Hughsey makes a fresh start
Dave Hughes wants to get serious for a second. The veteran funny man has been making audiences laugh for decades through sold-out stand-up comedy tours, top rating radio shows and successful TV programs including The Project, Before the Game, The Masked Singer and Hughesy, We Have a Problem. But it took a global pandemic for the self-confessed serial worrier to finally learn to stop sweating the small stuff and "start to smell the roses and appreciate the sunsets".
"I know this sounds deep, but you never know when your last moment in this world is going to be," he muses. "It could be any time and imagine if your last moment was spent worrying about some bullsh*t. And when you realise it's ALL bullshit, then you stop worrying completely. And that's where I am at, basically."
Hughes credits his new enlightened state of mind to meditating twice a day, something he has talked about doing for a long time and finally put into practice last year. For years, the stand-up comedy addict has found his most peaceful moments - and therapy - while performing on stage, but when Melbourne's coronavirus lockdown and the collapse of the entertainment industry kicked in, that respite was taken away from him. But what was a stressful year for many ended up being a defining one for Hughes, and has literally altered his entire approach to living.
"It really is life-changing - I would recommend it to anyone," he says. "When you give yourself that chance twice a day to go 'right, all the noise in my head is just noise. No matter what it is, it's just noise'. And if you give yourself a chance to acknowledge that twice a day then the noise just slows down.
"So, 2020 has actually been for me - and I mean this sincerely - the best year because it changed my mindset. So hopefully the second half of my life is going to be even better because I am not going to be worrying."
This year has brought a fresh start personally and professionally for the previously Melbourne-based Hughes, with a move to Sydney and a new breakfast radio gig with 2DayFM, alongside long-time friend and colleague Ed Kavalee, and Erin Molan. The slot has been something of a poisoned chalice in recent years, having churned through hosts including Rove McManus, Sam Frost, Sophie Monk and Grant Denyer (to name just a few) but Hughes is also bringing his Zen attitude to the cutthroat ratings game.
"I am enjoying the day and not worrying about numbers, certainly not at this point," he says. "All we can do is all we can do. We have been having a ball and we have a long-term deal and the station is right behind us. I think it will work out, but I am enjoying the ride."
Hughes says the move north was brought on by a desire to try something new in a city he has always loved - and also made practical sense given his two TV shows, Hughesy, We Have a Problem and The Masked Singer will be filmed in Sydney this year.
HWHAP is the first cab off the rank and returns next week in a slightly different format. Not only will it be filmed just a couple of days out from its air date to give it a more contemporary, newsier feel, it will also feature regular panellists for the first time in the form of comedians Becky Lucas and Nazeem Hussein.
"They are both really funny and both younger than me and that's good," says Hughes, who clocked up his half-century late last year.
Given how all-pervasive COVID-19 has been over the past year, Hughes expects it will feature heavily in the new season, having thrown up problems for the host and his guests that few would have ever even contemplated until it hit.
"You want to acknowledge what people are going through and the thing about COVID is that it really is a shared experience," he says.
"Everyone goes through having to wear masks in the supermarket or having to count how many people they have at their party. Not that I have any parties - I feel sad when people complain they can only have 30 people in their house at one time. We haven't had 30 visitors in our house for the last 10 years, frankly."
The Zoom explosion has also opened doors for international input, beginning with next Monday's first episode.
"We will have Carol Baskin from Tiger King on and Gary Busey, who's a bit of a legendary American nutter, basically," says Hughes. "He's jumping on Zoom at whatever time it is in America - God knows how that will go. But the world is open and any great big star can jump on a Zoom and get involved in an Aussie TV show."
Despite his success in radio and TV, Hughes says stand-up is still his first love.
Last year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival was cancelled because of COVID and he's still trying to figure out whether he will be able to take part in this year's event.
Hughesy, We Have a Problem, February 8, 8.30pm, Channel 10
Originally published as Hughsey makes a fresh start