When Dan Anstey left his established and successful career for a shot in the entertainment business, his parents lovingly (and somewhat sarcastically) called it his gap CAREER. Now, almost ten years on, maybe this gap CAREER has been far more successful than anyone, including Anstey, could have imagined.
If you look at Dan Anstey’s Instagram page, the current comment under his name is: “The only entirely anonymous full-time radio and TV presenter in history.” Yes, that might be the case… for now, I personally don’t believe this obscurity is going to last too much longer.
As the host of the new GO! TV show, Manspace, which hits our screens on May 26, Anstey is sure to become a household name. And if the first episode is anything to go by (I was lucky enough to watch the taping), this unique show is already creating a lot of buzz in television circles.
Yet, Anstey’s start in the entertainment business is a lot different to what most people would expect. A career as a former electrical engineer doesn’t reflect the witty and sarcastic personality many of us have been listening to on radio in Queensland, Nova and now as the anchor of Fox FM’s top-rating breakfast program Fifi & Dave.
“I was a fully qualified electrical engineer and I didn’t like it. No one I worked with liked it, my superiors didn’t like it. I thought, ‘I’m not going to do this for 30 years.’ I was 22 and decided I was going to be the one who takes a bit of a risk. So I quit and decided to wrangle a job in radio.”
Anstey admits his career in radio was a slow progression of convincing people that he was qualified enough to do jobs he clearly wasn’t qualified to do. With each position he used whatever leverage he could to get to the next step. Starting out in a fluoro promotional van handing out Coca Cola and Mariah Carey tickets, with each advancement and new opportunity he moved further and further to his radio dream.
“I immediately loved the spontaneity of radio and how instantaneous you can be with getting something from an idea to being on the air. We could be talking about something in this interview and tomorrow it could be on the radio. I love that spontaneity and that you have a little bit of room to go off script,” Anstey explains.
With a bit of community television in the mix as well, Anstey and his radio partner Leon Murray were approached by The Project to do Friday’s Metro Whip Around, which eventuated into additional packages by the duo about Queensland.
“Prior to doing The Project I had done a little bit of community TV such as movie reviews that were taped in advance. Then all of a sudden I was live talking to Hughesy (Dave Hughes) in front of probably 700,000 people. It’s terrifying and there is no thrill like doing live TV,” Anstey laughs.
After these successful regular appearances on The Project, Anstey and Murray were offered a national timeslot based out of Nova in Brisbane. Then in July 2012, he made the move to Melbourne to join Hughesy & Kate – a move that has definitely paid off.
“I have been really fortunate and not only lucky to find work, but also having the opportunity to work with some really talented and professional people both in front and behind the scenes.”
It is this attitude and down-to-earth humble nature that sets Anstey apart. In a relatively short amount of time, he has taken a risk in a tough and sometimes unrewarding industry and as he puts it “given it a crack.” He has found success with a lot of hard work and is grateful for every opportunity.
It was when Silver Spoon Productions were looking for a host of their television pilot, Manspace, that has taken him to this next level. Anstey believes they wanted someone new, young and easy to work with. Friends Adrian Brine and Amanda Lee from Fox FM knew the team at Silver Spoon and suggested him, and although he hadn’t done much an audition couldn’t hurt.
Never believing he really even had a chance when he was put up as the host of Manspace, he auditioned with this laid-back attitude thinking he had nothing to lose. A big fan of cast member and executive producer Shane Jacobson, he went in and decided to have fun with it.
“I get this call from Harvey (Silver) saying I have sent it to Nine and they liked it, so do you want to do the show? I thought I was getting pranked, I thought this is something that Fi and Dave are doing. Nope, I was asked to come in and this was it!”
Anstey was obviously what Silver Spoon Productions was looking for to host Manspace. A new face with a great attitude that comes through the camera to join the likes of entertainment heavyweights Jacobson and Des Dowling.
“Primarily we wanted someone new and fresh to host the show as we have a lot of established talent in our ensemble cast. We also wanted, as part of the Manspace story, to discover someone new. Dan blew us away in his screen test; he was the right balance of greenness and incredible confidence. There are also a lot of older guys on the show and he is young and balances this out,” explains Executive Producer Harvey Silver.
“Dan has really got something and it is very hard as a producer to put a finger on it, but there is definitely an X-factor quality about him. More than one person has said to me he is reminiscent of a young Eric Bana and if Dan has half the career that Bana has, he will be very successful,” Silver adds.
Manspace the television program is simply as the title suggests – a group of men having a chat in someone else’s impressive man cave. They head out to see some unbelievable and unique spaces across the country, and talk to men of all generations and even a few women to cast some light on certain subjects. It’s light-hearted, informative and a really funny piece of television, which was part of the attraction for Anstey.
“I liked the concept and that it’s also appealing to women. All the blokes are having a laugh, but we also have the discussion panel with a woman’s opinion. I’ve also always been around man caves; my dad is a nut for fixing up old cars and I was an engineer. Some of the stories like the Spanner guy (a man who makes art out of spanners) are just amazing and we also talk about serious men’s issues,” he says.
Anstey admits he is just so proud of Manspace and the way it has come together. There is no other show like it on TV from the concept, to the diverse cast, characters, even the impressive set. The only challenge he feels at the moment is being the new guy surrounded by seasoned professionals.
“For me it’s being so green and being around people that are so amazing, you don’t want to let them down. People like Harvey who has been in the business for so long and Shane who is a huge name. However, the relaxed vibe on the set with everyone from the cast to production is so good, you know if you stuff up everyone is going to have a laugh and you just go from the top,” he admits.
This certainly doesn’t come through on the show as Anstey definitely holds his own. His parents travelled from Queensland to see a taping and proud mum, Janeen, said to her son the former engineer: “Well, it looks like you really know what you are doing.”
After leaving his successful engineering career, Dan’s parents called this time his gap career and over six years ago no-one was more shocked than his professional parents that he was throwing caution to the wind for a career in the entertainment industry.
“The gap career is now longer than when I was at Uni and work combined, so the gap career has worked out pretty good!”