Tim Ferguson is one of those household names that everyone knows – either from the Doug Anthony All Stars, Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush or as a stand up comedian (or sit down as he likes to say these days). He’ll be in WA next weekend for two nights (June 7 and 8 at Heath Ledger Theatre) with new show A Fast Life On Wheels. KAREN LOWE spoke to him about the show, World MS Day and his podcast, Made Possible.
You’ve got solo shows coming up next week for A Fast Life on Wheels which is about your life. What can people expect from the shows?
It’s about my life from the very beginning. There’s a little bit of fun in the middle and at the other end, it gets very skinny. Most of the time, I’m talking about everything going great and then you hit a brick wall and then what happens? What do you do? Of course, everyone’s either got a problem in front of them, they’re dragging one behind them or they’re trying to avoid one. Either way it takes a lot of energy. I just find funny ways to explain the best way to keep your head when the whole world is falling to pieces. People have said it’s a bit of a roller coaster ride but at the end of it, everybody seems to feel uplifted. They seem to feel a bit better about their troubles which is what comedy’s for.
And what are some of the most important lessons that you have learned over the years? Good and bad…
A good lesson is don’t panic. I know the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy told us all not to panic and it was a good lesson to learn early on. If you worry about what’s going to happen then it’s usually the worst case scenario that you’ll be thinking about where really; that’s not going to help you at all. There’s a story a mate of mine said when I was worried about what happens to me when my MS turns bad. He said “Well, even if that’s inevitable, think of it like someone on death row. They know that one day, in 10 years’ time, they’re going to be woken up and someone’s going to tie a rope around their neck and they’ll have their neck broken. You can either spend the 10 years worrying about that moment or you can get on with it and one day someone wakes you up and surprise, surprise! Today is the day!”
So it’s kind of how I tend to live in terms of learning how to have a good, positive attitude about MS. MS – it sounds a lot worse than it is. Everybody with disabilities gets used to it – even if you’re completely blind. People get used to it and find out ways to survive and get what they want to get done so it’s usually on the outside where it looks worse. The bad things that happen; well I tend to avoid those most of the time but again, if you try and think positively when bad things happen, the outcome is usually better than you imagined. Doesn’t means it’s going to be good… you do get hanged but at the end of the day it’s like “oh well, it was pretty quick.”
You have the podcast Made Possible where you interview people with disabilities who are changing the world. How have the podcasts been going and who are some of your biggest inspirations from the people that you have interviewed so far?
It’s going gangbusters! I knew it was going to be fun but apparently, they’ve got a huge listenership so I’m really happy for everybody who’s involved. One of the people was Jessica Maloney, a West Australian lady who recently passed away but when she was around, she really was one of those people who, I was telling her and sometimes we’d joke about it, “you are so inspiring Jess.” To be doing partner dancing; right up until her eyesight completely evaporated, she was doing rollerblading. She liked the fact that it scared all the other guys who were at the rollerskating rink. There’s this great video where they’re all just standing there watching in terror as she skated around the place. She was wonderful and a true WA original.
Her guitaring was getting good too. Jessie and her brother provided the theme music for the podcast. Her passing was a total shock. She’s not one where you were expecting to get the call and she’d be mightily pissed off too.
It’s World MS Day on Thursday, May 30 (today). What have been some of the biggest challenges that you have faced with MS and what advice would you give to someone who has been newly diagnosed with MS?
Well, my own challenges are fairly uninteresting. I mean, my legs are pretty crap and my left arm doesn’t raise so well – luckily, I’m right handed. I’m lucky I’ve got a pretty easy form of MS. Some people have it a lot worse. For those that have just been diagnosed, don’t google – exclamation mark. Double exclamation mark. Google is full of misinformation, hysterics and snake oil sellers. You may start to get Facebook messages when people find out. I get them every day and even had some this morning with people suggesting all sorts of whacky things – “fly to Mexico and have all your blood drained and then pumped back in. It worked for a friend of mine!” or “try homeopathy!” I cannot tell those people to get fucked fast enough. I try to be polite but homeopaths I tell to get fucked because it really is selling magic and I have no time for that kind of tomfoolery.
People just need to take their medication as prescribed by a doctor, do their physio and keep moving; keep walking. It’s move it or lose it but other than that, everything else holds itself together. MS doesn’t move quickly.
Disability is usually used in a negative way and that connotation can have devastating affect on people. What would you say to those that see disability as a negative to try and change their views on it?
They should spend more time with people with disabilities. Look at Jessica! If you spoke to her on the phone, it was rare that she would mention (unless she was telling a funny story about a guy who asked why she was wearing sunglasses) that she was vision impaired. She’d tell you how she was going with guitar, going here, going there…
If people are scared of disability, they just need to hang around someone who has one and after a while, you realise that it really doesn’t get in their way. I mean, sure, when it comes time to disco dance, they may not be able to do it but someone has to choose the music.