Frank Skinner: 'If I didn't put in my life savings, I'd have quit comedy'

The comedian looks back at the 36 years since his first stand-up gig and how becoming a 'family man' helped clean up his act.

From the moment Frank Skinner walked into the Assembly George Square Gardens in Edinburgh, I knew I was in the presence of a comedy great.

People of all ages flocked towards him to chat and have their photograph taken, something which he took in his stride as he soaked up the Fringe buzz.

It is that buzz of the Fringe that has seen Frank return to Edinburgh year after year, after making his debut back in 1987 – a big leap of faith for the comedian, who, at the time was a lecturer.

He explained: “I do really love Edinburgh. I had been the year before (I started) and seen some comedy, including David Baddiel and obviously I thought ‘oh I could do better than that’. No not at all. I was inspired by him.

“I had £408 in the Post Office and I phoned up and said ‘can I book for next year?’ so I paid with my life savings before I had actually done any comedy.

“I had some terrible deaths on stage. I think if I hadn’t put my life savings in I would have quit comedy but I wasn’t giving up on my life savings, so I kept going.”

And just as well he did as in 1991, Frank scooped the prestigious Perrier Award at the festival.

He added: “That was really exciting. I still remember the feeling of walking off stage and the stage manager shouting, ‘you need to come back on’ – and they were standing with the prize and flowers and champagne.”

This year, Frank is playing at Assembly George Square, Gordon Aikman Theatre, with his show entitled 30 Years of Dirt.

“I’m doing a show which is about my struggle to become a clean comedian. To be honest, my struggle has miserably failed but I battle on,” he said.

“I don’t have any powers of invention whatsoever, so everything in my act is what has happened to me, usually.

“The sort of things that used to happen to me don’t anymore, so that’s cleaned up my act somewhat. I’m a happy family man nowadays.”

And Edinburgh even played a part in that.

“My child was conceived here,” Frank laughed. “If you’re interested, it was Advocates Close, just off the Royal Mile. Not the actual close but a flat up there.

“I feel there should be a blue plaque.”

When not on stage, Frank is happy continuing on with his radio career and working on his poetry podcast, which has become a surprise success.

“Poetry started to seep into my life. I saw it as a private thing I did for pleasure.

“I was offered a podcast and suddenly it was getting five star reviews and I didn’t expect that.

“I personally don’t write it. I like it too much to do that. I don’t’ want to poison the well.”

One of those moments in as an interviewer you cringe and think, ‘oh no. I AM going to poison that well.”

Having listened to quite a few of Frank’s pods, which are a really gentle, interesting insight into the world of poetry, I decided it would be apt to pen a poem of my own for the man himself.

And it went a little like this…

Dearest Frank Skinner, born in 1957,

A man with funny bones, sent down from comedy heaven,

But it was in old Edinburgh, he truly become a star,

Winning the Perrier award, we knew that he’d go far,

The television beckoned with Baddiel by his side,

Football joked and sarcasm, truly quite the ride,

Three Lions brought them football glory, even if just in song,

Room 101 so loved, he rarely put a foot wrong,

They say some have a face for radio, Frank I wouldn’t dare,

What I do know is you’re ABSOLUTELY loved, when your voice is on the air,

Now back on stage in Edinburgh, with a poetry podcast to boot,

Frank thank you for making us smile, it’s truly been a hoot.

Thankfully, he seemed to approve, saying: “Why bother with the interview you could have just read that and I could have interpreted it into modern dance?”

That can be next year’s Fringe show Frank, but for now, get along and enjoy 30 Years of Dirt.

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