Tim Ferguson is a well-known Australian comedian and writer. He has performed with the comedy group
Doug Anthony All Stars, has hosted and starred in many TV shows and played the character Frankenfurter in a Sydney production of the
Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Tim now lectures in comedy and screenwriting at RMIT University. In April he performed his show
Carry a big stick at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
Tim has multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease of the nervous system that affects a person's brain and spinal cord. The symptoms of MS were present since Tim's youth.
The symptoms came and went, like teenage sailors on shore leave, since I was 19-years-old. The actual 'Look what you've got diagnosis' was late-90s.
How has MS affected your comedy career? Did you reveal it to your comedy colleagues and the public straight away?
I kept it to myself and a tiny inner-circle. Figured it was nobody's damn business. And it would only freak them out, like any other thing that's a little mysterious and scary (ask any teenage sailor on their first shore leave).
While you say you don't want to educate people about MS, you are educating people about disability by getting out there and living life to the full and remaining positive. What's the importance of this?
When I say I don't feel compelled to 'raise awareness', I mean there are people far better placed to do this. Doctors and medical specialists can provide the public with credible information. Everybody is 'aware' MS exists, and that life goes on.
I live my life at full capacity because that's the way I've always lived. I walk slowly, sure, but I carry a big stick. I travel the globe teaching the craft of writing comedy. I wrote a comedy-writing manual
The Cheeky Monkey to give the keys to comedy to tortured writers. I'm making TV, books, live shows, a movie, and sweet love to a woman whose beauty and brains are way outta my league. I just do it at my own quirky pace.
People with any disability know they have two choices: laugh or cry. The wise ones feel free to do both with as much optimism and tenacity as possible.
If anyone wants to see the way I live as an example for their own life, I can't stop them. But I'm sure they've learnt to rely on their own inner-strength. That's the gift of a disability, it's a good teacher.
How does comedy and laughter help your health?
Doctors don't know why but laughter increases endorphins, adrenalin and blood-flow. It's tied to the fear/flight response somehow. A sense of humour is crucial for anyone calling themselves human. Sex and money comes to those who laugh.
Why do you think it's important to have a positive attitude?
Seriously? Does that need to be asked? Sigh.
Okay. Because life is a crazy, impossibly unlikely miracle. Even the freedom to feel miserable and negative is an extraordinary, wonderful thing.
For all we know, we're the only sentient beings in the galaxy. Most people in the West have breakfast every day, even if it may be through a tube. This makes us part of a minority. That has to stand for something.
Now, please get out of my bathroom.