1991 saw Frank Skinner win the prestigious Perrier Comedy Award, and almost 25 years on, he remains at the top of his game with ‘Man in a Suit’.
Seven years since the comic last performed a solo stand up show, Skinner has returned to his roots and embarked on a national stand up tour. Stepping out onto the Philharmonic stage to a warm welcome, he soon repaid the rapturous applause by having the stalls in stitches with a flawless set.
“A grey haired, male celebrity still at large – appreciate me while you can, there’s not many of us left,” Skinner got the evening started with a topical Yewtree gag and the evening was filled with relationship anecdotes, poetry (Yes, really), tales of meeting Prince Charles, and observations of the comedy world.
Although the 57 year old looks almost exactly the same as he did 20 years ago, his material has certainly evolved. Renowned for being ‘a bit blue’ in the past, one of the noticeable changes of Skinner’s act is that’s there’s far less smut in his material these days. “There’s a bit of filth, but not much. When I do Room 101 or my radio show, I’m very me. I don’t feel phoney. I’m very clean because it’s eight in the morning. David Baddiel said to me recently, ‘When I think of ‘your funny’ off stage, I don’t think of you doing knob jokes. I think of you talking about John Updike.’ That’s more who I am off stage these days.”
There’s certainly been a change to the 57-year-old comic’s lifestyle, which may explain the slight departure from the ‘laddish’ humour which he was famed for throughout the 90’s. Now happily settled down, with a young son, Buzz, the West Bromich born comedian seems more comfortable with gags about love (with even a romance stat thrown in), relationships and trips down memory lane. “I’ve done a lot of knob jokes in my time, but maybe I’ve emptied my supply of them now. Your comedy should be a reflection of what’s in your head, and I just don’t think of sex as much as I used to. When you’re in a long relationship, sex is no longer the dominant thing.”
Some of the highlights of the evening were when Skinner improvised, thanks to some eager audience participation. It was further proof that he remains one of the UK’s finest stand up’s – however, I’m not sure whether the usher who, in Frank’s view, bore a passing resemblance to a Chuckle Brother, would agree.
Although it appears he’s swapped penis jokes with poetry, the Room 101 host still enjoyed ‘the odd knob joke’, “I still have to do a bit of filth on stage. If I didn’t, that would be like Bernie Clifton not performing with his ostrich. So I go through a process of negotiation with my audience – ‘let me read you some haikus, and I’ll trade you that for some knob gags later on.’ I think that’s a fair deal. I’ll talk about Plato, and I’ll then give you a knob gag. It’s like training a dog: you have to sit while I say my bit, but then I’ll reward you with a chocolate biscuit afterwards.”
Speaking before the show, Skinner revealed that he had lost none of his desire for the comedy game or his pleasure at entertaining an audience. “I’ve always had the showing off gene. I see it now in my son. The other day he did an impression of me doing the impression of Louis Armstrong, and I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder! So on stage I want to show off. If the audience are laughing, I want to make them laugh even more. Above all, I really care about the audience having a very good time indeed.”
Judging by the giggles and merriment that filled the hall, Frank has nothing to worry about – his showing off was very well tolerated! Although he didn’t give the audience chance to cheer for an encore, returning literally seconds after leaving, it certainly was a good time indeed!
Venue: The Philharmonic Hall
Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (Including warm up & interval)
1 Hour 40 minutes (Frank Skinner’s performance)
4 out of 5 Stars
Originally published in Click