Skinner's journey to millionaire entertainer has been one of rags to riches - a story told in his 2001 autobiography.
Born Chris Collins in the West Midlands suburb of Oldbury, his destiny appeared to be a life working in one the region's many factories,
Indeed, he was expelled from school at 16 over a money-making school meal scam. As he admits: "All I did was find where they dumped the old meal tickets and sold them on cheap to other kids. I'm not ashamed of it, it seemed like an honourable, Robin Hood kind of thing to do."
True to expectations, he moved on to the local foundry, but decided it wasn't for him. "We hammered lumps of metal into shape," he recalls. "Everyone there was deaf and had three fingers."
So he sought an escape through education - enrolling at night school for A-levels, an English degree, and finally an MA - and by making his first tentative forays into showbusiness.
"I entered a John Wayne impersonation competition at a Midlands nightclub called Samantha's," he recalled. "And I won. Mind you, the other entrant's impression consisted of getting on stage, baring his arse, and shouting 'Birmingham City: Kings of Europe.'"
He also sang in a Stones-style band called Olde English, and punk combo The Prefects.
But he says his 'Road to Damascus' moment came during a 1986 visit to the Edinburgh festival, which inspired him to begin a career as a stand-up.
It was a life-changing time. It may not fit with the image of a comic, but he also abandoned alcohol and renewed his interest in the Catholic church.
His first gig, in December 1987, was at the Birmingham Anglers' Association. "I died on my arse," he recalls.
And, as actors' union Equity had another Chris Collins on their books, the fledgling comic had to choose another name. He stole the moniker Frank Skinner from a man in his dad's pub dominoes team.
A four-year slog through the circuit, financed by a string of day jobs, led to Skinner establishing his own club in Birmingham.
The prize gave him some hard-earned recognition, and landed him a host of TV roles to supplement his constant live work.
It was on the stand-up circuit - at Jongleurs in Camden - that Skinner met and befriended David Baddiel who would become his flatmate and, later, collaborator.
The partnership led to the best moment of Frank's life, hearing the Three Lions anthem they co-wrote being sung by fans at Wembley.
In 1997, Skinner moved out of the Hampstead flat he shared with Baddiel since 1992 and into his own place - 100 yards down the road "I lived by myself for seven years and I quite liked it," he said. "I used to like eating baked beans out of a tin and sitting naked watching Sergeant Bilko. You can't do that if you share a flat. Other people's nakedness, unless you're in love with them, is a pretty off-putting thing."
The duo continued to work together, and in 1998 took their Unplanned show to the Edinburgh fringe.Anticipating audience cynicism about the loose idea, they set the ticket price at just £2. "People loved it," he said. The show proved such a success, that it transferred to TV and the West End.
While working with Baddiel, Skinner also developed his solo career, working on his stand-up and becoming an accomplished chat show host on BBC1 - a show that transferred to ITV when the corporation would not stump up the seven-figure sum he wanted.
In 2007, he returned to stand-up after a ten year absence, in a show that was nominated for best theatre tour in the 2008 Chortle awards.
Frank Skinner Videos
Baddiel & Skinner Unplanned: World Cup Special
Well, this was certainly an odd gig. They said it was unplanned – a launch for the duo's Absolute Radio World Cup podcasts, that was itself being recorded as a podcast – but the oddest thing of all was the planned billing. The nominal stars, David Baddiel and Frank Skinner, actually ended up as the support act for a gig featuring Keane and James, two bands probably booked because they fitted the MOR rock demographic of Absolute rather than because they both sounded as if they were named after footballers.
Proceedings kicked off with Baddiel and Skinner doing what they have become best known for, just shooting the breeze and being rude on their trademark leather sofa. Hopefully by the time they get to the tournament – presumably the sofa is staying in the UK – they will be more match fit. Last night they seemed a little rusty and could not quite hit their stride. There were very funny at times, but they were often no funnier than your sharpest mates in the boozer on a good night, which perhaps is the ambience the duo strive for.
In fact at times they were in danger of being upstaged by Pub Landlord lookalike Paul, plucked from the audience to be their onstage note-taking secretary. Paul presented them with a pair of South African horns known as vuvuzelas and told some amusing anecdotes himself. He even muscled in on their career as saviours of the England football anthem, revealing that he had recorded a World Cup song too – entitled Cabanga, the Zulu word for Imagine – and promptly pulled a CD from his pocket.
The professionals did have their moments during an extended Q&A session though, taking the obligatory mickey out of Emile Heskey and John Terry. Fish-in-a-barrel comedy perhaps, but it was certainly illuminating to discover that a Facebook site called Ashley Cole is a Tosser (actually not Tosser, but Cunt, explained Baddiel, but the podcast mustn't be too offensive) has more members than the combined memberships of sites called I Hate Hitler and Ban Child Rapists.
Baddiel was intermittently inventive – suggesting that if there is a penalty shootout maybe David James could undo his corn-rows and block the goal with his afro – but Skinner, as ever, was more naturally comical and more sharp off-the-cuff, as anyone who has seen him on BBC2's Opinionated will know. But anyone who saw his last live tour will know that he is even better when working from a honed script. When this is edited down and the serious swearing is cut out, it'll certainly make a decent podcast, but I suspect there will be better ones over the next few weeks.
Funnily, though, the twosome were more imaginative when they strayed from the soccer agenda. Maybe they have been asked whether they think England will win the World Cup too many times to be spontaneous, or maybe they just take the subject too seriously to be funny about it, but there were more laughs to be had when they drifted onto the topic of female film stars’ facial hair and Frank's flights of fancy let rip.
After a rousing first half finale of Three Lions with Ian Broudie and a string quartet, the post-break section turned into the aforementioned rock gig, with B&S briefly returning to fill time during set changes. ‘It feels like a charity gig except that everyone is getting paid,’ observed Skinner. With Absolute logos peppering the stage it also felt a bit like a corporate gig. Or one of those private shows where Rod Stewart entertains the Sultan of Brunei and his chums, so I suspect B&S are being paid very handsomely for the link-up. Who would have thought talking rubbish about sport and Kate Winslet’s bum-fluff could be so lucrative?
And just for the record, Frank is trying to be optimistic about England lifting the trophy but under the surface is rather more realistic. Or as he put it in the way only he could, a bit like when he used to try to believe that Elton John and Kiki Dee were an item, but in his heart of hearts knew the truth.
- Click here for details of Baddiel & Skinner's World Cup podcasts
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