ARTS / Show People: Nothing to declare but his geniality: Frank Skinner

FRANK SKINNER BA Hons, MA, WBA fan, Warwickshire CCC member, Sun reader and comedian, makes the short walk from Soho to his rented office in Mayfair, where he will spend all day writing material for a 57-date national tour. No one bats an eyelid as he passes, pink-faced after a day in the sun at Lord's. In T-shirt, trainers and backpack (containing the stand-up's standbys: script, cigarettes and a change of underwear), he could be any old out-of-towner.

He talks about his landlord, and Fantasy Football co-presenter, David Baddiel. He charges pounds 60 a week plus bills. 'A very fair landlord. That's probably the best review he's ever had.' They live upstairs from Tim Hilton, the IoS art critic, who reports that they have an uncanny knack of dropping in when he is cooking. 'The other day I did sardines and Skinner ate them all. It's like having a couple of teenagers in the house.'

Unusually for a Hampstead resident, Skinner 'can't be doing with books'. It is only thanks to a random selection procedure in a bookshop that he is reading an A S Byatt. 'For the first few weeks I'd never heard of him. Then I met Nick Hornby at a party and he told me A S Byatt was a woman.'

The conversation veers back to football. In a rare innovation in TV sports coverage, Skinner and Baddiel have been doing half-time comedy slots for the BBC, with terrific results. We discuss the two Baggios in the Italian team. Skinner prefers Dino, the workhorse, to Roberto, the genius.

Among comedians, Frank Skinner is a Dino. You'd never catch him wearing a ponytail or calling himself an artist. In his next big match, a comedy game-show called Gagtag, he's on the same side as Frank Carson, Jim Bowen and Ted Rodgers, 'and that feels about right'. The Seiko gold watch he's wearing is a gift from his co-host, the renascent Bob Monkhouse - a bond between old guard and new. If Baddiel and Rob Newman were the new rock'n'roll, Skinner says he is 'the new vaudeville'. A typical Skinnerism is either corny or dirty. 'I'm the least rock'n'roll of the comics.'

Skinner is not one of your onstage comedians/ offstage tragedians: he seems close to chronic happiness. When he breaks into a cheesy grin, two white patches appear on the bridge of his nose. At the moment they're there most of the time: before Gagtag and the tour and the next series of Fantasy Football League and Do the Right Thing, the BBC's moral-dilemma show in which he is Terry Wogan's flippant sidekick, Skinner stars in Blue Heaven, a sitcom he wrote for himself.

'I'm a man in my thirties still living with my parents and I'm in a band with a mate which is absolutely terrible. I'm trying to get out and get a girl and get successful.' His mum is played by the princess of superior Seventies sitcom, Paula Wilcox, 'which is fantastic. Nobody should have a mum that fanciable.' This is as much a preoccupation as football. The cafe we're in is also being used as the interview room for a stream of Amazonian models. 'I think comedy is essentially an unsexy job,' says Skinner, distracted and wistful.

Now 36, he grew up in Smethwick in the Black Country. His inheritance was an accent that, an Oxford survey found, was the one of which all participants said, 'sounds a bit stupid'. He was expelled from school at 16 for black marketeering in dinner tickets, but not before winning over the bullies with humour. At seven he was advised to become a comedian; later, a teacher told him he 'played too much to the gallery'.

He worked in a factory that made 'big lumps of metal', and went to night school to gain enough O and A levels to do teacher training. Failing to qualify, he stayed on at Birmingham Polytechnic to do an English degree, and switched to Warwick for his MA. 'By this time it was to see how long I could stay out of work.'

Comedy was just an extension of that. 'I don't regard it as a grown-up job, so it's not really proper work.' Inspired by a visit to Edinburgh in 1987, he booked a venue there in 1988. The reviews were encouraging and after gaining stand-up experience in Birmingham and the Channel 4 series Packet of Three, he moved to London.

Even in the incipient phase of world domination, he remains touchingly starstruck. Offered the chance to meet Elvis Costello after one of his recent Albert Hall shows, 'I said 'Norralf'. I didn't bother saying 'I've got all your albums,' although I have, and he said: 'I thought you was really funny on World Cup Grandstand the other night.' I thought, 'God, Elvis Costello watching me]' '

It is this side of him that should keep audiences from gagging on his ubiquity. He is 'the most uncompetitive person in the world'. Nor does he appear inclined to take the comic inheritance seriously. 'I'm very lucky in that I don't get nervous at all. It's the only job where it's an advantage to be a bit dozy. On Gagtag I see people jumping about before and I just stroll on and do it.'

In Mayfair he writes in longhand and 'can't get the gags down quick enough'. 'When you go in there's a list of the people who have offices. Something like Nyman Instruction; Bradford Girder Inc; Frank Skinner. Like I've become a small business.'

'Gagtag': BBC1, Tues, 8-8.30pm. Skinner at Edinburgh: the Pleasance (031-556 6550), 10-20 Aug.

(Photographs omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water