One of Canberra’s finest comedy exports is returning home to give audiences a fascinating insight into his remarkable life later this month.
Tim Ferguson’s acclaimed new solo sit down/stand-up comedy show, A Fast Life on Wheels, is about his own experiences living with Multiple Sclerosis, and more broadly about getting people to laugh at the problems we face in life.
“I have MS, which is no fun, but we all have to face them and overcome them somehow, and the best strategy I’ve found is to poke fun at problems,” he tells Canberra Weekly.
“It could be male pattern baldness, sore ankles, or just people and just our short tempers; whatever it is, it’s best dealt with by laughing, which is why the show is funny, it’s more effective.
“I could sit there and play a tiny violin but even that would look funny after a minute,” he says.
Ferguson says his show also deals with mortality in a blunt fashion that’s garnered a number of different reactions from audiences.
“Grown men will burst into tears and sob, and then they’ll be sobbing and laughing at the same time.
“Mortality is always a handy topic in comedy because it’s something everyone has in common, apart from millennials, they haven’t quite worked out that it’s coming.
“But for my generation, it’s an important topic because it’s starting to weigh on their minds. My approach is very simple, ignore it,” he says.
Despite acknowledging how difficult it is, Ferguson says he’s found having MS has been “enormously beneficial” to his quality of life for a number of reasons.
“I know what to worry about and what to ignore, so it’s narrowed the focus of my worries. I don’t really worry about first world problems.
“If my coffee is cold, I drink it. If the traffic light is red, I wait. I’m a much happier, more positive and productive person not worrying about the little stuff. People should try it,” he says.
Through A Fast Life on Wheels, Ferguson also seeks to break down the stigma many hold toward people living with disability.
“People with disabilities can be enormously effective; look at Dylan Alcott, the guy is a wheelchair tennis champion, most tennis players wouldn’t be able to do what he’s done.
“People with all kinds of illnesses and disabilities are leading highly productive lives, so we have to change people’s perspective on that, and my show touches on that,” he says.
Ferguson is well known for beginning to forge his highly successful comedy career here as a member of the musical comedy group, Doug Anthony Allstars (DAAS), back in the 1980s.
He says busking with DAAS in Garema Place is one of his fondest memories of his time living here.
“It was always great fun. We set fire to ourselves, we stole people’s handbags and camera, sometimes they never came to collect them … We’d kidnap audience members and demand a ransom – only $2 – but we meant it.
“Garema Place is still a place that looks like the zombie apocalypse has cleaned all humans from the face of the earth, so it was always fun gathering the shoppers and making them dance and sing and cause trouble,” he says.
While in town, Ferguson will conduct his Comedy Writing Masterclass, a one-day course where he explains the fundamental principles of comedy.
“Instinctively, young comedians do it all by themselves, the things that work are the same in any culture, language, any topic at any age, it’s just that they’re human. So my job is just to save people a lot of time guessing,” he says.
Tim Ferguson’s A Fast Life on Wheels comes to The Street, City West on 19 October 8pm; thestreet.org.au
His Comedy Writing Masterclass will run at Ainslie Arts Centre, Braddon, 20 October 9am-5pm; $200 via trybooking.com/BFURM