Rove McManus began his career as a stand-up comic in his home town of Perth and has since become popular across television and radio. He has won 16 Logies, including three gold statues for most popular personality on Australian TV, and now hosts the Rove and Sam Show on 2Day FM, alongside former Bachelorette Sam Frost. McManus, 42, chats to me about working in breakfast radio, fatherhood and why it pays to listen to your wife.
When did you begin to realise that people found you funny?
I’m not really sure I could say I knew specifically when people found me funny, but I certainly know it was in high school that I first became aware that I could use my humour to my advantage with regards to warming teachers and classmates to me. I certainly know that joking around and being a little bit cheeky in that regard allowed me to hand in the odd homework assignment later than its due date without getting into trouble.
What do you like about making people laugh?
It’s nice to think you can use laughter to brighten someone’s day and send them home feeling a little better than when they arrived. Early in my career in Perth I was booked at a comedy club that had a low crowd turnout so they decided to cancel the night. One audience member pleaded for them to stay open as he’d a really rotten day and needed to be cheered up. My friend and I took it in turns to do our routines. He went home thanking us for giving him the uplifting night he needed. But to be honest, we got so much out of it ourselves by feeling good about making his day better. It’s hard to say who got the bigger buzz out of it.
Why did your sister start calling you “Rove”?
I really don’t know. And neither does she. It’s a story that’s lost to the ages as I’ve pretty much been called that all my life [he was born John Henry Michael McManus]. Even the earliest home movie footage has me being called Rove in it. We have theories as to how it may have come about but the stories are pretty boring and they really are just that: theories.
Did you always know you would work in entertainment?
Not necessarily. I think in my high school yearbook I listed my hopeful future occupation as “actor or cartoonist”. In many respects, if I could have ended up getting into animation voices out of high school, I’d have been perfectly happy. And as much as my life and career took a slightly different turn, now I have recently found myself voicing characters in two series for Cartoon Network [Exchange Student Zero and Monster Beach] as well as the movie Finding Nemo – and that won an Oscar, so, you know, you’re welcome, Pixar. It’s good to know I got there eventually. I’d hate to make a liar out of my 17-year-old self.
Is it easy for you to wake up so early for breakfast radio?
No, but that’s why God invented alarms. While there’s a part of my brain that struggles to wrap my head around the fact that it’s technically still night time when I get up, the upshot is that the traffic’s pretty good at 4am.
What does Rove and Sam show have that others don’t?
I’d like to think we bring empathy and heart. We have a segment on our show called ‘Judge Free Zone’ which has also become a mantra for what we stand for. We don’t want to be sensationalist or mean or unwelcoming but instead choose to be relatable, good natured and hopefully make you feel like we’re a couple of friends you can hang out with at the start of the day. We’re also able to switch from having fun with guests like Jack Black, Pink or Chris Hemsworth to laughing with callers telling us funny stories … then switching gears into deeper issues … And it’s not done to get a splashy soundbite or be controversial for the sake of being controversial, but instead coming from a place of genuine inquisitiveness and a willingness to entertain and inform.
What is it like working with co-host Sam Frost?
She’s like bottled sunshine. If you had to pick any single person to spend three hours locked in a fishbowl with at that early a time, Sam is the person you would want. She is as sweet and delightful as you would hope, and as heartfelt and endearing as you’d expect. Despite our differences in sex, age and levels of experience, we have so much in common with our attitudes and views on life that make for a supremely easy connection on air that also is based in a true friendship off air. There’s a really nice brother/sister bond between us and I’m so excited with the prospect of watching her career grow.
How did it come about to work together? Was it your choice?
No, it was my wife, Tasma, actually. Like many people, we had been watching her on The Bachelorette and had not only become enamoured with how well she came across on the show but also had been especially taken with how great she was when doing interviews outside the show. While in the process of looking for who I could do the radio show with, we were watching Sam on The Project and Tasma said, “What about her?” While I wholeheartedly agreed, I just assumed Sam would be on a contract to the network … As it turns out, not only was she available but obviously turned out to be a perfect fit too. Another reason why it always pays to listen to your wife!
What do you find most difficult about radio compared to TV?
For the most part, they are fundamentally very similar, I find. I guess the major thing I find most difficult with radio is the shortness of time you get to talk. I guess I just like the sound of my own voice [laughs]. Whereas with TV, you can get up to 15 minutes of time between ad breaks, with radio it’s usually no longer than four minutes before you hit a song, ad, news or traffic, and sometimes that is a time constraint that is difficult to work with.
Will you ever return to TV?
We’ll see. I’m certainly happy doing the radio show but TV is obviously something that I love, so we’ll see what the future holds.
You have won numerous Logie awards. Where do you keep them all?
Somewhere that I’m not going to tell you.
What is still on your bucket list to achieve?
I’m still waiting for that action figure.
What do you do in your spare time?
With a new little two-year-old running around, there seems to be no such thing any more. When I can I like to get into the water, though. I actually had a moment where I got a window to give myself a fun snorkelling adventure in Gordons Bay recently and had an incredibly rare treat of seeing a green sea turtle and took some photos of it. It was a very special moment that was very quickly ruined when I swam face first into a bluebottle jellyfish and got stung all over my ear, neck, arms and legs.
What is the best bit of fatherhood?
As much as I’d like to say it’s seeing this little being that you had a hand in creating running around spreading joy wherever she goes, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that you can mould your child to pretty much be an excuse to enjoy all the things you like in life. Ruby knows what a dalek is from Doctor Who and can even make the noise… even better yet, I have her hooked on David Attenborough documentaries. While other kids her age are probably watching the animated movie Madagascar, she’s watching the Attenborough series of the actual island of Madagascar and gets upset when his commentary stops. She’ll look at me and say, “Man start talking again?” I couldn’t be prouder.
Where do you and Tasma go for a special night out?
We’re at a stage in our lives where a good night out is probably staying at home while we Netflix and chill – in both senses of the phrase. We did have a night to ourselves recently, though, where we just got some Thai takeaway and a bottle of wine and just sat by the beach listening to the waves crashing in the dark while we just sat and chatted. It was nice.
WE WENT TO The Tilbury, Woolloomooloo
WE ATE beetroot carpaccio with feta and sourdough croutons; yellow fin tuna tartar with pickled ginger and Nori rice cracker; Hiramasa Kingfish carpaccio with seaweed, chili and miso dressing.
WE DRANK sparkling water and Heart Wines Pinot Gris 2015.