Legendary British comedian Frank Skinner: “I will go on into eternity”

Legendary British comedian Frank Skinner: “I will go on into eternity”



The comedian on the woke, working-class and FIFA World Cup.

Sixty-something. Teetotal. Catholic. Poetry lover. These are not the words normally used to describe a stand-up comedian, but that’s Frank Skinner for you. The British icon’s career is full of surprises and spans more than three decades, from sell-out shows to topping the music charts. FACT chatted to him ahead of about his 30 Years of Dirt show, which has toured the country and is heading to Dubai. He shared his intellectual curiosity and quick wit on topics ranging from class to congas.

Frank Skinner Dubai
From a council estate to comedy clubs

Frank hails from West Bromwich, Staffordshire. He has gone from a council estate address to celebrity suburb in Hampstead, and has not lost his Black Country accent. He was first exposed to comedy through the British double act, Cannon and Ball, and then found humour in unlikely places.

“My main hero was the wrestler, Les Kellett,” he recalled. “This was when wrestling was not full of good-looking people who were a cross between bodybuilders and heavy metal heroes. Instead, it was men you saw fighting in pub car parks on a Friday night. They all had beer bellies and grey hair. Les was a fabulous comic act. I still think of his rough, working-class attitude as a key to being funny.”

Frank went from being on unemployment benefits to an English lecturer. As he always had a knack for making people laugh, he started performing in comedy clubs – but it wasn’t easy. In 1986, he gave up drinking after a battle with alcoholism. Now, he readily pokes fun at himself, from being teetotal to hecklers.

“When I was starting out, I was at one club and a blind man always sat in the front row. He was the main attraction. When I went on stage, he said: ‘Get off, you Brummie loser’. I was about to reply. Then he said: ‘Has he gone yet?’. He got a massive laugh and I knew I lost that one,” he laughed.

Fringe, football and the future

In 1991, Frank won the Edinburgh Fringe’s prestigious Perrier Award, and beat fellow comedians Eddie Izzard and Jack Dee. He went onto become a popular face on British TV, and has presented Baddiel and Skinner Unplanned, Fantasy Football League and Room 101.

Recently, one of Fantasy Football League’s sketches with David Baddiel came under attack for mocking the black footballer, Jason Lee. David publicly apologised and Frank has also reflected. “There’s a lot of stuff about woke politics destroying comedy. I don’t buy into that. I like to be on the edge. I don’t want to be the school bully. I want to be the school clown,” he revealed.

Frank is new to the Middle East. He is taking tips about what to do in Dubai (“my friends sell it like it’s paradise”), and did not visit Doha for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 (“I am too old to travel for football”). Nevertheless, he is still full of opinions about the sport – and that new England team shirt, which the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak criticised for updating the St George’s Cross.

“The important badge is on the front. I forgot that there was a St George's cross on the back. I don’t think the flag is so sacred that it cannot be touched. If I was a footballer, I would refuse to wear a shirt that cost £120,” he sighed.

“Kids want the authentic shirt that their heroes wear. That is insensitive. It alienates people who are the real home of football: the working class. That sounds like table thumping socialism, but it made me angry. It’s a ridiculous price, and it is out of people’s reach.”

Frank Skinner is part of British culture. The football anthem Three Lions, which he co-wrote and sung, hit number one in the UK charts (twice); he starred in the long-running TV show Doctor Who; and was awarded an MBE for his services to entertainment. Now, he is almost 70 years old, what’s left?

“Well, apart from the world’s biggest conga, which has always been an ambition, I want to continue stand-up comedy,” he joked. “There was an American act called George Burns who lived to 100 years old, and he did it into his nineties. I don’t like the idea that you get to a point and quit. I will go on into eternity.”

Frank Skinner: long live the king of comedy.

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