Review: Carry A Big Stick by Tim Ferguson

Reviewed by Jamie Marriage

As a kid born around the end of the Cold War I was exposed to a lot of different influences and styles. I missed the 80’s but took the blast of the 90’s full in the chest. Some of my media heroes are far more of my father’s generation and sadly missed, some I got to grow up with as they rose to power in my own generation. One of those that falls between the two though was the musical group the Doug Anthony All Stars (DAAS for short), a comedy trio starring Tim Ferguson (the good) Paul McDermott (the bad) and Richard Fidler (the guitarist).

DAAS was one of those musical comedy groups that was as true to Australian culture as you could get; self deprecating, abusive, obscene and hilarious. This relatively short lived group, at least compared to many that are still touring decades later, was picking up creative steam when I was born and unfortunately scattered upon the winds by the time I was old enough to get my first glimpse of their material.

Over the last decade and a half I have been one of the many cult worshipers of everything that was DAAS; they were a musical force, creative gods (in the Greek Pantheon, getting up to all kinds of trouble kind of way), and had personalities that etched themselves upon the psyche forever.

All that being said there were a lot of questions awaiting answers regarding the fate of DAAS. Most of the stories they themselves planted in the media about their formation and disassembly were false, half out of mischief, half out of mistrust of the media. And who are we to deny them this form of entertainment.

So when I was given the chance to read Tim Ferguson’s new Autobiography, Carry A Big Stick, I put my hand up so fast I’m surprised I didn’t dislocate my shoulder.

Following one individual from birth to middle age is tricky for people that have never read an autobiography before; the only storyline is that of the individual themselves, every scene usually only gets a brief mention, and the supporting characters tend not to get much of a back-story. This isn’t dense space opera, nor is it a grand epic, but it is able to rub emotions raw and draw you in just the same.

Laid out in acts and split into scenes, much like that of a traditional play, Carry A Big Stick follows the life of one gorgeous man from childhood in the 1960s to the present day. With each successive act a Monty Python style separation of one stage of life to another. And throughout the narrative the silent antagonist follows our hero until he can deny its presence no longer.

The rise and fall of the Doug Anthony All Stars, Tim’s television acting and production career, and his later work as a comedy teacher and author are all covered throughout this four act play. Some of it will make you laugh so hard you’ll have to put the book aside, some has the power to drag tears from your eyes, but every scene is memorable. A precious story of its own to be treasured.

This is the book of one of Australia’s true comedic masterminds. His story told his way, and with all the truth a comedian can muster. What more could be asked from such a man?

  • I can still remember when DAAS exploded onto The Big Gig… those boys had charisma, even the one who played guitar… whatshisname… ;)

    Paul could sing like an angel, but you wouldn’t trust him alone with your grandma…

    Tim’s eyebrows would freak me out… that’s the one thing I remember about him from those days…

    DAAS were unique – there has been nothing like them before or since in Australian comedy… their energy, their aggression, their anarchy, their subversiveness, their subtle glorious beauty…

    Sadly, I don’t think any of them really lived up to their potential post-DAAS… possible DAAS was always greater than the sum of its parts (a bit like The Young Ones in that respect) – and that’s not meant to disrespect any of them either – but they shone so bright for such a short time, like a comedy comet… (a comety?) – how could anyone follow DAAS?

    It was a shock a few years ago to discover that Tim was suffering from MS – a friend I grew up with also has the disease… it’s a bugger – but, like my friend, I know that Tim continues to live a fulfilling life, despite the card fate has dealt him.

    I really should get this book! :)

  • Charlotte

    Can’t wait to read this. I still remember vividly, at age 15, going to see the DAAS farewell tour at the Tivoli. Waiting in the bar because I only had tickets to the second show, and Tim coming in (while Paul did the Santa-fucks-the-reindeer skit all on his own), seeing me there by my lonesome and getting me into the back to watch the end of the first show :). We stayed until the end and waved them all into a cab. Awesome times.

  • Jamie Marriage

    Charlotte & John; Definitely get hold of it. It has been one of my favourite reads this year.

    Helps that I grew up with those guys; I think the more regard you hold for them the more you will get from this…but that can be said about all autobiographies I guess.

Awards

davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 

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