Fergus Neal is a stand-up comedian, writer, and filmmaker, and so is a natural fit to be a podcaster.
He grew up in Coburg before moving to Torquay and Geelong in his teenage years. He’s now living back in Coburg and recently attained a Bachelor Degree in philosophy from the University of Melbourne.
Fergus Neal has amassed 73 episodes of his podcast, The Ferg Neal Show, over the last couple of years.
“Podcasts pre-dated getting into stand-up,” says Neal. “When I was 18 and I first moved to Melbourne, I was a comedy rat in that I would just go to shows and talk to these big name comedians and hang out with them and kind of annoy them. So I always wanted to do it.”
The podcast started out as a uni project. Neal was writing for the Melbourne University publication, Farrago, and wanted to make the audio recordings available to the public.
“We just did four episodes with four comedian friends,” he says. “Those episodes did well and then it just lead into itself.”
The Ferg Neal Show began in earnest in mid-2017, but it was initially little more than a maladroit student radio show. However, Arj Barker’s appearance in October 2017 was galvanising for Neal and gave him thematic purpose.
“When I was 16 years old I’d seen Arj Barker do a Comedy Festival show because I was a big fan of him, and up until that point I thought that money and success would bring you happiness,” Neal says. “I come from a working class family, so I thought if I get money I’ll be happy. I remember onstage at the Town Hall in front of 2000 people Arj Barker said, ‘Success hasn’t made me any happier’. It kind of blew me away to hear that at that age.”
Neal and Barker discuss this topic on the podcast episode. “He’s quite an introverted guy but he really opened up,” Neal says. “It’s one of the best episodes we’ve done, talking to him about having depression and then going into comedy and realising it wasn’t going to fulfil him and really it was his connections with friends and family and kindness that would bring him happiness.”
Neal got thinking about society’s obsession with success and happiness and whether or not the two things are even that closely linked. Interviews with musicians Courtney Barnett, Jess Ribeiro and Kevin Morby, comedians Tom Ballard, Nazeem Hussain and Dilruk Jayasinha and various journalists, entrepreneurs, doctors and scientific professionals have followed. Musings on the pursuit of happiness remain a key focus.
“I remember talking to Courtney Barnett and she said, ‘I was as happy pouring beers at the Northcote Social Club as I was sitting at the Grammy’s as a nominee next to Lady Gaga’. It doesn’t bring a deep happiness, that pursuit of success. I think people in artistic disciplines have that mindset of, you know, once you have that particular gig or that particular show, you can rest. But it doesn’t stop. I think people are looking for it in places where it’s not going to be found.”
Neal has learnt a lot about happiness from hosting the podcast and he’s applied these lessons to his own life and creative practice.
“When I interviewed Marc Randolph – he was one of the co-founders of Netflix – he had a good juxtaposition. He’s worth $400 million but he said travelling through Southeast Asia and seeing people who didn’t have much, they weren’t in complete poverty, but they had family and they had that connection with friends that brought them more joy than some people he knows in Silicon Valley.
“So it’s affected my life in the sense that I’m pursuing what I want to pursue as opposed to letting external factors shape where I want to go.”
Subscribe to The Ferg Neal Show on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. Visit thefergnealshow.libsyn.com for more information.