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Tim Ferguson: Carry A Big Stick

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

Like John Cleese will always be an ex-Python, and Paul McCartney will always be a ex-Beatle, Tim Ferguson will always be an ex-Doug Anthony All Star. He stakes a credible claim that the band were the first comedy rock stars – a label that extended to their offstage lifestyles, too – and they are still held in high regard today.

Their brash, provocative approach saw them rise from Canberra buskers to being feted at festivals the world over. In Ferguson’s words, they ‘ruled Edinburgh for a decade’, and even managed to anger mild-mannered Canadians when they played Montreal’s Just For Laughs.

But in 1994, Ferguson shocked fans – and indeed his co-stars Paul McDermot and Richard Fidler – when he announced he was quitting the DAAS. The reason, which he only recently revealed, was that he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which first made itself known to him when he had a ‘total spazzo attack’ in his London hotel room one night.

He kept his illness secret for some time. When he hosted the Logie awards, people loved his new deadpan approach – even though he had no choice in the matter. But now he’s ‘out’ as an MS sufferer, he can talk about his career path.

Carry A Big Stick charts the journey, not through any powerfully emotive drama or hard-hitting comedy, but in a casual ‘audience with…’ style environment, as if he’s recounting well-honed anecdotes to an unseen interviewer.

Ferguson is a suave speaker, and peppers his wry recollections with witty turns of phrase, but don’t go expecting a laugh-a-minute stand-up routine. Nor does he play his condition for sympathy, he’s very matter-of-fact about the effect it’s had on his life. He’s not, however, quite so generous about some of the executives on Kerry Packer’s Channel 9, who effectively banished him to a creative wilderness after he hosted the way-too-expensive Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush.

In his middle age, Ferguson has clearly mellowed, the DAAS anarchy long gone. But the sense of mischief remains intact, and he occasionally flashes an edge to prevent the hour relaxing into placid nostalgia. Nonetheless, this amble through his life is gently amiable, and cheerfully upbeat, rather than side-splitting.

Review date: 21 Apr 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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