Limerick funnyman Karl Spain is one of the team captains on comedy panel show Don’t Quote Me!
A run of the shows is being recorded live on RTÉ Radio 1 over three nights as part of the inaugural radio festival, Comedy Showhouse.
Sean Hughes — who was a comedy god long before Spain did his first stand-up gig in 2000 — hosts the panel show.
“He was the second comedian I ever saw live and actually the third and the fourth as well,” says Spain. “Billy Connolly was the first — I saw him in Limerick in 1991.
“Two years later, I saw Sean Hughes. I was quite a fan. To work with him is fantastic.
“If only I could ring a teenage me and tell him that you’re gonna be a comedian and be working with Sean Hughes in the future, it would be a great phone call to make, and a scary one to receive I imagine.”
Don’t Quote Me! is a platform for Spain, Hughes, panellists like Andrew Maxwell and opposing team captain Fiona Looney, to kid around with famous quotes from Irish history and culture, framed with a quiz element. Previous episodes have aired on RTÉ Radio 1 over holiday periods in the past few years.
It’s a busy time for Spain. In November, he appeared in his sixth Kilkenomics festival on the bounce. His first pantomime premiered over Christmas. Entitled Freezin’: The Story of the Snow Queen, it’s a spoof on the movie Frozen, and it ran at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre. He co-wrote it with fellow comic and panto veteran Al Porter, who also starred in it. The pair, who worked together on Republic of Telly, shared a flat at last summer’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
“We’re like an odd couple but we’ve a similar sense of humour,” he says. “We’ve a good laugh plotting schemes.”
Spain had only ever seen two pantos before, one of them with Maureen Potter when he was a kid, which was where Porter’s experience of the genre came in useful.
“Al has been doing panto since he was a kid,” he says. “He would put the bones on, tell me where to flesh bits out. He’d say, ‘This is where you need to put the “He’s behind you” scene,’ that kind of stuff. The two of us then, through brainstorming, would come up with jokes. The feedback has been good — that it’s funny and has loads of jokes.”
Spain does a good line in wryness when it comes to writing jokes for his stand-up gigs. He says he’s always got his ears perked up for stuff that could end up as gags in his routines.
“I keep my aerials up for material. I’d be tuned into conversation. A friend of mine said something the other night and I was thinking, oh, that’s funny, that’ll make it in somewhere.
“That’s what happens — someone will say something, or my girlfriend will ask me something, and I’ll be laughing, and will use it on stage. Now I know better. In the past it would be the case that almost subliminally a joke or a line would go into my head from conversation and I’d use it later on stage. I’d almost surprise myself by saying it.”
Example? “One of my favourites,” he says, “I was going out with my girlfriend for a couple of years and she asked me, ‘Am I the longest you’ve gone out with someone?’ I said, ‘No, but it does feel like it.’ I was trying to re-assure her, meaning this is the most serious relationship I’ve had, but it had double meaning.”
Don’t Quote Me! will be recorded live 8pm, Monday, February 1 – 8pm, Wednesday, February 3 for RTÉ Radio 1 at the Project Arts Centre, Dublin 2. See www.grintageireland.com
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