$500 per week.
That was the budget for “The Loft Live,” Australian entertainer Rove McManus’ first television show, which debuted on Melbourne’s Channel 31 in 1997. The budget from RMIT University was a pittance to be sure, but hardly unusual in the world of community access.
McManus was able to stretch his dollars and the late night variety show, which consisted of guest interviews and taped skits, became a small hit that ran for eight seasons.
McManus leveraged his success to break into mainstream television. He was a roving reporter on Foxtel’s “In Fashion,” hosted by Hugh Jackman but, in 1999, Network Nine decided to translate the formula of “The Loft Live” into a prime time series.
“Rove” was cancelled after 10 episodes, but effectively returned as “Rove Live” the following year, on another network. It would last until 2009, again becoming “Rove” in 2007, following a brief hiatus after his wife’s death.
The aftermath of “Rove’s” last season saw McManus go stateside, relocating to Los Angeles. Previous appearances on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” turned into regular appearances, including his 2011 “Rove Across America” sketch.
That name, by the way, was given to John Henry Michael McManus by his sister. Exactly why, he doesn’t know.
In an appearance on Andrew Denton’s talk show “Enough Rope,” he explained: “I’ve never told the story because it’s actually so boring … There’s really no story behind it. I think — my theory is because I wasn’t there to hear how it all happened — is that it started off as something else and just evolved into Rove at the end of it, so they just went, ‘Right, we’ll stop adding to it.’ Although, even now … people still say ‘Rovey’ or ‘Rovey Povey.’”
McManus’s latest U.S. endeavor was “Riot,” an improv competition show held on a sloped floor — the better for pratfalls — and executive produced by Steve Carell. The show was pulled from FOX’s Tuesday night line-up after four weeks, executives stating they would find a new time slot for the series.
Over the course of his television career, McManus has continued to perform as a stand-up, reveling in pointing out the absurdities of societal structure.
McManus will perform at the Parlor Live comedy club July 17-19.