The Daily Telegraph, Saturday 15 August 1998

Body: 'I just wish my IQ was as big'

Funny fatman Mikey Robins talks to Marcus Casey

You do your Triple J breakfast show and Good News Weekend - where did you get the time to write a book about a lot of eating? Or is it more about lifestyle?
Lifestyle. The three of us wrote the book quite a while ago during a break in Good News Week. I was still doing the radio, but without Good News Week I managed to find the time in 10 weeks we had off-air last year.

Are you bigger or smaller than when you wrote the book?
I'm exactly the same size as I was when I signed the contract, and I'm 8kg smaller than I was when I wrote the book.

Can we talk numbers about your weight?
I won't give numbers, but let's say I just wish my IQ was that big.

So what makes a "big" man in the context of your book?
Genenoristy of spirit, to himself and all around. Enjoying the fine things in life and making sure that those around you enjoy them as much as they can as well - and accepting that, and sliding gracefully into a state of shambles.

Have you ever fought this condition?
Ahhh, um, no - there are some things . . . look, you can't find a glacier, and you can't fight cream sauces.

Would you call Tony [Squires, co-author of Big Man's World] and Steve [Abbott, a.k.a. the Sandman, the third co-author] big men really? They don't seem to me.
Well, no. The way we look at it is that Tony's "Chunky," Steve's "Lumpy," and I'm "Genuinely Fat". We're like the Spice Girls - Chumky, Lumoy and Genuinely Fat. But there's also that sense of bigness of spirit, bigness of heart, a big ticker - and Steve and Tony will very quickly admit they wouldn't get a run in first grade anymore.

I saw a photogragh of the three of you on a couch, and they looked thin.
That's because they stuck me in the middle of the bastards and both of them hid behind me. If you look very carefully, Steve's got half his gut stuck behind me. Steve, you know, Steve has a little paunch. He's got a verandah over the toy shop.

He's meant to be quite a sportsman, isn't he? (The Sandman once challenged the Australian-based Russian swimmer Alexandre Popov to a 50m sprint. Popov won.)
So he says. But he was actuallly a State swimmer. Tony's big at the backyard cricket and I've played a bit of rugby.

How much is a bit?
Oh, a bit, enough. I've actually played quite a lot of squash which is ridiculous, because that's the great heart attack fame. But we're all sports nuts, we all love sports. We're just not as good as we used to be. Tony used to be a quite good boxer, I believe. You wouldn't pick it, would you?

Not at all.
That man keeps a lot of things hidden about his past.

When did you start using your weight as a comic device?
About third class! It was one of those things - if you don't get in first, then some other smart-mouthed bugger will. I always found if I could crack a funnier line at my own expense, then I could get away with murder.

Did your weight shaped your humour, or was it always there?
It was always there -at least I hope it was. Probably won't be tomorrow. I'll probably wake up tomorrow and it'll be gone. Thank you, you bastard, you've cursed me. But truthfully, it probably is part of the humour.

I haven't got to the chapter on romance yet -if there is one?
No, not really. There's a bit in Tony's short story about Big Kev.

What about the bit about you resolving to spend more time with Tony's wife?
Oh, no, no. That's a long-running gag between us. No, God bless Jude (Squire's wife). No. Um, we don't deal with romance much, in fact I think as three men in long-term relationships - the other guys are married, I'm about to be - means that romance is something too special to put in a book which is basically a bunch of fat gags.

Can I ask a couple of questions about who the better big man is, and why?
Yeah, sure.

[Popeye character] Hamburger Harry or Hagar the Horrible?
Definitely Hagar the Horrible. Let's face it: the man had it all there to be a violent Viking. These people raped and pillaged across Europe. But no, he just hangs out with his mates and Lucky. He's a gentle Viking. Hamburger Harry is just not in the game.

Here's a free kick. Homer Simpson or TV chef Iain Hewitson? Which one's funnier?
Well - intentionally? I'm a fan of both but Homer is the archetype big bloke. It's almost embarrassing. I'll be sitting there watching the Simpsons with the pizza resting on my stomach and my girlfriends will look over at me and it's like "nooo, please, don't". Mind you, Iain Hewitson is special to me. When I first moved into my new flat, I'd been at a photo shoot that day so I had fancy pants on and a bright red shirt with braces. I was helping [fiancee] Laura unpack the car and the new landlord took her aside and said: "just tell him I think he'd great on the telly". She said thanks, and then he said: "I love the way he cooks outdoors." This bloke thought I was Iain Hewitson - I don't even have a moustache!

Swinging on to advertising campaigns, are you a Gowings Man or a Lowes Bloke?
I'm a Gowings man in some things but when it comes to Y-fronts I'm very much a Lowes bloke.

Do you like the Lowes ads?
I think the Lowes ads are a high point of Australian theatre. I'd like them to extend the Lowes ads, have the Lowes ads do Shakespeare. Get all those guys, with the same director as the Lowes ads doing Richard III. That would be magic: Siro as Richard III. Magic.

Two meals: what would you prefer - combination laksa or a bowl of cassoulet [a French stew of haricot beans, pork neck, bacon fat, duck at sausage]?
Oooooh, geez. Now the beauty of the laksa is that it's half soup, so that means when you get home and wring your shirt out you've got a second meal. But the cassoulet does provide the duck - the fattiest of all pultry - and pork neck, which speaks for itself. Can I have them both together?

Of course. Getting a little serious now, you do work out a bit. Should the big guy have a basic routine?
Yeah, I do. Not that I'm happy with my size, but got sick and tired of putting on weight every winter, which I have done since I was a kid. So this year I started out in summer eating really well, and I dropped about 8kg and I felt better for it. Come winter time - I'm sorry, when I get up an 4.45am I'm not going to have fruit salad - but I this winter by working out four days a week I haven't gained any weight, and I eat bad, and I mean real bad. So I have a trainer and she's really great, I get exercise and I'm much healthier than I was - not just thinner.

Is lunch your main meal?
Yes. That's the trap of breakfast radio and it's how I put on a lot of weight when I started, because you can go out to lunch and quite often there are these people who want to take you to lunch, which is really nice. But then you go home and have a normal dinner. And if you're lucky you can slip in a 10pm supper as well.

Were you ever self-concious about your weight when you changed to TV?
I'll never do anything with my shirt off, and I love working with a suit.

You do look good in a suit.
Thank you very much. The suit holds it all in and if you are an overweight performer, try and get a desk in front of you. You can hide a multitude of sins behind a desk. In fact, Brian Henderson is actually 45 stone, he's got the huge waist, the original hip-o-hip man.

Good News Weekend has been great this year. The whole team works really well.
It's been a nice exercise. Everyone will be happy when HG and Roy get back because we've just been baby-sitting for them, but we haven't embarrassed ourselves which is more than you can hope for on TV these days.

Finally, what would you say to health authorities and government agencies horrified by your book?
We're just having a bit of a laugh, and if I get the slightest twinge of chest pain then I'll lose some weight.

Big Man's World, by Tony Squires, Mikey Robins and Steve Abbott, is out now through Random House.

-Marcus Casey

typed up by VellaB