Life in a wheelchair isn't all about challenge and difficulty. Sometimes it can be downright funny.
Comedian Tim Ferguson said he was trying to get through US customs in Los Angeles with fellow members of the Doug Anthony All Stars when he saw a huge queue ahead.
“It was very long, so I tilted the chair to one side and hung my head down and went for it. People looked very frightened. We got through no problem — all I had to do was tilt,” he said, laughing.
The story is an example of the way Ferguson tackles the world: head on, with a wicked smile.
The comedy veteran, who rose to fame as one third of the legendary trio Doug Anthony All Stars in the 1980s and 90s, brings his latest touring show, A Fast Life on Wheels, to Mooroopna next month.
Ever since he was diagnosed with the incurable Multiple Sclerosis at 32, Ferguson has made a successful transition from stand-up to sit-down comedy. He now teaches, writes, directs and produces comedy.
He said he'd had MS symptoms as a teenager but didn't know what it was.
“I had pins and needles and vision problems for a long time. Then a doctor said we'd better get you an MRI. I said, 'what?'.”
As his condition worsened he used a walking stick, then five years ago he took to a chair just as the All Stars were reforming.
Now 55, he shows no signs of slowing down. His latest show takes him to Tasmania, NSW, Canberra and Victoria before arriving in Mooroopna.
He travels with a limited crew — a producer or assistant and a carer that comes in to help.
“Everything is doable,” he said.
“Everybody’s got something. For me, MS is a reminder that a clock is ticking and that you may not have as much time to do the things you want to do as everybody else,” he said.
Ferguson was last in Shepparton for the filming of the 2016 romcom movie Spin Out based on bachelor and spinster (B&S) balls and ute musters, which he co-wrote and directed.
“We had so much fun in Shepparton — they all came and brought their utes — I think we have a hole in the ozone layer just for that film,” he said.
His latest show comes on the back of a live show based on his best-selling memoir, Carry A Big Stick.
He said his new show has a political as well as a comedy edge.
“Most people with disabilities are getting on with life, doing as much as they can. But the way they are treated by society is similar to how women were 100 years ago, when employing women in anything but menial or nursing work was rare — women being executives was considered crazy. This is still the case for many people with disabilities,” he said.
“So I’m working on promoting employment for people with disabilities, and getting young people with disabilities out of aged care facilities — those are some issues this show spotlights in a humorous way.
“The thing with me making fun of having to get around in a wheelchair is it's okay to laugh at this stuff because laughter is the first step to understanding.”
Ferguson defies the challenges of MS and says he will keep going as long as his condition allows.
“I don't 'suffer' MS. It suffers me,” he said.
Tim Ferguson's A Fast Life on Wheels is at Mooroopna's Riverlinks Westside on October 26 from 8pm.
Tickets are available on the Riverlinks website.