The West

The Doug Nathony Allstars.
The Doug Anthony Allstars. Picture: Erik Bergan

Long before Perth's own Tim Minchin became the toast of London's West End with his erudite comedy and rock'n'roll leanings, the Doug Anthony Allstars stormed the UK, US, Europe and Australia, taking comedy into venues previously reserved for rock concerts and holding the dubious honour of being Australia's most loved and loathed comedic exports.

When the crude, rude and dangerous men of comedy called it quits in 1994, performing their final gig at Perth's Regal Theatre, they swore it would be the last time Australian audiences would see them in action.

Now the Allstars are back (mostly) and they have a score to settle.

Original members Paul McDermott and Tim Ferguson have joined forces with long-time collaborator Paul Livingston, better known for his alter-ego Flacco, to once again shock, delight and abuse audiences around the country.

Richard Fidler, the third original member of the comedy troupe, has opted out of the reunion because, as Ferguson says, he has a "real job" as host of ABC radio's Conversations with Richard Fidler and therefore has better things to do.

Speaking in the aftermath of sellout shows in Canberra and Hobart, there is little doubt that Ferguson and Livingston are revelling in the reunion tour.

"As always it is going to be a shambolic caravan of horrors, filled with sweetly sung unpleasantries," Ferguson says with a laugh. "Every rehearsal, every song, every moment of the show will involve the same things - we are settling scores between ourselves.

"People talk about the fantastic teamwork and camaraderie between us but it never existed, it is not going to exist, and we are just on stage settling scores about who said what, when they said it, who bought that Mars bar and who paid for it."

Their anarchic bent may be the same but some things have changed since they stepped off stage 20 years ago.

Ferguson's ongoing battle with multiple sclerosis, which was one of the driving factors behind DAAS' split, has seen him take to a wheelchair for the performances.

Flacco's iconic curl is now a wig, and Livingston, who has been focusing on writing since retiring from the comedy scene a few years ago, quietly confides he has been training with a vocal coach to try to recapture Flacco's high-pitched voice.

"We really make no apologies. We are three broken old men who cannot quite reach those heights anymore," Livingston says. "I was wondering exactly what we had to offer - a guy in a wheelchair, a bald bloke just holding it together with a disc slipped in his neck and old McDermott up there swinging a few punches and not hitting much, but apparently that is a show."

Judging by the speed at which their first Perth performance sold out, prompting DAAS to add a second show, their fans are more than willing to overlook the ravages of time.

Ferguson says while audiences appear to be less ready for DAAS' brand of aggressive and provocative comedy now than they were 20 years ago - "they are more close-minded, more fortress Australia and more worse-dressed than they have ever been" - they have been pleasantly surprised by the number of young people joining the audience.

"We have noticed up to 20 to 30 per cent of the crowd are teenagers and university students, and they know the words, they have already got the T-shirts which they have stolen from their parents and they are queuing up to touch the face of Flacco," Ferguson says. "We go out of our way to offend them because they are a modern generation, so they are a lot more easily offended than they thought."

Ferguson has been working on a new feminist poem for the occasion and there is a good chance they will sing about the joys of loving your pet.

The passing years may have left their stamp but Ferguson laughs at the suggestion that time may have rounded off the sharper edges from DAAS' confrontational style.

"Do you mean have we stopped punching people? Smothering them in germ-infested jackets? Pouring beer all over them? I can't make any promises," Ferguson says.

"(Each show) is terror. It is non-stop terror because we do not have a script as usual."

Livingston concurs. While they are still working on Flacco's role in the trio's dynamic, he delights in finding ways to antagonise his colleagues.

"It is really nice to unnerve Paul on stage because his reaction is to get angry, and I think if you are in the audience you need to take that in to account," Livingston says.

"He still is capable of running from the stage, up 15 rows of seats and attacking somebody."

Perth, you have been warned.

The West Australian

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