Frank Skinner

Frank Skinner

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.

And all the work paid off in 1991, back in Edinburgh, where he won the prestigious Perrier Award ahead of some seriously talented competition, including Eddie Izzard and Jack Dee.

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.

Read More

Frank Skinner at Latitude

Gig review by Steve Bennett

Frank Skinner is amused to find himself playing a music festival at 62, likening his longevity to ‘seeing a wasp in November’.

It is, admittedly, an age when some performers might start slipping into cosy anecdotage. And he’s not entirely immune from that, with plenty routines likely to form part of his forthcoming tour since they come under its title of Showbiz. There’s a gossipy story that might dent Bruce Forsyth’s image, a great heckler tale involving a pre-Gogglebox Laurence Fox in a serious play, and a bit of wonderfully arcane celebrity trivia about Bob Dylan

This last one comes in a routine that starts ‘I went to Elton John’s villa in Nice...’ – a none-too subtle reminder that for all his everyman credentials, Skinner isn’t QUITE like the rest of us. When he begins another gag, ‘I was on the bus…’, you want to reply: ‘No you weren’t.’ Not this century, at least.


Later he does have a bit of fun with the fact that he’s done all right for himself, cheekily boasting about the size of his house. But even here, he’s not the winner of the story, since his advancing years has given him plenty of aches and pains to gripe about. He increasingly finds he cannot trust his body. 

Skinner first built his reputation back in the early 1990s for speaking honestly about sex, being graphic but never gratuitous. Today he deploys the same sensibilities to talk about wiping his arse. How times have changed.


Being so long in the game, and with little to prove, Skinner is, of course, relaxed on stage. There’s no urgency to belt out a punchy gag every minute, and he digresses and bimbles his way through unconnected material.

However, the casual, underplayed matter-of-factness is part of his appeal, making it seem almost accidental when he stumbles on a great phrase he’s clearly written. A few months out from the start of his tour, he’s still perhaps a bit too loose, but there’s still more than a little sting in this ageing wasp yet.

Read More

Published: 22 Jul 2019

Britcom 2007

Frank Skinner has chosen Montreal for his first major…
18/07/2007

Comments

Agent

We do not currently hold contact details for Frank Skinner's agent. If you are a comic or agent wanting your details to appear on Chortle, click here.

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.