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)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport