This fantastic interview was provided by, Sofie Kim, a member of our Friends of CFA Australia program. Thanks to both Sofie and Tim for their time in undertaking this interview for CFA Australia to further highlight how people with disability engage with digital content.
Since the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, how has that changed your comedy – or has it?
It opens up the flood gates of being funny about disability
When you’re in a wheelchair you can joke about it, when you’re not you have to be careful, you’re not punching sideways.
I’m in a wheelchair so everyone can bite me if they don’t like me making fun of them.
And I guess it’s also changed your physical presence on stage
Certainly, it means no-one is scared I will leap down and throttle them.
But they’re still a little bit nervous – I hope.
referring to the days of DAAS who were known for their aggressive, provocative style, and their habit of involving audience members.
I watched your episode on ‘Home Delivery’ (ABC) with Julia Zemiro, and at the end of the show, in true DAAS style you were yelling out at people in the mall in Canberra. (where DAAS started off as busker and built up their following) The people looked intrigued because you’re well known but also a little bit frightened.
Is that the reaction you want? Intrigue yet scared. And has your performance style changed?
Haha yes that’s what I want.
Having a disability kinda changes the topic in terms of a comedic performance because as soon as you roll on [stage], everyone is a little bit nervous because they know you are sitting in a vehicle that’s deeply political and socially incorrect so it’s always fun that moment before I actually talk about or mention a wheelchair or MS. It’s always fun as people sit wondering when is he going to talk about IT?
At the recent show, Motivation for Idiots, I don’t think I really talked about it [the chair] – well I do say “the chair” once.
I’m taking the piss out of motivation and what better way than sitting in a wheelchair, saying I don’t need motivation.
Because for the audience, that’s like WHAT?? He says he doesn’t need motivating…Well geez, what a lazy slack arse weak spine moron I must be. If I do need motivation. Haha [Tim laughs]
In terms of a daily basis what assistive technology, helps you with your everyday life?
I use large font and dictation, so I don’t really write words unless if I have to write words my computer doesn’t know how to spell.
I am able to use a mouse for now.
But it (dictation) really does saves time.
It didn’t exist 3 years ago without any credibility, unless you wanted to send garbled [text] messages in Mandarin.
In terms of getting around, I have a wheelchair which is manual, but I do attach a think called a Smart Drive. It’s an amazing gadget which you attach underneath (your chair) and control it with your wristwatch. You tap the wristwatch twice to start the engine and when you’re happy with the speed, tap it once and it will coast along at that speed. Then if you tap it twice again it will stop.
Is there any sort of technology that you wish would help you even more?
It’s always the littlest things. It would be handy to have a laptop computer that opens up a little easier.
My current laptop is a bit of a wrestling match, because my arms are pretty useless.
My left hand is useless, the right hand is a bit better, but even then…
I (also) think for me, it would be voice recognition across the board.
Every improvement in voice technology will always be helpful.
In terms of MS and being a well-known comedian, you’ve sort become this reluctant hero. Accidental Hero almost.
Yeah, I didn’t really want to be a spokesperson. MS is different for everyone.
When we get together for whatever it is, ie MS gigs, there are people limping, there’s a blind woman in a corner, there’s a guy who is in agony all the time, so we don’t really anything in common.
I wasn’t really drawn to, pointing a headlight at it.
So, I try to keep most of the stuff I do about disability pretty general, so I don’t really talk about brains or (specifics of) MS.
You know if you run a business, you could do worse than hire people with a disability.
If only because it makes the customers feel like they’ve done something today.
It’s an idea I got from a lady who runs Enable, the enable program at CommBank.
She said, one of the good things is when you turn up at a bank to have an argument ie Where is my money, people tend to not shout as much if the person behind the counter is in a wheelchair or is helped by a walker – whatever it is.
Being a bank teller is pretty straight forward.
So, they have quite a lot of people who work for Commbank who have all sorts of disabilities and it makes the customers behave better and feel more like the bank cares.
So, for other disabled comedians, do you have any advice for them.
Use it as a gimmick. You just have to ask yourself, what would drive my disability to distraction? And it’s being mocked.
If you laugh at it then you’re above it.
It makes the audience feel good.
You feel better because you’ve kicked it in the guts.
And It’s better than crying about it!!