Actor Shane Jacobsen may be best known for portraying other people’s stories on film but he’s also a good yarn-teller in his own right.
I’m on my way to interview actor, TV presenter, writer and producer Shane Jacobson and the man’s crazily diverse career had me doing more background research than a down-on-your-luck PI tailing a bounty rich criminal across state lines. With his motor-themed writing and stint as host of The Great Australian Bake Off, I become convinced we’ll be speaking two different languages. You see, I know less about cars then I do about baking and I’m more likely to overcook my engine then whip up a batch of cupcakes. However, it quickly becomes clear we’re both unapologetically geeky bookworms. As they say, he had me at ‘hello’.
“One of my favourite books is Mao’s Last Dancer, the author has such a beautiful soul,” Jacobson begins. I’m surprised…this is ‘Kenny’, the man who found fame playing a Melbourne plumber who works for a portable toilet rental company. Jacobsen continues…“at the moment I’m reading The Full Ridiculous by Mark Lamprall and Richard Wilkins’s biography. I shouldn’t be embarrassed to say it but I loved reading The Hunger Games because it’s so other-worldly.
“I’m an ambassador for the Get Reading program, because I’m just a regular bloke. The guy next door who you might not think spends time buried in a book, but I love to let my imagination run wild. Books are written by the very best of storytellers.”
Jacobson has now penned his autobiography The Long Road to Overnight Success and is sharing the quirky antidotes that took him from obscurity to an entertainment powerhouse. At just 10 years of age he made his way around the Melbourne amateur theatre circuit and at 18 perfected his stand-up comedy routine in theatre restaurants and MC gigs, but his real thirst for performance came from his days as a boy scout.
He was a scout for more than 18 years and took up the motto “always be prepared” to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Clayton who was already a keen scouts member. Together the Jacobson brothers honed their acting and producing skills in the Melbourne Gang Show, a theatrical performance with a cast of young members from local scouts and guides groups.
Family has always been important to Jacobson and even though his parents are divorced, they remain a close unit.
“My dad is my best friend, he just happens to also be my dad,” Jacobson says. “I brought my family along when I hosted the AFI’s (Australian Film Industry Awards), that’s the best part of these events. People say I’m a good family man with my kids and I say ‘that’s because I come from a good family’.”
His big-break came in 2006 when he stared in the critically acclaimed movie Kenny, still ranked as one of Australia’s highest selling movies, before going on to star in Charlie & Boots with Paul Hogan, Beaconsfield, the stage show Guys and Dolls, TV’s Top Gear Australia and, most recently, in the acclaimed series The Time Of Our Lives.
“I’d never considered writing a book to be honest,” he says. “I’d written some car-related articles and then [publishers] HarperCollins said they enjoyed the way I write, because my style is very conversational. I’m very much a yarn-teller and I’ve lived many lives that people were not aware of,” says Jacobson.
“I’ve got no skeletons in my closet. Anything I’ve done that I regret, like forgetting to thank my brother Clayton (Kenny director/writer/producer and co-star) at the AFI’s, we’ve spoken about and moved on from.
“My parents loved it but there are moments from my life I’ve shared in the book that even they didn’t know about. Moments that have been pretty risky, like running around with an unexploded firework in my hand and hoping it doesn’t kill me and some of the rougher times in the western suburbs of Melbourne.”
While Jacobson loved writing the tome that also chronicles his first kiss and the moment he laid eyes on his ‘soul-mate, Fliss’ (Felicity), he’s hesitant about when he’ll next find time to let his fingers dance across the keyboard with roles in the Seven network’s Fat Tony & Co and ABC1’s It’s a Date on the horizon.
With two films also on the go, three young children to chase after and a wife who is finishing a law degree, I have to ask Jacobson how it’s possible to keep all those ducks in a row and still be the friendly guy sitting across from me.
“Everybody uses the analogy of keeping all the plates spinning at once but when you have a lot of plates in the air you have to make damn sure you’re not barefooted, because if one plate smashes you’ll have trouble keeping up the other plates,” he replies. “So I’ve got very good shoes on, so that if one of the plates smashes I don’t cut my feet.”
As our chat draws to a close, he refers to his new book. “You know, when I’m nothing but dust beneath the ground my children and my children’s children will have this book to read and these stories will live on,” he says.
“At the end of the day I just want to be remembered as a good bloke. I don’t want to change the world; I just want to entertain people while they’re in it.”
The Long Road to Overnight Success is published by HarperCollins.