Preview: Frank Skinner, Showbiz at The Garrick
PUBLISHED: 13:04 11 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:04 11 December 2019
The Hampstead-based comic talks fame, ageing and the joys of north London ahead of his latest stand-up show
Frank Skinner named his latest stand up routine Showbiz but says, like Elton John's biography, it should be called 'Me'.
"I wish I'd thought of it, it's a far better title for the show because it is about me and the stuff that I think. Every one of my shows is, a verbal-diary of what's happened to me since my last one. I'm not good at making stuff up."
The acclaimed show does include celebrity gossip, alongside observations about ageing, having his first child at 55, and good old jokes and puns. Skinner's style of digression and celebrating the trivial could be disastrous in less experienced hands, but as he points out, he's an old pro.
"If I can use the F word, I have been famous, and a comedian, for longer than I haven't been."
With that comes being accosted in toilets for selfies, but that's ok by him. "I'm not one of those people who moans about being stopped in the street. The other night coming back late on a train, there were a bunch of people singing my football song. I did 20 selfies, there was a fight which didn't involve me. I'm used to it."
He says his partner (Cath Mason) keeps him grounded. "She's my sternest critic. The other night I did the One Show and thought I had done some good jokes, but when I got in, she said 'yeah, not for me.' I'm not likely to lose touch with reality!" But he adds: "The secret of happiness is having people in your life who you care about as much or more than you care about yourself. The pressure of being the star of every scene in your own film isn't very good for you I have found."
The former lecturer from West Brom first tried his hand at stand up in 1987. Within a year he had made his first TV appearance, and by 1991 had beaten Jack Dee and Eddie Izzard to the Perrier Award.
Next to stopping drinking ("I went from sleeping on central reservations on busy roads to doing live TV") and having his first child, moving to London was a huge life change.
"When I fell out with the woman I was living with I asked David Baddiel if I could sleep on his sofa. I stayed for seven years. He was living in Kilburn but during that time he moved to Hampstead. I never really asked, I just assumed I was going as well."
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During that time the pair famously co-hosted Fantasy Football League and wrote the stirring England anthem Three Lions. Skinner then left NW3 for a decade but returned after becoming a father.
"I thought where's a good place for a kid to grow up? And I thought Hampstead, because if there's one thing kids love it's moped crime," he jokes
He regrets not being a Heathwalker but says he always gets lost. "I have a clinically bad sense of direction, I get lost in my own house. I was taking my kid to school yesterday and he was covering his eyes with me leading him. I got to a turning on a journey I have done 100 times and couldn't remember which way to go. I would like to be the sort of person who walks on the Heath and reads poety but I think I'd end up living there like (Heath hermit) Harry in the film."
He was warned that Hampstead had "lost its character it's oligarchs living there now" but begs to differ. "I haven't found that at all. It's got the most interesting old people in the world. My neighbour is a geologist who plays clarinet, another embroiders political protest banners, what's brilliant about Hampstead is you get into conversation with someone in a cafe and find out that they knew Lenin."
Inevitably his act has changed just as his life has changed.
"My style and stage presence comes from who I am, what you see is what you get, the line between me on and me off is very blurred." He adds: "In my youth there used to be rock and roll, sex in hotel rooms. Now my time in hotel rooms is spent working out how to make the shower come on. I can't think of another comedian who can talk about moving quickly towards senility and also being the father of a seven year old. I've managed to mine two rich veins of comedy."
He still loves touring: the cameraderie, the terrible food, the 3am car journeys.
"I'm not paying off a divorce bill or having problems with the revenue, I do it because I love it. I always see stand up as the tree trunk of my career, there are interesting branches but this is the rock solid bit."
Does he feel pressure to be funny all the time?
"I became a comedian because I like making people laugh. I also like doing that in elevators and stations. I am not as bad as I used to be. I would go to someone's house for dinner and use their knives and forks as props. Now I have a legitimate outlet for that comedy I have calmed down. But if I'm in a room with three people, as far as I'm concerned that constitutes an audience."
Frank Skinner Showbiz runs at The Garrick Theatre in the West End from January 13 to February 15 frankskinnerlive.com