I was pretty excited that Rove McManus was planning to do stand-up again. Itâs been about five years since the last time, Iâm guessing; Rove was about twenty-six then. Is the return to stand-up a reality-check brought about by the big three-oh? Well, Iâm not likely to find out first hand, because Iâm not likely to get an interview with Rove this time round. Not that he needs to do press to guarantee bums on seats.
So instead Iâve dug out this old interview, conducted for Revolver a few years back when Rove took the cast of Rove [Live] on the road for a show they called Rove [Live] Live.
At the time, Rove was the antidote for the sorry state of Australian television, at least as far as comedy was concerned. Little did we know that before long, without having a Daryl Somers to compare him to, people would start referring to Rove as the new Daryl Somers. Bastards. Itâs just not true. Although, truth be told, Somers himself provided an important show. For a while. Itâs just that Channel Nine never knows when to let go of a show (only when itâs doing good, evidently.) Anyway, when Graham Kennedy died, Rove went on the record proclaiming the King of Televisionâs greatness. I have no trouble putting my reputation (such as it is; and you can stop laughing) on the line and stating that subsequent to Kennedy, Rove is the one of this current television generation that comes close to being able to lay a claim to that crown. I said as much four years ago â much to Roveâs evident disdain â and Iâm saying it again now.
And just for the record â whatever Roveâs show in its current prime time slot is perceived to lack that it may have had in its earlier incarnation in a later timeslot on another channel â like sketches and other silly shenanigans â is made up for by the fact that Roving Enterprises makes the show skitHouse. The sketches and other silly shenanigans have merely been bundled together in a stronger, separate package. Anyway, enough ranting. Read an old interview.
Oh, I guess Iâd better link to some tour dates.
Everythingâs Coming Up Rove
First published in Revolver December 4, 2000, according to this bastard website that has posted it without crediting me or linking to my blog.
Bert Newton, Daryl Somers and Andrew Denton now have something in common that goes beyond the fact that each has, at one time, been the funniest television personality ever to entertain Australian prime time audiences. It is this: they have all bantered with Rove McManus on his show, Rove [Live]. Of all the comics taken for a test-run by Channel Nine last year, McManus was the one able to go the distance. He was also part of the team that took Good News Week around for a final victory lap. Thus, it would appear that these people who once were the funniest television personalities are happily accepting Rove as their rightful heir and successor. When Andrew Denton was on the show, you could practically see the torch change hands. It was as though the former were âanointingâ the latter. âIs that a fact?â Rove asks when I put the theory to him. âWas he âanointingâ?â It happened when Rove asked Denton if heâd consider hosting the Logies ceremony again. Denton thought that twice was quite sufficient, but suggested that Rove might well want a go instead. He was very much âanointingâ.
That Rove is where he is and is only twenty-six may be impressive, but McManus himself acknowledges that he had an early start, even if he couldnât quite accept it at the time. Growing up in Western Australia, friends and relatives of the adolescent Rove would insist that he âshould be a comedianâ. Rove, however, was âdefinitely afraidâ of even the thought of âhaving to get up on stage and try to be funny in front of a group of strangersâ. However, he didnât mind acting. âIf someone else had written the lines and they werenât funny,â he explains, âyou could always just go, âblame the playwright, donât blame me.ââ By the time heâd left school, Rove himself was writing the lines with his mates. When they had trouble getting other people to perform their material, they decided, âstuff it, weâll just do it ourselves!â and got themselves onto the local community radio station. Before long, Rove built up the confidence to be funny on stage in front of strangers as he began to work the ânot very big but certainly healthy and thrivingâ Perth stand-up scene. âIt was a great place to start because it was so small,â Rove says. âYou were doing a gig every three weeks, as opposed to one every three months in Melbourne or Sydneyâ
Soon getting to a point where he felt he âcouldnât go any furtherâ, Rove decided to move to Melbourne. He likens his arrival on the Melbourne scene to a âfireworks displayâ that âexploded very quicklyâ. As the new kid in town, McManus was usually lumped with other equally unfamiliar comics, but the difference between them was that whereas the others had never performed before Rove had two years experience and two years of material to his advantage. Therefore, he was noticed from the start. Despite this, however, it wasnât long before he found himself in the same boat as his peers: âI soon hit a brick wall; I was fighting for gigs at all the regular comedy clubs, like everyone else.â Rove recalls that period of his life and career as âenjoyable timesâ but admits that he certainly was not living comfortably: âI soon saw how far a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter can actually stretch,â he says. The lesson this experience taught him: âNever get too complacent; youâre never one hundred percent safeâ â as he was reminded again last year, he says, when his season at Channel Nine came to an end.
The point at which Rove was well and truly thrust into our comedic consciousness was when he was one of a bunch of âup-and-comersâ profiled in a special comedy issue of Juice a little while back. Also present and accounted for were Merrick & Rosso, Peter Helliar and Adam Spencer, who we all knew from Triple J, as well as the familiar Wil Anderson and the somewhat less so (at that stage in Sydney) Corinne Grant. But this Rove McManus guy who was featured had many a non-Melbournian scratching his noggin. Rove agrees that at that stage of his ascendancy, he was âbehind most of the othersâ. Although heâd been on Good News Week like Wil and Corinne, he was not quite âin the regular loopâ yet. However, successful annual appearances at the Melbourne Comedy Festival had brought him to the forefront of that townâs comedy scene and a hosting gig on community television station Channel 31âs The Loft Live kept him there. Live community television was the perfect proving ground for the primetime personality-to-be. When important guests were not turning up late (âone time the guest was so late, it ended up being a brief two-minute interview at the end of the showâ) or failing to arrive altogether (âon our very first show, the guest had just forgotten to turn upâ) there was always the possibility of equipment malfunction to keep Rove on his toes: âOur audio box blew up. No-one at home could hear us so we had to go off air.â
Such strong grounding in live television coupled with the stand-up experience made McManus a natural for prime time commercial television. It shows, not just in his ability to host so well, to be able to work with such a good team and to make it look so easy, but also in the way he appeals to so wide a demographic. McManus himself likens the job to being a bus driver, who is trusted by all the passengers. âThe essence of it is that Iâm having fun,â he says. âIt reflects to the viewing audience that Iâm having fun, and they canât help but have fun themselves because I donât look like Iâm uncomfortable. I absolutely love it.â
Rove reckons that if, two years ago, youâd asked him where he wanted to be in five or ten years time, his answer would literally be what he is actually doing now. âSo Iâve been very blessed in that Iâve been given a lot and achieved it in a relatively short amount of time,â he says. I reckon thereâs more to it than that. When shows like Hey Hey Itâs Saturday and Good News Week had to call it a day, they left a gaping hole that Rove himself claims heâs only âpaved over slightlyâ or âput a couple of sticks and leaves acrossâ to make it look fixed. Nowâs the time, Rove McManus. If visitations from the Three Wise Kings of Comedy is not enough and you need some sort of âJohn the Baptistâ figure as well, then Graham Kennedy must be that man. When he finally returns from the wilderness to give McManus his blessing then weâll know for sure that Rove is the chosen one, sent to save our miserable television-watching lives from eternal damnationâ¦ Meanwhile, thank Christ he still loves to stand-up. For, with all his long-term goals satisfied in the short term, the answer to âwhat do you most look forward toâ is âcoming to Sydney to do live stand-up in a âback-to-basicsâ outrageous comedy revueâ.