Chat with Tim Ferguson

Tim Ferguson’s status in the comedy world is among the legends. Recently he’s been donating his extensive knowledge to the up-and comers, who look upon his book and comedy course as gospel. Having spent time with the master, it’s time for me to share what I’ve learned.

I arrived early at RMIT’s television studio on Swanston Street to see the taping of With Tim Ferguson, starring… Tim Ferguson. This is not the first time I’ve met Tim. I am a graduate of his RMIT Comedy Writing short course – which I completed last year. This course was also the base for his book The Cheeky Monkey: Writing Narrative Comedy. There’s a lot we can all learn about comedy from Tim. Whether as a stand-up comedian or as a comedy writer, Tim’s been there and excelled at that.

image from Dirksey

His 25 years in comedy has seen him writing, producing, directing and hosting comedy shows including the Logie Award-winning Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush. He’s toured internationally for over a decade as a member of the Doug Anthony Allstars (along with Paul McDermott and Richard Fidler) which became the biggest-selling act at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for nine years in a row. Both in his book and course, Tim gives you the formulas you need to write stand alone gags to full TV sitcoms.

While the book serves as an excellent guide to the theory, the course serves as a great training ground where Tim guides you through ideas and various ways to give your jokes a punch. When you talk comedy with Tim he explains that a joke works because “the comedy truths are universal.” These 10 fundamental truths can “provoke laughter through affinity, anxiety and surprise.” But beyond the basics, Tim also teaches the linguistics of comedy to help you trim the fat out of a routine. “The economy of words in comedy and sit-coms is crucial,” says Tim. “So it’s about understanding what you don’t need in a joke.” Some of his wisdom may seem like common sense because to an extent, it is.

Tim believes that people all have an innate idea of what comedy is, so what he does is give comedy techniques a name and makes them more tangible so they can be used more efficiently to construct good comedy. If you’re into stand-up or writing comedy and want to get better then Tim’s book or course is a pretty good way to start. The Cheeky Monkey: Writing Narrative Comedy is available via Currency Press.


1. Someitmes it can be useful to pick an enemy in the audience – some of the best comedy comes from anger.

2. Talk about what’s mostimportant to you, because at the end of the day, the audience doesn’t give a shit about the difference between cats and dogs.

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