Australia’s favourite and most notorious comedians, the Doug Anthony All Stars, head west for their newest darkly delectable show to unhinge the mind. There’s wheelchair dancing to look forward to, a magic trick in there and some hypnotism. Also – spoiler alert – Paul McDermott has a beard. NATALIE GILES spoke to Tim Ferguson ahead of the show and learned that he is as incorrigible as you would imagine, a lot of fun to talk to, and just generally as wonderful as you would expect. Catch them at the Albany Entertainment Centre on Tuesday, October 24, Queens Park Theatre, Geraldton on Thursday, October 26 plus at three (nearly sold out) shows at the State Theatre Centre of WA on Friday, October 27 and Saturday, October 28 (two shows).
[…after endless amounts of chatting] So I should probably actually ask you some interview questions, huh?
Oh god. Go on, then. “Where do you get your ideas?” I get my ideas because I pull them out of your mother’s rectum. Where do you think I get my ideas? Where did you get the idea to ask that stupid question?
Dammit. I’ll cross that one off, then. There goes half the interview. So come on, tell us about the show next week! Do we get some new songs or all our old, beloved favourites?
No, it’s an entirely new show. Perth’s never seen this one and it’s the one we did for the Edinburgh Festival. We needed to turn around a brand new show for Edinburgh and it was wall to wall sell-outs, we got great reviews and a really good, young audience, which was kind of baffling. But nobody else can offend people like we can. We sold out Shepherds Bush Empire, where The Who used to play. It was a very exciting time, so that’s the show we’re bringing to you. It’s got the themes broaching death, disaster, pillaging and mayhem. It’s got Paul Livingstone mute, just eyeing us both with thinly veiled contempt through the entire show. Paul McDermott trying to keep me from tipping out of my chair, and Paul Livingstone from wandering off because, you know, dementia.
Oh dear. So the debilitated geriatric show comes to Perth?
[laughs] Well, it’s very dark, as they say. When I’m teaching comedy to people, they always say that they want to do dark comedy. This is seriously dark. Of course, it’s very funny, but still dark. There have been people sobbing. There was a guy whose wife left him because of the show!
That’s quite an achievement…
Well, it was because of a little routine that I do and she spoke to him the next day and said “I’ve been thinking about what Tim Ferguson said in that show and I’m leaving you because life’s too short.”
Wait. So, if it’s a new show, does that mean we don’t get all the old songs we know and love?
Yeah! [laughs] All the songs are new, but we might bring back a couple of golden oldies. Hey, Paul Livingstone does some fantastic shredding on his guitar. He’s at the height of his powers. Flacco makes an appearance!
Really? Are you packing him in your suitcase?
Yup, we’ll be packing him in a suitcase – he’s like a muppet. We just attach a bike pump then suddenly there he is! Seriously, you’ve got to inflate the guy.
But no Throw Your Arms Around Me? We’ll cry if we don’t hear it!
Yeah, look, we might bring back a couple of those just to warm the cockles. And the new version? You’ll definitely cry. It’s designed to make grown men cry their eyes out.
But the new show is pretty good. It’s had people laughing, crying, screaming in outrage. At least one person would walk out every night. It’s not an easy show. It’s not something you come along to for a nice quiet night, have a bit of a chortle then a chardonnay afterwards. Our intention is always to rip the skulls off the audience, dig our hands in there and pull their brains out and smash them to pieces. Then blame it on the audience.
So audience victim blaming? They’re dying on the inside while they’re watching you?
Well yeah, they are! Like everything we’ve always done, we don’t want you to be comfortable. It’s more of a report. Every show we do is a fight with the audience, trying to wake them from their slumber. It’s easier in a wheelchair. People are already uncomfortable. We play on it mercilessly. We’re going to hell.
Do you regret any of the jokes you’ve made in the past, pre-political correctness? I know you’ve said that you don’t, but enquiring minds need to know…
No, no!! We’ve always believed in what we say, and our opinion on telling the truth in a way that’s funny. That hasn’t changed at all, so we stand by all of it, even the worst of it and the more horrible jokes that we’ve done. There’s always a kernel of truth in it that we can defend, even if it ruffled people’s feathers. As for political correctness, well, that’s just being non sexist and non racist and to us that’s just a perfectly valid way of living in the world. The political narrowness we won’t tolerate, though.
Look, even if we said “don’t forget to drink your glass of water”, there’s always going to be someone who will write a letter to an editor, or they’ll tweet, or they’ll do some graffiti about what water wasters we are. You just can’t listen to people’s criticisms, which is why we’re still happy.
I think most comedians try to outrage their audiences a bit. We don’t try – we just tell them what we think. And we just happen to think terrible things.
But you deliver it so well!
Well, yes, but now we’re talking about death, destruction and disability, despair, dementia – all the D words – so we’re going to tread on people’s toes but we’re just telling the truth about those things. For example, being a carer is a terrible thing. Nobody likes being a carer. Carers never complain, but in our show, they do.
Yeah! Give them a voice!
That’s right! The carers of the world need to be represented by an angry Paul McDermott.
I think so. He’d like to be everyone’s champion.
So, your relationship with him. He’s really one of your best friends?
Oh yeah! We’ve been hanging around each other for… oh, weeks now!
But surely after all these years you must have had some fights? What does an old married couple like you two fight about?
Well, of course, but that’s what friends do. Most of the time, everything plods along very happily. We usually fight about things that just aren’t important. Songs, for instance. Or I want my wheelchair an inch to the left. “Well, you can’t go to the left.” And that’s where I’ll push back [laughs].
But mostly, we don’t have creative differences, because we’re all after the same thing. There are over a hundred years between us of live comedy, so we don’t have much to argue about.
I know you’re going to hate this question, but you know you hold the title of one of the most worried about Australians right now. So please, how are you doing health wise?
Most worried about? Tony Abbott’s talking about goats and you’re concerned with me? Oh look, MS isn’t easy but what is? I worry about the ugly people. Nobody thanks them. Nobody says “just do your best”. Nobody says, “well, he’s amazing because he’s very high functioning. Considering his ugliness, he’s really quite inspiring.” Nobody ever says that.
Yeah, look. MS is like carrying around a wet sack of coal behind you, but it’s the least interesting thing that I do. But everybody is, and if they’re not, they just haven’t been told what it is yet…
You mean they’re not being told that they’re ugly?
Yeah, yeah! I mean, how many times can you tell a person they’re ugly without causing trouble? You try to focus on the one thing that looks ok, hey?
You’ve got lovely fingers!
Yeah! Your ears are bingles!
I wouldn’t waste my time worrying though. It’s the most useless of all emotions. I do, however, encourage you to send me money. How much, you say? I say all of it. I will buy Star Wars toys with all your money.