Save us, radio’s Stav Davidson!

Hit105's Stav dishes on 15 years of radio. From Shatner to Seinfeld, to dumb stunts, and even how to save the world

Stav live from Audio HQ at Petrie Terrace. Pic: Dan Fidler

You know Stav Davidson as one third of Hit105’s popular breakfast radio show Stav, Abby & Matt. Here are some things you probably don’t know as he dishes on 15 years in radio.

Stav was born in Glasgow before his family moved to Australia when he was a baby. He started his career, in Brisbane, as a stand-up comedian in 2000 by entering the Raw Comedy Competition and made it into the finals. During the competition, he went from his first performance to facing an audience of 1500 people in just four weeks.

A renowned nerd, known for his love of comic books and Doctor Who, Stav got into radio by serendipity. He was doing stand-up around Brisbane, barista-ing on the side, when he was approached to try his mic-skills in the studio for B105. He nailed it.

In 2020 he’s still getting up at 3:30am to join his co-hosts, Abby Coleman and Matty Acton on air every weekday for breakfast radio. By his own admission, he never would have foreseen 15 successful, funny, years on the wireless.

Our chat comes hot on the heels of the historic ratings win that saw Hit105’ Stav, Abby and Matt dominate the fiercest competition on Brisbane airwaves. It also crowned Hit105 Brisbane’s number one station overall.

To celebrate the show’s success and Stav’s milestone, My Brisbane asked him 15 questions. One for each year. It turned into more than 15 because, as we already knew, Stav loves a chat…

What’s the best adventure you’ve had on, or related, to radio?

There have been a lot. Last year they had me jump out of a plane with $10,000 and I threw the money out all over Brisbane. That was surreal. It was probably one of the greatest things that we’ve ever done. I was nervous to do it. I had to sit down with my wife and talk about it because there’s inherent danger there. But also, people pay good money to skydive, so I tried not to whinge about getting to do it for free.

Were there any issues with that stunt?

We almost had to pull out because people said it was littering. Legally money can’t be classified as litter, so we got away with it.

Stav showers Brisbane with cash. Pic: Hit105 Brisbane

What’s the dumbest stunt you’ve ever pulled in the name of radio?

There have been a lot of those.

I was attacked by a police dog in one of those suits. But that was actually pretty fun. The dumbest was breaking into a co-worker’s house back in the day. The team broke into our newsreader’s house and smashed her Granddad’s urn. We didn’t really, but that was what she thought we had done.

We once broke into my co-hosts house and stole her ultrasound pictures and put them online. That was stupid. We drove a mobility scooter into the soundproof glass at the last station and broke that. Yeah, we’ve broken a lot of stuff.

We don’t do those things anymore.

Have you ever broken yourself?

No, but I’ve come close. They’ve made me bungee jump a few times. There was one that we never got off the ground that I wanted to do. Remember when Gaga wore the meat suit? I was close to dressing in a meat suit and water skiing down the Brisbane River. With all the bull sharks.

Also, Stav, Abby and Matt built a raft out of goon bags and paddled across the Brisbane River. Pic Dan Fidler.

Flipside, I know you do some meaningful stuff too. What are the highlights?

Most recently we gave away a house to someone which was cool. She was a 25-year-old student. It was quite a moment. She doesn’t have to worry about money for the rest of her life.

Back in B105 days, for 10 years we did the the Christmas Appeal. We’d go to the children’s hospital and raise a lot of money for sick children. That was a good way to end the year because you’d look at your own problems and think about what these people are dealing with. It makes you re-evaluate your own complaints and morals, ethics, and stuff.

Hit105’s Stav, Abby and Matt give away a house. Pic: Hit105 Brisbane

What’s the best interview you’ve ever done?

Jerry Seinfeld.

Being a stand-up comedian, you don’t get any better than that. We did it in person, in his hotel. He was doing a junket for the Bee Movie. I still clearly remember sitting there before he came in and thinking, if this guy doesn’t like me, he could legitimately buy this hotel just to kick me out of it. That’s how rich Seinfeld is. He was exactly what you would expect him to be – Jerry from the show. It was fantastic.

Sometimes you meet celebrities and they’re dicks that you wish you’d never met, but Jerry was exactly what you want. Him and William Shatner were pretty funny.

Tells us about Shats?

It was a phone interview. I did my William Shatner impersonation to William Shatner, and he was a good sport about it. He said, I’m… first of all… I don’t talk… anything… like that. It was brilliant. Those are my top two interviews.

Worst ever interview and why?

There’s been a few. Talking to Avril Lavigne was like getting blood out of a stone. One-word answers, she just didn’t want to be there. I’m like, why are we here then? She was horrible.

James blunt also, but that wasn’t his fault. My co-host at the time started off the interview asking how many people he’d killed when he was a soldier. He said you never ask a soldier that question, you should ask me how many people I’ve saved. We couldn’t save the interview after that.

What’s changed in radio in 15 years?

The screen. Technology has changed everything.  I used to arrive still in my pajamas and get changed at work because no one could see. Now we have three cameras set up in a studio that actively edit the breaks as they go. They’re ready to be put online pretty much straight away. So maybe you’re more visible.

Radio is still a big part of the landscape because it’s people in cars, but now you’ve got to have an online presence as well. You’ve got to be putting your breaks up online for people to see on Facebook and on Instagram. It used to be just on the radio and then it was gone. Now it’s there forever.

Radio is a cutthroat business. You’ve been a successful radio personality for 15 years. What can you put that down to?

I’m just extremely good at my job. Haha.

I think it’s two things. One is luck. I’ve been very lucky that when the team has changed around me, I stayed the same. So yes, I have been here for 15 years, but I’ve been on eight different shows in that time. So I’m constantly new to the audience because it’s a completely different show when you throw someone else in there. If it was the same show that I started with, people would be bored. Every two or three years I’ve had a new job, which has kept my energy up the whole time.

The other thing is, most radio stations will hire someone because of who they are. Then they’ll go, that’s great but we don’t want you to be that person on radio. We want you to be like the girl around town or the guy that likes cars. Then when you’re out and about and people come up to you, you’ve got to be that person that you aren’t. You can’t sustain it. I’ve never had to change who I am for the show, which has really helped.

Will you do another 15 years?

Absolutely. If they’ll have me.

What is the best thing about working in radio?

The best thing about working in radio, for me, is brightening people’s day on their drive to work. It’s not like stand-up comedy where you get an instant reaction, but people tell you when you meet them. People are on their way to work so making their day a bit easier is nice.

Radio. It’s not for sleep-in-ers. Stav up before dawn. Pic: Dan Fidler.

What’s the worst thing about being in radio?

I think you can answer this one for yourself. 4am starts. Actually, that’s not the worst thing. The worst thing is the 8pm bedtime. I’ve seen a lot of people in radio try to still have a social life. You can’t do it. I don’t have dinner out with friends on weeknights. There are functions that I must go to, but you’ve got to be strict on that. What’s helped me a lot is having a kid. Rori was going to bed at the same time as me but now she’s seven and goes to bed later, that’s starting to hurt. On weekends I’m still getting up at six with her.

If someone wants to get into radio nowadays, what’s the approach? What skills should they hone?

I think you have to be natural. Be true to yourself. Don’t try to be something you’re not. You’ll get halfway through your career stuck as this person you’ve created.

Be willing to do anything, and most likely for free. Kids these days don’t like that sort of approach. But you’ve got to make yourself available in the radio station. Once you’ve got your foot in the door, put your hand up to do stuff. Eventually you’ll get there.

Have you ever had a professional beef with someone on another station?

I don’t think so. We’re competitive, but we’re all pretty friendly. It’s too small a town. Every second week we’re at a function where we’ve got to hang out. There are people I probably wouldn’t want to work with, but I’m happy to hang out with them.

If you boil the radio away, you’re a comedian, have you ever bombed?

That’s the best thing about radio. You can’t tell. You’ve got an audience at stand-up and they’ll tell you. So, you know when you bomb. On the radio, I’ve only got two other people in the studio and they very rarely laugh at my jokes anyway.

The best and the worst, Stav, Abby and Matt. Pic: Hit105 Brisbane

The best thing about working with Matt and Abby?

Well, it’s not lack of judgment because they will judge you, but it’s a very safe space.

I’ve been in many, many teams over the course of my career. This is probably the best team I’ve worked with. We hang out on weekends. Go to each other’s kid’s parties. See shows together. We all get along really well. Working together there’s no ego. There’s no ‘I have to talk more than you talk’, which I have had in another teams.

We were very lucky that it just worked. Because we divulge our personal lives, we know more about each other than anybody else except for our partners, but maybe not. Because there are things we would tell them that we wouldn’t tell our partners necessarily. So that sort of safe environment to be able to do that, for me, is the best thing.

What’s the worst thing about those guys?

It’s tough to narrow it down… I’ll tell you this and they’ll hate me for it, they are continually late. I’m very punctual. Now it’s gotten to the point where they know that, so they’re doing it on purpose. We have a five o’clock meeting and I’m in here at five to five and then they’re there in here at five past five… sometimes with a coffee… it drives me mental.

Okay, a couple of randos.

You’re known for being a Batman fan. But he’s just a man with a belt. He’s not super. Convince me otherwise.

Okay. For anyone that’s tried to join a gym and get fit, the level of commitment that it takes is quite a super heroic effort. He did it.

That’s a very good point.

And then there’s Iron Man. If you take away the suit, what is he? He’s a billionaire philanthropist Playboy too. I like Batman for his unswayable ethics. He could easily snap and be evil but every day he makes the decision not to.

So, DC or Marvel?

That is a tough one because I know it’s very divisive, but I like them both equally. You know, I love the Avengers movies, but I liked Batman V Superman and I didn’t even mind Justice League. You know, it had its moments.

Radio as a medium ends tomorrow. What do you do?

Honestly, I don’t know. In a perfect world, I’d love to open a boutique cinema and show movies that I like. It would be a little cult cinema where people in the community vote for what movies they want to see. I ran a coffee shop for five years before I did this. I liked that job too. Anything that gives me the ability to talk to people regularly and pay my mortgage.

The world is a mess. How do we fix it? Save us Stav!

Yeah, that’s tough one at the moment, isn’t it? In all my years, I’ve never seen a story that moved as quickly as coronavirus. Every 20 minutes there’s something else happening with it, and it’s always dire.

I think that the world will take care of itself and I suspect that might be what’s happening at the moment. You know? We are not doing a great job with the planet. Maybe the planet’s going ‘Hey, you might want to start thinking about it’. Something like this should make us all think that we can’t keep going the way we’re going.

Listen to Stav, Abby & Matt on ratings leading Hit105 every weekday morning 6-9am. Catch up here.

Looking for more good news? Ekka People’s day now a long weekend and the good stories from Brisbane’s COVID-19 lockdown.