1 August 2019
Reproduced with the kind permission of Link:
Comedian Tim Ferguson first shot to fame as part of the irreverent comedy trio the Doug Anthony Allstars before hosting the ground-breaking game show Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush. In 2011 Tim revealed to the world that he was living with multiple sclerosis (MS), but he hasn’t let his diagnosis slow him down. He spoke to Anthea Skinner about his current film project and his one-man show A Fast Life on Wheels.
A Fast Life on Wheels is Tim’s second autobiographical show, following on from Carry a Big Stick, which told of his antics with the Doug Anthony Allstars and his diagnosis with MS.
“In A Fast Life on Wheels I tell different aspects of my story but it’s through the prism of my father being a war correspondent and then coming back and being, well, a trouble maker,” Tim said.
Tim’s father, Tony Ferguson, was a respected Vietnam war correspondent who went on to produce This Day Tonight and Four Corners on the ABC.
“You know the phrase, ‘ABC bias’, my father was the start of that… he was the one who first put a lesbian couple raising children on television. Just living like an ordinary married couple! Australia went mental. He put a draft dodger live on television. He was just a stirrer,” Tim said.
“He came back from Vietnam with all his buddies, Mike Willesee, you know. And they said we’re going to make current affairs different. We’re going to talk about the stuff people are really interested in.
“It’s about sedition, and my career, whether I thought about it or not, has always been about sedition. Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush was sedition. ‘Will you drop your baby daughter’s teddy bear into Sydney Harbour for money? Will you do it just for money?’
“It was commercialism versus family values and family values lost every time. It was only when I was putting A Fast Life on Wheels together that I realised that I’m naturally drawn to saying things you’re not supposed to say.”
Tim said A Fast Life on Wheels is about shaking things up.
“Even though I’ve got multiple sclerosis and I’m in a wheelchair, doesn’t mean I can’t shake things up,” Tim said.
“In fact, it kind of gives me a licence to, because nobody stops a guy in a wheelchair.”
This positive attitude to his disability permeates A Fast Life on Wheels.
“Part of the show is to say, clearly, that I have MS,” he said.
“But the other part is to say that we’re taking the show around the world. We’re off to San Francisco, we’re off to London, I’m doing art exhibitions, I’m over achieving.
“I think part of the show is the sedition of shaking up all the assumptions that people have made about people with disabilities. I think of it as inspirational for idiots.
“To people with disabilities it’s just common sense, I mean how many Paralympics do we have to watch before people realise people with disabilities can do anything? People assume because one thing is broken, that everything is broken. I can’t walk, but I just directed a movie.”
Tim highlights this idea in the show by imagining if bald men were treated like people with disabilities.
“Male pattern baldness, it’s destroying their lives,” he jokes.
“They’ll never have children, their line will die out, employment for bald guys is very low. It’s kind of a joke, but I try and get everyone telling bald guys that they are so inspiring.”
Tim, who wrote and directed the 2016 romantic comedy Spin Out, is also working on a new feature-length film called Galloping Home.
“I’m waiting on (director) Marc Gracie to call and tell me whether my latest draft of act one of our new movie is any good,” he admits, laughing.
“He’ll start by saying ‘It’s good, it’s finished’, but then there’ll be a pause, ‘But I do wonder…’ he’ll say. And there will go a month of my life!”
Galloping Home tells the story of an 11-year-old girl in foster care who has sworn never to ride again after a fall from a horse that left her with a spinal cord injury when she’s placed with a carer living in a run-down polo club.
The film is, at least in part, inspired by Tim’s own childhood.
“I used to have a polo horse, Navajo, and he’s a character in the movie,” Tim said.
“He was gigantic, he was the biggest horse I’d ever seen in my life. It was like riding a steam train.”
When her foster carer’s home is put at risk by a billionaire attempting to take their lease from them, the girl hatches a plan.
Tim explains: “So the little girl says, ‘We’ll play you for it… polo is for everyone, it’s not just for rich people, you play with your heart’.”
He goes on, jokingly: “It’s an Australian drama, so all the good people die, the brumbies break legs and they’ll all get shot…
“Or… the little girl goes back on her vow not to ride and saves her home.
“You’ll have to watch it to find out.”