Frank Skinner on fan selfies, interviews in vans and being a pushy dad
Frank Skinner has been in the comedy business for nearly 30 years, and on the day I interview him he needs all the humour he can muster.
Our interview space is the back of a small and hot TV satellite truck in Edinburgh town centre, just off the Royal Mile.
Five minutes into our chat, we both have sweat dripping down our faces.
Skinner, a seasoned professional, remains upbeat throughout, joking that he would like the interview to go on for longer to allow him “to lose a few more pounds before he gets out”.
It’s apt that his show at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe is titled Showbiz, and takes a tongue-in-cheek look at what it really means to be famous.
Born to a working-class family in the West Midlands, and working as a teacher before starting in comedy, Skinner admits it all changes once your face is on TV.
“I actually like – if I may use the F word – fame,” he says. “I like people stopping me in the street and saying, ‘Can I have a photo?’
“I hear a lot of people moaning about it. But I was ignored for about 30 years. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.
“Being a comic is the best possible job.”
In the 20 minutes I’m in Skinner’s company, he is stopped for at least 10 photos with fans, all of which he happily agrees to.
The 62-year-old says his show is of course “ironic”, calling himself “not exactly Mr Showbiz”.
But he is a fan of the snazzy poster advertising his now sold-out gig around the town.
“It’s got me looking about 150. And then the word ‘showbiz’ in shocking pink letters. I think it’s a nice juxtaposition.”
Now father to seven-year-old Buzz, Skinner seems keen for his son to follow in his footsteps.
“I’m absolutely pushing in that way. That’s the job you want.”
So what’s his plan for future comedy world domination?
“I’m going to be like one of those Russian gymnasts when they train eight hours a day, from when they’re about seven or eight.”
I suggest he’s a bit of a helicopter dad, and he readily agrees.
“I’m thinking a Chinook, at least double propeller Frank.”
And it would seem his dedication to Skinner junior is paying off.
“I think at the moment, he’s the second funniest person on the planet. And I’m perfectly happy to be overtaken in the next 10 years or so.
“I find him utterly hilarious. I mean, just visual gags. He’ll do a prop gag. He’ll come in with a banana, pretending it’s his hand and stuff. It’s knockout.”
So how showbiz is Skinner himself? Has he bought a fleet of fast cars and designer clothes now he’s rich and famous?
Judging by his most extravagant purchase to date, it would seem not.
“I just spent a few hundred quid on an Anglo-Saxon coin with Ethelred the Unready on it. Now, I don’t know if the Kardashians are going in for that that kind of bling, but it made me happy.”
As for celebrity pals, he insists he has only two.
“Adrian Chiles and David Baddiel,” he says. “I’ve got people who I know but I don’t know if they if they fully qualify as friends.
“I’m not big on the friends front, to be honest with you. So many cards at Christmas, they’re expensive.”
It was 28 years ago that Skinner beat Eddie Izzard, Jack Dee and Lily Savage to win the Edinburgh Comedy Award (then called the Perriers).
He says the Frank then and the Frank now are very different people, freely admitting he was much wilder in those days.
He puts this down to his knees. “They’re all right for an archaeological dig but not for a crazy party.”
As for changes in the industry in that time, he says the #MeToo movement is very welcome.
“I have seen pretty horrible blokes thinking they can do pretty much what they like over the years, not just in showbusiness but in ordinary jobs and in pubs and stuff. And I’m very happy for them to get payback.”
It’s his rise to TV fame from those pub gigs and dingy back rooms that seems to have given Skinner a taste for the “grittier” side of job of stand up.
“I love touring. Not just the shows, I love hotels. I love motorway services at three o’clock in the morning. I like long car journeys, so I like all the trimmings basically.”
I can’t help thinking that it’s lucky for me that Skinner is such a fan of the “real” side of celebrity.
He aptly sums up our interview as we finish, possibly the least showbiz one he’ll ever undertake.
“It’s a super-hot day outside. People are walking past in bikinis more or less… And we’re sitting here, not even looking at each other.
“We’re facing a bank of screens and I’ve got a phone stuck in my face. When people ask me what showbiz is really like, it’s this. I love it.”
- Frank Skinner is touring the UK from September