How do you do “stand-up” when you’re sitting in a wheelchair?
A painfully redundant question if there ever was one of course, but one that is easily answered by a man like Tim Ferguson: Roll out on stage and say something funny, that’s how!
Truth be told, his latest show ‘A Fast Life On Wheels’ is halfway between a talk and a stand-up routine. Tim goes over his career and life, mentioning only what he wants, some things it seems he chose a long time ago to remain private. Yet when it comes to his disease he’s pretty upfront about it in the show, showing a passion to change the perspective of how we view his disease, disability, and ageing in general. It has been quite the journey with a proper diagnosis in 1996 and the first public acknowledgement of it in 2010.
Now in 2019 he shows the challenges of living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) including the help he requires, scans of his brain and the symptoms that rear themselves. Throughout the show he looks over at a tablet to his side during video segments, he later mentions that his memory can fail him as a side effect and so he is referring to notes to keep him on track. Hardly the kind of thing that is unique to people with MS but it does show a willingness to discuss what he deals with.
Those hoping for a terribly poignant reflection of a once vibrant man meeting his disease with dignity will leave disappointed. Tim is first and foremost a comedian, perfectly happy to make jokes at his and anybody’s expense. When the room looks in danger of showing pity he raves on about disabilities like male pattern baldness, mockingly declaring they inspire him. Since his thick wavy black hair has remained intact with only the barest hints of grey, the jokes underlines his point. He relentlessly makes fun of millennials then admits they’ve won an audience participation game. He shows great pride in the rebellious spirit of his work, but also acknowledges past mistakes, stating “You live and learn… And in that order.” For a man who has entertained us for over four decades we might get sentimental... But he won’t.
The material is fresh and nostalgic, with callbacks to his Doug Anthony All Stars compatriots Richard Fidler and Paul McDermott and current riffs on Scomo and Peter Dutton.
There’s a casual way he discusses developments in his career, effusive with praise for colleagues while almost downplaying his own achievements. He’s currently written, produced and starred in countless hours of television, regularly paints, teaches screenwriting at universities here and abroad, been regularly published in newspapers, does podcasts, has written a novel and a memoir, co-directed a feature film and created an orchestral piece. It is true that these are all collaborative ventures but clearly show a man vibrant with ideas and energy, living life to the full.
Which is perhaps the most important thing to take away from Tim’s show beyond all the easy laughs and the heartfelt sentiment: We all have disabilities to deal with but we can. Don’t feel sorry for him, he’s still Tim Ferguson and he’s funny and smart and doing what he loves. Are you? And if not, well then, why are you feeling sorry for him?