Comedian and host of The Gruen Transfer Wil Anderson graduated top of his class with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Canberra in 1995.
He was also working in the press gallery at Parliament House for the Australian Financial Review.
He was great at his job. But doubt set in about whether he really wanted to be a journalist and his life took a 180-degree turn after a discussion with his then boss Tom Burton, which would eventually lead him to comedy.
Burton, now government editor at the AFR, remembers the conversation with Anderson.
"I told him life is too short and he should follow his passion," Burton says.
"He was a smart person with a quick mind which often makes for a good journo but it was clear comedy was more his calling."
Anderson, 46, returns to Canberra in November to host an event celebrating the University of Canberra's 30th anniversary and asking the question, "Is our future bright?".
He will be live at The Street Theatre with a limited audience - the event sold out in 24 hours - but the discussion will be streamed via Facebook, with a panel of experts joining in.
Anderson is effusive abut the future of Canberra, calling the city "a world-leader when it comes to showing how a community acting together can make us all stronger".
"With all the challenges facing us, from COVID to climate change, it is going to be community action that is the most important in finding and enacting these solutions," he says.
"Education and expertise are going to be invaluable in providing future solutions for the issues that confront us, and Canberra is a community that values and encourages these things - I am proud to help facilitate a conversation with experts, conversations we will need to have loudly and proudly and often and we reshape the world."
It's been a while since he was in the national capital.
"I did my WILEGAL show at the Canberra Theatre a couple of years ago. It was a memorable night as that show is about being arrested on the way to Wagga Wagga and the police that arrested me were actually in the audience that night," he says down the line from his home in country NSW.
The last few months, as for everyone, have been challenging for Anderson.
In a case of incredibly bad timing, he quit his breakfast gig with Triple M in Melbourne to return full-time to stand-up comedy. And then COVID-19 lockdowns started to hit earlier this year. Anderson and his long-time partner decided to get out of Melbourne.
"We packed up our life on April the first, April Fools Day, which is traditionally the start of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival," he says.
They fled to their refuge in country NSW - media reports say Byron Bay but he doesn't want to confirm - about 48 hours before the Victorian borders shut.
"We were very lucky we got away and obviously we couldn't forecast what was going to happen in Melbourne, even up until now still."
Anderson says he simply wouldn't have been able to cope with a lockdown.
"I was unemployed for the last seven months," he says.
"The thing that I had decided to do with my life, which was to go back to live touring of stand-up, that went away and so, if I had also been locked down in a place where I couldn't leave the house all that time and with nowhere to go and nothing to be able to do..."
"A lot of people around the country have had to deal with the idea of losing their job and losing their income and their purpose and that by itself is an incredibly difficult thing to do. But if you, at the same time, are not allowed to pretty much leave your house... I worry about the long-term ramifications that's going to have on our society.
"We're just going to have to be incredibly dedicated over the next few years to ensure that when we get back to whatever the new normal looks like, we don't think everybody is going to be okay and fine.
"I mean, we're going to have a whole generation of people who have missed out on a whole year of their socialisation. I think parents find it difficult enough these days to get their kids off devices and out of the house and it's been legislated - you can't go out of the house.
"I think there's going to be a whole bunch of ramifications of what we're going through that we still haven't worked out yet."
Anderson, who is back on ABC TV with The Gruen Transfer, says that job was his lifeline.
"Firstly, we talk about, 'We're all in this together'. But the first thing I need to point out is that we are all experiencing the same thing and we are all experiencing it in very different ways," he says.
"I'm incredibly lucky that, firstly, I had somewhere to live, I had some money saved, not a lot. And I knew, barring an absolute crisis, come this time of the year, I had at least 10 weeks of Gruen that I could look forward to. So I had a hope for future employment at some point.
"Then, in a really practical sense, like everyone else, I was on the government JobKeeper, I had to pause my mortgage because I didn't have the capacity to pay my mortgage, I borrowed some money out of my super. I did what everybody had to do to get through these times."
But putting aside the future and the present, the past is also interesting for Anderson, a country kid from a dairy farm in Victoria who grew up in a town of 250 people before heading to Canberra to study communications.
"I thought Melbourne might be too much of a shock to my system after living in such a small place," he says.
"I think that's why a lot of country kids find themselves in Canberra for university. I don't mean this in a bad way, I mean this in a good way, but Canberra is a good starter city.
"It has all the trappings of the city without being immensely overwhelming as a Sydney or Melbourne can be."
And what does he remember of uni in Canberra?
"My memories of things generally are reasonably unreliable anyway," he says, with a laugh.
"I always say I'm the worse person to ask about my own life because it gets reframed comedically. So after you've been telling the story for 20 years comedically, you start to think, 'Is that what really happened?'.
"I did graduate first in my course and started to work at The Fin from the end of year one. There was an incentive at the end of first year to have the opportunity to work as an office person in a cadet-style job in the [press] gallery.
"So, for the second and third year of my degree, I was working part-time at The Fin and studying as well."
Canberra was "exactly the city he needed" at the time.
"You felt you had this great opportunity but it was controllable," he says.
I became, as a kid, a bit obsessed with comedy and the ideas that were being expressed by comedy, ideas I wasn't necessarily hearing from the people in the area where I grew up.Wil Anderson
There was a rivalry with the Australian National University but "a "humourous one". "So you'd end up at an ANU film night seeing films you'd never seen or at the ANU bar watching incredible bands that used to come through their regularly.
"But at the same time, O Week at UC, I remember being dragged along to see Helen Razer and Mikey Robins do the Triple J breakfast show from the UC bar. I'd never heard Triple J before, because, at that stage, there was no Triple J where I grew up...Funnily enough, that's the job I went on to do for five years, not the journalism."
Indeed, Anderson co-hosted the Triple J breakfast show with Adam Spencer from 2000 to 2004, a period probably up there with the halcyon days of Razer and Robins.
"And this is probably where the debate about education gets lost. It can be very vocationally-directed - 'You are going to university to get these skills, to do this job'," he says.
"And while that is one of the practical sides of it, in a world where people have 10 or 15 jobs in their lifetime, I think you never quite know which part of your university experience is the part that is going to prepare for a life of employment. For me, it was being able to access that show at a uni bar that might have been more important than my entire course."
Anderson grew up watching comedy on the ABC, especially loving The Big Gig and Andrew Denton's The Money or the Gun.
"I became, as a kid, a bit obsessed with comedy and the ideas that were being expressed by comedy, ideas I wasn't necessarily hearing from the people in the area where I grew up, but ideas that instinctively felt more how I see the world," he says.
"So I always loved it. The first time I got a fake ID at 15 wasn't to sneak into a pub, it was to go down to Melbourne on the train with my friends to see Jimeon at the Last Laugh comedy club.
"When I was in Canberra, I watched a lot of comedy. I remember seeing Phil Kay, who's one of the most amazing comedians in the world, at a lunchtime gig at UC with about 40 other people. I remember seeing Bill Hicks in Canberra at the Melbourne Comedy roadshow before it was called the Melbourne comedy roadshow. Once a month, the old Private Bin used to have a comedy night.
"But throughout my entire uni experience, I never did comedy. I didn't do drama or stand-up. I was dedicating my life to being a journalist, that's what I'd decided to do. I was very much just a fan of comedy."
But, it wasn't enough.
"Looking back on it, I was depressed," Anderson says.
"I was seemingly, on the outside, doing very well, I was doing very well in my course, and had this really good job. On paper, I had a bunch of really good qualifications but I just felt like I didn't want to do it and I couldn't understand. How can I feel bad about this? How can I feel so empty and sad and unfulfilled by this? In retrospect, I was depressed but I didn't know that at the time."
Then came that future-making conversation with his "incredible boss" at the Financial Review, Tom Burton.
"I sat down with him and I said, 'I just don't know what to do'. By then, I'd written some front-page stories for the Fin Review.
"And he said, 'Well, you've done quite well at this thing your heart's not in. Mate, what if you went and did something your heart was in and work just as hard at that?'
"It was incredible advice, very generous advice from someone who had invested so much of his time in something I was now saying I'm not interested in.
"I had a real think about what I really loved and the last time I'd been really happy and it was just before uni - my mum took me to see Billy Connolly.
"Hamer Hall in Melbourne. We were right up the back. Mum and I had driven three hours to be there.
"I just remember that night watching this guy swear and tell these stories to people from 12 to 80 and I thought, 'Oh my God. I love this'."
The rest, they say, is history. Now, for the future.