Shane Jacobson: Acting Up

August 21, 2016
On his appearance in the short film, Apprentice Of The Year – which is screening at The CinefestOZ Film Festival – we chat to Aussie legend, Shane Jacobson, about acting, TV, and whether funniness is stored in fat cells.

You’ve been acting and performing from a very early age. Is that something that you’ve always wanted to do? “I was surrounded by it right from the beginning. My mum taught dancers, so from the age of five or six, I was on a bus with 48 dancers travelling around country towns. My dad came from a carnival background, and they were basically carnie folk. My dad used to do stand-up comedy, and my brother played the drums, and my sisters danced. If I wasn’t doing it too, it would have been weird.”

Where does acting fit into all of that for you? Or do you see it as just part of the greater sphere of performing? “Acting, dancing, singing and entertaining was the thing that I wanted to do all along. I thought of that as the spine of what I wanted to do. But I know a lot of people, and none of them own a big house, or are financially stable, from acting. My dad would say the same thing to my brother [Clayton Jacobson, who co-wrote and directed Kenny] when he wanted to do directing. Dad would say, ‘I know a lot of people – pilots, doctors…I’ve met them all – but as far as a successful director, well, I don’t think that I’ve met one, or even met anyone that even knows one, so it must be pretty hard. You better really want to do it, or make sure that you work hard because it must be pretty difficult.’ But acting was all that I ever wanted to do, and if someone was going to pay me just to do that from day one, I would have never got distracted and done all the other things that I’ve done throughout my life. Even now, in terms of getting projects up, I’m not going to sit back. It’s not in my nature. I shouldn’t be sitting back at home in a lounge chair with the opinion that someone should bring me my next script! You’re not always going to be the favourite, plus I always want to be busy. I like to create, and I like to create from a nuts and bolts sense as well.”

Shane Jacobson in Apprentice Of The Year

Shane Jacobson in Apprentice Of The Year

Can you tell me about the TV presenting with Top Gear? Where does that fit in with the acting and creating, and everything else? “It’s a bit like being a parent of four kids, you know? No one is taking any of them away; I’m just not going to let it happen! You’ve heard every cliché, but let’s just boil this down until we get to the broth – I just like them all! They’re just different. It’s like meat pies, cheese, chocolate, and strawberries. Do you have to choose? Can’t I just make that decision when I get up? When I get to next week, I might feel like a pie, but hey, I might feel like strawberries!”

In Australia, it’s obviously tough for actors, but do you worry about doing something like Top Gear, or appearing on TV commercials. That it might change people’s perceptions of you as an actor? “You do have to be very mindful of that, because as we know, a lot of things are about perception. Top Gear was essentially me being documented doing my hobby. I don’t really consider myself the presenter of a car show, and I won’t be doing it forever.”

Shane Jacobson hosting Top Gear Australia

Shane Jacobson hosting Top Gear Australia

You did a weight loss campaign with Jenny Craig. What sort of response did you get? Are people like, ‘Don’t do it! We like you the way you are!’ Has it been like that? “If I had to boil it down to one question people ask, it’s ‘Is funny stored in fat cells?’ Are they suggesting that I won’t be funny? I don’t think that funny is stored in fat cells, but people do get that idea that I’m just that big loveable guy or that big funny guy. There’s an emotion that comes with that. You know, would Santa be as much fun if he was thin? But people like Jerry Lewis and Jerry Seinfeld and Robin Williams can prove that comedy is, in fact, just comedy. Whatever can make someone laugh, can make someone laugh. It hasn’t been a big concern of mine, because I do first and foremost, above everything, consider myself an actor. Acting is definitely the thing that I want to be known for. Comedy is something that people might expect me to do first and foremost, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s something that I aim for. I guess that if someone said, ‘Alright Shane, you have to choose one title and do one thing in your life from this day forward,’ my answer would be to act. So from that point of view, losing the weight might just bring me different roles. But look, I’m still not a small guy! If I’m walking down the street, people aren’t bumping into me, going, ‘Get out of the way, twiggy!’ I don’t get sent scripts that now say, ‘A stick-like character enters frame…’ That’s not happening!”

Shane Jacobson in Kenny

Shane Jacobson in Kenny

Are you and [your brother and Kenny director] Clayton astounded at how successful Kenny was? I know that you guys worked really hard on the marketing and did everything from the ground up, but are you just astounded by how successful the film and the character have been? “Yes, we’re still absolutely astounded. Clayton always says that no one sets out to make a bad film, the same as no one sets out to raise a bad child. You undoubtedly set out to make a great project that you want people to enjoy. But you can never go, ‘Mate, we’ve got a smash hit! This is it!’ I went on tour promoting Kenny for seven months, and it is without a doubt the thing that has afforded me the chance to act how I wanted my whole life. It is now my full time job. At the moment, I don’t have to worry about landing on one of those cushions and mattresses that I laid around me in the form of other skills. It’s amazing how much people still quote Kenny to me, or yell out, ‘Hey, Kenny!’ when I’m walking down the street. Without a doubt, Clayton and myself have to forever thank him – the character, Kenny – for our careers.”

Apprentice Of The Year plays at The CinefestOZ Film Festival, which runs from August 24-28. To buy tickets to Apprentice Of The Year, head to the official site.

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