Many people have thought, at one time or another, that Rove McManus was gay. Even his wife.
Earlier this year when Network Ten was running promos for the new season of Rove Live, one promo featured a previous appearance by actress wife Belinda Emmett admitting she had thought he was gay the first time they met.
As McManus tells it, even now his wife sometimes still wonders. While he has been known to slip on a frock and high heels, slink and sashay around the TV studio, and even host the Mardi Gras coverage, he says the thing which gives her most concern is the bathroom sink in their Melbourne home.
It is more about our bathroom than anything else, he says. We have two vanities, side by side. My side is neater and cleaner and has more skin products than her side. She sometimes looks at it and says, -˜What’s going on here?’ If anyone else walked in, they would think her side was mine and vice versa.
My wife says she also worries that she is the more butch of the two of us.
In this modern age of the metrosexual, 31-year-old McManus is one of TV’s best-presented, best-dressed and best-looking hosts. He also boasts a voice that is best described as boyishly cheeky rather than strictly masculine.
So in pure aesthetic terms, and in trading on stereotypes, there does seem some room for doubt. But if he has any concerns about his image, McManus does not seem too concerned about any gay or camp connotations.
If anything, he seems to relish it, happily telling stories about gay friends who claim he is more gay than they are.
As McManus sees it, it is all part of continuing a tradition of over-the-top camp humour on Australian TV that began with the outrageous antics of the likes of Graham Kennedy and Bert Newton.
If anyone is to claim the new crown as the Camp King of Aussie TV, which Kennedy created and Newton has been wearing for years, it seems the three-time Gold Logie winner already has his hand up to accept the mantle.
I think I am an exceptionally campy performer and I think my humour is very camp, he explains, on the eve of his latest stand-up comedy tour, opening at the Enmore Theatre next week.
To me, camp humour is very old school. It is very vaudeville to be camp, and early TV comedy sprang from the old vaudeville days.
What we do on Rove Live is old school variety, with a bit of a modern take on it. I am glad I do camp humour as it is like hanging on to old school roots in a way.
I am the first to acknowledge that I can be guaranteed a laugh when I give a squeal and run across the stage like a girl, and then effeminately drape myself across a couch. That is just the stuff we do in our office, so it was only a matter of time before it made it to air. It is just meant to be good fun and not meant to be derogatory to anyone. It is just a case of me putting myself out there.
McManus is going back to his stand-up comedy roots as he takes to the stage of the Enmore Theatre in his Rove McManus Stands Up tour.
He believes stand-up comedy is a way to keep his comic skills sharp, and promises all new material, not a rehash of routines from his TV shows.
The tour has already attracted comment from the Melbourne critics who were surprised by an extended sequence McManus did about his feelings about George Bush and the Iraq War.
It is the kind of material he would never use on his middle Australia TV audience -“ and McManus admits that is exactly the reason he is doing the tour.
You see more of my opinion of what I actually think than you would see on TV, he admits.
I do a great chunk of material about that, going off into different tangents on the topic. If the audience is really firing with that material, I might feel comfortable enough to throw something new in.
On TV, we have a number of different segments and we need to get from one thing to another and I often have to cut myself short. In stand-up, you have the freedom to really milk those topics.
Other topics which he plans to have some fun with are the Michael Jackson trial (I was glued to it and think I took a greater interest in it than he did), as well as stories like the recent Tasmanian prison siege where prisoners exchanged hostages for pizzas and soft drink, and the tabloid pictures of Saddam Hussein in his jocks.
You look at stuff like that and just want to say, Thank you, Comedy Gods! he laughs. There is enough material in that for everyone.
But at a time when some have voiced their concerns about a new age of conservatism, McManus does not subscribe to this point of view. He says he has no fears about censorship, and to prove his point, highlights his Gold Logie acceptance speech earlier this year.
The stuff you can get away with these days is fine. In the Logies in the 1970s, there was a huge furore when someone said -˜shit’ live to air. I said -˜fuck’ this year -“ and they were on delay and had the chance to cut it -“ and that made it to air. I think we have all grown up and are more accepting.
The boundaries in some people’s eyes are being pushed away, but I don’t think we have gone over the edge or even near it.
But while he is not concerned about censorship on his comedy tour, he is concerned about drag and admits we are unlikely to see him frocked up on stage this time around.
Having famously dressed as Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue and Sophie Ellis-Bextor on his TV show, he has a new-found respect for drag queens.
When I do dress up as Kylie or Britney, it is done for a reason and not just a laugh. Actually, I like to think I make a very pretty Britney, he adds proudly.
Kylie was fun, but Britney was harder because of that red PVC suit. Oh baby, you sweat in that!
When I did Sophie, I had so much green glitter eye shadow on, I could not even open my eyelids. Having spent that much time in the make-up chair and standing around in drag, I have a newfound respect for the drag queens who can then perform in it.
Rove McManus Stands Up is at the Enmore Theatre, 130 Enmore Road, Newtown, from 6 to 9 July. Bookings: 9266 4800/ 9550 3666.