize and accept the truth of the circumstance that life has given you, and you ask yourself - with remarkably good humor - "Who will I be now? What amazing possibilities lie before me in life?" You exhibit no bitterness over the challenges that have been placed before you, but you rise to meet those challenges - and you do so with great, sincere delight. You have assumed with dignity and class the prophetic role of "the wounded storyteller" who can tell others, to great effect, the truth about human imperfection, aspiration, and hope.

Please know that I endorse your efforts, with the highest enthusiasm, to share your life story with others. You are an outstanding speaker who has a story that many, many people can benefit from hearing. I hope very much that you will continue to tell your story far and wide. - Dr. Mark Clark





Marc Elliot, named 2011 Diversity Artist & Speaker of the Year, knows the importance of understanding people's differences. He was born with a rare disease that left him with virtually no intestines, and at age nine, he developed a neurological disorder called Tourette's syndrome. He is now inspiring audiences all across the country by sharing his life story to convey the value of tolerance and the basic attitudes and behaviors that allow it to flourish.

Marc's inspiring speech, “What Makes You Tic?” is loaded with timely humor, powerful anecdotes, and fundamental lessons of tolerance to encourage audiences to “Live and Let Live,” leaving audiences motivated, better-informed, and reflecting on their own lives. Marc graduated from Washington University in St. Louis and connects easily with audiences of all ages. He is now based out of New York City.


* To Overcome Adversity and face personal challenges with courage

* To Challenge Assumptions by examining the negative impact of stereotypes

* To Embrace Tolerance by exploring the value of people's differences


*Student Governments, Speaker Bureaus, and Clubs looking to bring an entertaining and exciting speaker to campus

*Faculty interested in learning ways to make their classrooms more comfortable for students with disabilities

*RAs and Peer Advising Groups looking for training that promotes �advocating for oneself� to help overcome personal challenges