How Hughesy made his millions
HE'S made a living out of being a likeable, everyday bloke.
And in many ways, he's just like every other dad around Australia.
On this weeknight, his wife of 11 years Holly Ife is out with friends, and he's just finished wrangling his three kids - all under the age of nine - into bed. But it wasn't easy.
"They've got in the habit - it's ridiculous - of wanting us to wait outside their door as they go to sleep," an exhausted Hughes tells news.com.au from his Melbourne home.
"They yell out, 'You still there?' And I reply, 'F*ck. Still here'."
It's nearing the end of an unusual week for the 46-year-old. He caught Australia off guard on Sunday night when he made an unexpected star appearance on the series finale of The Block to snap up the renovated Elsternwick home of fan-favourites Josh and Elyse. The comedian and radio host casually dropped a cool $3.07 million on the five-bedroom home with about as much fuss as you would give to buying gum at the service station.
"I'm copping a lot of flak for what I paid for that," he says.
"But the apartments (on The Block) last year were going for $2.6 million - that was f*cking crazy. There's no way my paddle was going up there. This is a house. A big house. On a good chunk of land."
Hughes says he's not experiencing buyer's regret. But what he is experiencing is "buyer's stress".
The purchase managed to eclipse the finale of the Channel Nine series and the bid dominated headlines for days after. What seemed to surprise Australia the most was the fact the down-to-earth larrikin was in a position to drop that kind of cash on an investment property.
"I mean, people don't think about that sort of thing and I'm obviously glad," he says. "Apart from buying an expensive house on national TV, I'm not one to flaunt money. I'm not an American rapper rolling around in gold chains. It's not really the Australian way. I drive a Nissan Murano. We don't drive Audis or anything."
The purchase is the latest addition to Hughes' property portfolio. He also owns a small block of Melbourne apartments and a St Kilda property he "accidentally" bought for $1.84 million in 2010 after driving past the auction. In 2014, Hughes built his family's dream home on the land and sold up their previous St Kilda abode for $2.112 million.
He's Australia's most hardworking entertainer. And the hard work has paid off. But there was a darker time for Hughes, who grew up in Housing Commission in the Victorian town of Warrnambool.
WAKING UP IN POLICE CELLS
After graduating Dux of his high school, Hughes moved to Melbourne to start an IT degree but dropped out and moved back to his home town. He then dropped out of an accounting degree. On the dole and living in a share house with mates, he passed the days by drinking too much and smoking bongs.
"I was a binge drinker. I wasn't drunk every day for five years - I just couldn't control myself," he says. "When I did drink I was so depressed about it.
"The house was quite the mad house ... my friends and all their mates would come around and go crazy and throw stubbies against the wall. We'd walk around stepping on broken glass in the carpet - we were the renters from hell basically. We'd have parties where motorbikes would be in the kitchen doing burnouts."
Hughes adds: "I wasn't a complete train wreck, I just felt f*cking shit".
A month before he turned 22, he decided to stop drinking and doing drugs.
"I had a series of being locked up for drunk and disorderly a number of times," he says. "It's pretty embarrassing waking up in the police cells - not from being violent but from falling asleep on the road or falling asleep on top of a Norfolk Pine after stealing a ladder to get to the first branch.
"I remember reading an article saying every time you drink you lose your brain cells. And I just thought, 'F*ck, I'm killing my brain here'."
HUGHESY'S WORST GIG
The first time Hughes performed his first stand-up gig, it tanked. At 22, he was newly sober and had just moved to Perth.
"I remember talking about the fact I got the nickname 'frog' at school. And I thought I had material around that but apparently I didn't," he says of the jokes he told that night. No one laughed - except the one friend Hughes brought with him.
"It was terrible. And the next week I went back to the same little club and I kept my dignity. I didn't tear the roof off but I kept myself together. I got a few laughs. But I stopped for a few months because it made me so stressed."
After a hiatus, Hughes spotted an ad for a comedy club looking for talent. He rang the number not knowing it was the same club he performed at months earlier.
"The guy said, 'I remember you. You should try it again,'" he says.
"That third time, for some reason, I walked on stage and I thought, 'You're already a winner for doing it.' For whatever reason I just felt like I had the best gig ever. I floated off stage on an absolute high. I remember walking around Northbridge - this nightclub area of Perth - and I don't know if I've ever reached that high again."
To make money as he continued to gig, Hughes would host bus tours on Saturday nights.
"You'd pick up a bucks party and your meant to be the comedian as they sink cans on the way to the city. An then you'd drive them home while they're obliterated," he says. "That was a good gig because you'd get $150. That'd pay your rent for the week - that was f*cking fantastic."
THE MOMENT HE MADE IT
By 1999, Hughes had established himself in the Melbourne comedy scene and secured a spot performing at the Comedy Festival Gala.
He was performing in a 60-seat venue and "not really filling it" the first night. But after an appearance on Hey Hey It's Saturday, things changed. He was moved to a 3000 seat venue and sold it out.
"As a reward I bought my first new car - a purple Corolla. I thought it was blue but most people thought it was purple. That's what I thought success was," he says.
The success continued and, from that gig, Hughes has built an unrivalled career. As he continued touring sellout shows, he co-hosted Nova's breakfast radio show in Melbourne alongside Kate Langbroek for 12 years. Gigs co-hosting The Glass House, The 7pm Project and Australia's Got Talent followed.
He's hosted the Logies twice, continues to perform corporate gigs and is an ambassador for fast food chain Subway.
'I WILL LIVE IN THAT HOUSE'
"When you're a young person and you're on the dole and you're doing comedy for - if you're lucky - a hundred bucks a week, you wonder if you'll ever be able to afford a house," he says. Hughes remembers when he finally could afford it. At 32, he bought his first property - an apartment on the esplanade in St Kilda overlooking the Palais Theatre.
For a performer of Hughes' calibre, touring a comedy show around Australia every year can be big business. One industry source says taking a successful show on the road can net a performer into the millions.
After taking the Hughesy & Kate radio show to KIIS in 2015, the duo have made the jump again to competitor the Hit Network. The lucrative deal, announced in October, means they replace Hamish Blake and Andy Lee's national drive show. 2017 also saw the comedian make the jump from Channel Nine - where he hosted The Footy Show - to Channel Ten to front new show, Hughesy, We Have a Problem.
Where most of his competitors would choose to slow down and enjoy their success, Hughesy doesn't stop.
"This Monday, I got a text from a local club that sometimes only gets 20 people. It said, 'Spare spot tonight for five minutes'. I went and did it. It paid 40 bucks. I took. it. I did the gig, I'm taking my money," he jokes.
And he should. He has a $3 million investment property to pay off.
"At some point in my life, I will live in that f*cking house," he laughs.
Dave Hughes' new children's book Excuse Me! is out now.