Fitting into size 38 jeans for the first time, Karl Spain is set to wear a smaller costume than he could have possibly imagined as he makes his panto sage debut this Christmas.
The well-known comedian will star in the University Concert Hall’s Christmas pantomime Beauty and the Beast Panto and already has a wardrobe full of clothes which would look comically oversized on stage.
Initially weighing in at 19 stone 4.5 lbs, Mr Spain took part in RTÉ’s Celebrity Operation Transformation this year to regain control over his weight, which he said first became a problem in 1993.
The nation watched him lose weight on the television show each week and where he shed one and a half stone over the 31 days of filming.
From performing stand-up routines about his own life for over 16 years, to finding love on his own TV show and standing in his bicycle shorts to be weighed on Celebrity Operation Transformation, he is no stranger to the limelight.
Being recognised in public is common for the 45-year- old Limerick man but he refuses to call himself famous. “A stranger could tell their friend ‘that guy’s famous’ and I always say if I was famous you wouldn’t have to explain who I am,” he said.
Healthier than ever, weighing 17 stone 2 lbs, Karl is confident about having hundreds of eyes firmly fixed on his performance on the panto stage, with everyone in his hometown Limerick, knowing the name ‘Karl Spain’.
The comedian’s first involvement in panto came last year, when he co-wrote the Olympia panto ‘Freezin’: the Story of the Snow Queen, alongside Al Porter.
This year, the Irish comedy veteran will switch from working behind-the- scenes to step back into the limelight of the stage, something he’s familiar with from working in comedy for over fifteen years.
Karl admits that he can’t sing or dance, but he will have an experienced co-cast on the panto stage alongside him, including West End star John Brannoch, actor Myles Breen and UCH Panto veteran Leanne Moore.
While he refuses to let others down on the panto stage, he is convinced he won’t let himself down with his weight now that the Operation Transformation cameras are off him.
Karl used the filming as motivation for his weight loss during the show, saying: “I literally couldn’t stuff my face in front of the whole of Ireland.” While the camera crew have stopped following his everyday life, Karl doesn’t see himself returning to his old unhealthy habits.
As someone who confesses to having been “addicted” to sugar and fizzy drinks, Karl sees the sugar tax to be introduced in 2018 as “another tax joining the old-reliable like petrol, cigarettes, alcohol”.
— UCH (@UCHLimerick) December 14, 2016
He has never been one to shy away from giving his own opinion to the public, whether talking about the sugar tax, or the Irish Marriage Referendum.
Having his personal weight loss journey, broadcast to the nation was not a new experience for Karl, as Ireland watched him find love on RTÉ’s Karl Spain Wants a Woman in 2005.
He met girlfriend Rachel O’Keeffe on the show, where he tested online and speed dating for the Irish television audience’s entertainment.
Karl believes that a similar show would be so different now, with apps like Tinder and Grindr taking over the modern dating scene. He thinks that having dating apps would have been phenomenal ten years ago saying that “it’s almost like an app for ordering a pizza.”
Speaking of pizza, it is one of the many foods Karl has had to cut out of his life since the summer. His diet is perhaps more boring now as it features more porridge, salads and soups than takeaways.
One thing he seems to miss are taco fries. “They’d feel bad inside me, in my stomach and my brain, I’d feel guilty about it,” he said. He now puts more thought into what he eats, saying a bowl of cereal at night has become the biggest treat he allows himself to indulge in.
Karl has to find more time to prepare those healthy meals lately, as he has taken over as the news presenter in the latest series of The Republic of Telly. He will be working alongside Kevin McGahern, Bernard O’Shea and other well-known Irish comedians for the show’s seventh series.
Speaking about his ‘Freezin’: the Story of the Snow Queen co-writer, he sees Al Porter as someone “on the cusp” of something really big in Irish comedy. Karl will be writing the panto for the Olympia alongside Al again this year, but says that right now he’s not looking beyond the Beauty and the Beast Panto this Christmas.
Rehearsing for the panto stage for the first time this year and fuelling on just a bowl of porridge for breakfast are firsts for Karl Spain. A more fit and healthier Karl seems to now thrive in the spotlight, happier than ever.
The Beauty and the Beast Panto runs from December 19 until January 8 in the University Concert Hall in the University of Limerick. Tickets are on sale at uch.ie and the UCH ticket stand.