Letter to My Younger Self: Shane Jacobson

22 August 2017 Amy Hetherington

Letter to My Younger Self: Shane Jacobson

Photo courtesy of Channel Seven/David Cook


By 16, I’d roughly figured out who I was and what I wanted to do. I liked cars, I liked girls, and I wanted to be an actor and an entertainer. I was a happy-go-lucky kid and I still like to think I’m that person. I’m a little bit wiser now, a bit more mature. Well...not more mature, just wiser. But I’ll never be thinner, younger or healthier than I was then.

I’ve been on stage since I was eight. My mum had a calisthenics college, and she used to have these concerts. At eight, I walked out as a cowboy in the middle of one of their items and shot some guns and pretended to shoot myself by mistake and fall over backwards. I got a laugh, and I thought I love that, I want to do more of that. So I did always want to be an entertainer.

If you’re funny and you can handle yourself, then you can actually stay out of a whole lot of trouble. I was the joker, the class clown, there’s no doubt about it. I went to a pretty rough school in the western suburbs of Melbourne, Niddrie Tech – an all-male government technical school. But I actually really liked my school days, and being the joker kind of helped navigate through it all. And my dad still runs a boxing gym, so I did a bit of boxing. I also tap-danced as a kid, and tap-dancing in the western suburbs comes with its own risks. Tap-dancing and boxing…you kind of had to do both.

I wouldn’t be where I am now if it weren’t for the Scouts. Performing in the Gang Shows gave me confidence, taught me leadership, how to work with people, it taught me stagecraft and all my theatre skills – lighting, sound, staging, things that kept me employed while I was acting. I worked as a pyro-technician for rock bands like Guns N’ Roses, Bon Jovi, and was a lighting and rigging designer for theatre and rock’n’roll. I was also a medical sales rep, so I’ve had about 17 lives, hence the fact my book was called The Long Road to Overnight Success.  

To really succeed at entertainment, I think it’s like sport. It’s like being a racing car driver, a professional footballer, a professional tennis player. If your wish is to make a living out of it, and choose it as a job and a career, man you’d better want to do it because you’re going to have to be really, really good to make money out of it. Or lucky, but the luck runs out. And you’ve got to accept that it’s going to take a long while if you want to do that. It took me until I was 36.

I’m blessed, not everyone has the joy I’ve got of having a close family. I’ve got a father and a step-father and a mum who taught me how to love and be loved, all that kind of stuff. I’m one of four kids, my brother and two sisters, and we get along, we’ve got each other’s backs. I worked with my brother [Clayton] on Kenny and we’ve just finished Sibling Rivalry. He’s seven years my senior so, as a kid, he was my hero. He was bigger, stronger, older, smarter, you know. He was already working, editing film clips for INXS, Farnham, Noiseworks and he was doing stuff for MTV. He was the guy. 

Kenny opened every door that would normally be shut or be slammed in my face, and it was the same for my brother as well. We finished the film, and we thought it was great. We thought, what a dream if it was a hit and made it to cinemas. And then it got shown to audiences and they loved it, like they loved it. I first started promoting the film dressed as Kenny in the Brisbane mall with people walking up and taking the free packet of chips and coke, and walking straight past me. The big moments: seeing your poster in a cinema foyer; having people recognise you on the street and yelling “Kenny!” out of the car; and when 60 Minutes wanted to do a story.

Twelve months later I was standing on stage winning an AFI Award. To have Cate Blanchett call your name to come on stage and win [Best Lead Actor]…that took a while to get my breath back. And Heath Ledger, who was a friend, you know I beat him and Gabriel Byrne for an acting award I never thought I’d win, ever, in a million years. Getting a call to say do you want to do a film with Paul Hogan, was a pinch yourself moment. Bourne Legacy and being asked to host Top Gear, too.

People don’t expect me to do plumbing. I did fix Cathy Freeman’s toilet – I was at her place, filming a thing, and she actually came out and said: “Hope you’re not offended by this, but do you actually know how to fix toilets?” And I said, “Well, I kind of know more than I care to admit.” And I unblocked her toilet for her. I was very proud. I can’t win a gold [medal] for the country, but I can unblock the toilet of someone who has. Small victory, I’ll take it.

You know what, I’m a meat pie. I’m a human meat pie, I’m not flash…there are no surprises. I like motorsport, I like my family, I’ve got two dogs, four kids, got chickens and some sheep. When someone says you’re the everyday man, the guy next door, or you’re the average joe, well that feels like a massive compliment. You know I’ve got a face like a dropped pie and I’m not exactly the right shape according to magazines, but people let me on their TV screens. I’ve had some guys say, “you give us hope”.

I wouldn’t give my 16-year-old self any advice. I wouldn’t interfere with him at all, because for every broken heart and for every hard road travelled or every pothole that was hard on my emotional suspension, I’ve turned out to be who I am – and I am now with the woman of my dreams, I have four healthy, beautiful children and I’m doing my dream job. Why would I risk changing any of it? I’m not going to send anything off kilter.


by Amy Hetherington, Editor


» Shane Jacobson is Chief Scout of Victoria and hosts Little Big Shots, coming soon to Channel 7. This article first appeared in Ed#543 of The Big Issue