Why the Doug Anthony Allstars really split

Truth is out after 15 years

Former Doug Anthony Allstar Tim Ferguson has finally revealed the real reason the hit comedy troupe split up 15 years ago.

He says that was when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis – although he has keep his condition a secret until now, as he did not want to solicit any pity.

In the early Nineties the trio – also including Paul McDermott and Richard Fidler and named after a particularly dour politician – was the biggest act in Australian comedy, and perennial favourites at the Edinburgh Fringe. So they left fans hugely disappointed when they unexpectedly announced they were breaking up in 1995. Fergusson went on to host the short-lived Australian version of Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush, before slipping out of the limelight.

But he said he found the demands of touring too onerous, even before his MS was diagnosed.

In an interview with The Weekly Review in Australia, he said: ‘We ran Edinburgh, we ran the Australian comedy scene. We just hired rock’n’roll venues because they were bigger and we were ambitious. The cost is you do nothing but work. Between shows you sit up late at night and you are writing and rehearsing. Every day off is seen as a rehearsal day, and then we’d be busking on the street trying out material.’

‘[The MS] had been around for a long time, they think since I was 19. Things would just stop working for a while. Sometimes a leg would be a bit buzzy, pins and needles, eyes would go wonky, writing hand wouldn’t work so well. I always dismissed it, as many people with a condition do, as being something weird again, that this must happen to everybody, and we are having so much fun and we just don’t sleep and we work so hard, well, of course you’re going to wake up and feel a bit sluggish, or whatever it is.

‘There were a couple of severe episodes in 1993 on Doug Anthony tours when we were doing the West End in London, which is not the right time to wake up and look like you’ve had a stroke... It would hang around for a week. My leg would go bung, or my arm wouldn’t lift. I figured, “It’s just because I’m tired””. Eventually it was clear I couldn’t remain a Doug Anthony Allstar with whatever this was.’

But eventually Fergusson – who now teaches comedy in Melbourne – did seek medical advice and received the diagnosis

‘It took a long time for me to tell [McDermott and Fidler] because I thought I don’t want people to be worrying about me. I felt I’d let them down so the last thing I wanted to do was say, “By the way, if you can give me some pity that would be really handy

‘It was incredibly difficult because I loved it. And also I loved, and still do, the boys. I disappointed a lot of people and I couldn’t tell them why because I was terrified. I didn’t want other people to know. I didn’t want strangers to know. ’

Click here for the full interview with The Weekly Review.

Here are the Allstars in their heyday:

Published: 17 Jun 2010

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