We’re sat with Frank Skinner in a pub beer garden in the sort of London neighbourhood we will never live in unless we find £8 million under the floorboards.
He’s sipping soda water (he’s been sober for 33 years) and hiding from the blazing sun under foliage.
Frank, who does live round here, doesn’t need to look under the floorboards for spare cash, given he is one of our most successful comedians, has a glittering telly career, and wrote the most-loved and bestselling football anthem of all time (Three Lions), all of which hasn’t left him short of a bob or two.
He’s looking in fine fettle for a man of 62, although he goes mostly unrecognised amidst the yummy mummy clientele, engaging them in lengthy chit-chat when they come over to discuss whether or not the table next to us is free.
He does love a chat – give Frank a subject, any subject, and a comedy yarn will be instantly attached – and he’s razor-sharp, answering any question you throw at him without a second’s hesitation.
He’s also that surprisingly lesser-spotted comedian – one who is actually hilarious in actual real life.
Frank Skinner has funny bones, which he is taking on a new tour, with a month at Edinburgh Festival, followed by gigs across the country, leaving his partner Cath and their seven-year-old son Buzz at home.
Frank talks impressing Buzz with Three Lions, his obsession with hotel rooms, and a worrying new addiction he’s developed…
You’re looking fine for 62. What are your secrets?
Thank you, although I’m slightly obscured by shrubs…
I haven’t had any work, I don’t even gel my hair any more.
I look a bit fluffy, but I’m going with it.
I don’t know if ageing will happen in one almighty rush, like when a dam bursts.
I like pictures of old Bolivian peasant women you get on the front of National Geographic.
I wouldn’t mind that look.
How does fame now compare to back in the day?
I used to be in the papers a lot.
A photographer lived in a tree outside my house.
I don’t know why he hid, because one day he gave me a business card and asked if I wanted any of his photos.
I used to go to premieres and one night I was drinking a glass of Vimto, talking to Tricky Dickie from EastEnders, and I thought, ‘I don’t know why I do this any more.’
I was once voted Party Animal Of The Year.
It now seems impossible that that could have happened.
Now it’s all, ‘My mum loves you’, which I’m fine with, that’s my catchment area.
Does your son understand you are famous?
What brought it home was when Three Lions went mad last summer and they watched the video in assembly – one kid had done an interpretive dance to it.
He started introducing me as, ‘My dad who wrote Three Lions’.
He even sang it next to me on public transport.
I’m sure people thought it was some terrible indoctrination. ‘Sing, child!’
Has he got your funny bones?
He is hilarious.
He will be a successful comedian, I’m sure of it.
He’s the only person on the planet who I’m OK with being funnier than me.
The more verbal he gets, the better.
Having a baby was great, but it’s a bit like owning a big fish – you carry it about delicately, and it gives nothing back.
But now it’s like I moved a mate in.
How do you find being away from the family when you’re on tour?
I sort of enjoy being a single man.
And when I say single man, my idea of being a single man is being able to watch TV while lying down with salt in my navel that I’m dipping a hard boiled egg into.
I saw it in a film and thought, ‘That’s a good idea.’
Cath doesn’t really like it when I do that.
How’s life on the road?
Having a kid makes a massive difference.
I find myself in my hotel room going through 8,000 photos and watching videos of him when he was two months old.
I do really like hotels though.
That moment when the door on the room opens and you don’t know what you’re going to see.
I never have breakfast in the room because I want to see the incredible awkwardness of people choosing cereal.
I don’t really socialise after a gig because one thing that nags at me when I’m performing is that I’m not getting the full hotel room experience, so I want to get back and see what channels they have and eat the biscuits, maybe an instant hot chocolate.
I saw Cilla Black once leaving a dressing room at ITV and she’d stripped the place.
She had the magazines, she even had the tissues.
That inspired me.
When I leave a hotel I take everything, even the cotton buds.
What’s on your backstage rider?
I like tea making facilities.
And brown bread sandwiches.
I don’t even establish the filling.
But it seems to me that people see brown bread in a sandwich as a development.
A default sandwich is white bread, and they think ‘Come on, brown bread, he can’t be serious’.
I also say a fruit bowl but often you just get the big three.
Apple, orange, banana.
If they see past the big three I’m always pleased but it rarely happens.
Do you have any vices these days?
I don’t smoke, drink, do drugs or sleep around, so when it comes to Lent I‘m really struggling.
I gave up tea once and that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, I was clawing at the walls.
I do wonder if I’m eating a borderline unsafe amount of taramasalata.
I never go a day when one of my meals isn’t taramasalata based.
When I have the other meal that isn’t the taramasalata, I’m thinking ‘Oh I wish this was the taramasalata’.
I think if you did a survey it would reveal I eat more of it than anyone else in Britain.
If there’s ever a food scare involving taramasalata I’m going to be a very,very worried person.
Tell us your most showbiz story…
You know that game where you put a yellow sticker with your name on it on your head and you have to guess who you are?
I played that with Elton John at his villa in Nice.
It was David Furnish’s idea.
Elton was Bobby Crush and I was Ian Krankie.
Not even Janette.
That was fairly showbiz.
Do you ever get starstruck?
Yes I often get really excited.
I like all that.
If I respect them.
If it was Arg, say, I’d be happy to meet him, but I wouldn’t get tingles.
That was a showbiz moment actually – I announced on radio that Arg was found when he went missing.
I stopped a song for it, like breaking news.
And your new stand-up show is called Showbiz…
A lot of comics write shows that are about stuff, but I just write about things that happen to me.
People say ‘how come so many things happen to you?’
But I think they happen to everyone, they just don’t notice.
What sort of things are we talking?
I was in a cab driven by a Lithuanian woman.
We drove past the Nike shop and there were young men queueing at 6.30, which she was confused about.
She went silent for about five minutes and then said, with tremendous gravity, ‘I have queued for cheese’.
Most people wouldn’t have noticed this nostalgic trip back to the east.
It was the power of it.
I didn’t say anything.
I wasn’t going to come back with something I’d queued for because I would not have won.
You’re playing at Edinburgh festival, and you were first there 22 years ago. Must be a very different experience now…
In 1987, I saw my first stand up comedy which was exciting because on telly it was all Little & Large.
I decided ‘this is what I want to do’ and booked an hour slot at the next year’s festival.
I got to a point where I was in the same postcode as mediocre and I did an hour at midday and played to about 70 people in two weeks – and I may be exaggerating.
Four years later, I won the Perrier Award.
They flash mobbed my gig – the back door burst open and 12 middle class people came bursting in with champagne and flowers and then I had to go and have dinner with the panel and one woman came over to me and said ‘I have to say, I chose Eddie Izzard’.
I was like ‘When you say you
You must have developed a thick skin over the years…
I don’t read reviews because whatever they say I’ll find something negative.
When I do radio, the other presenters have screens switched on to see texts coming in from listeners and the rule is they can’t tell me any bad stuff.
I’ve basically got a life filter.
Every celebrity I’ve known has such vicious stuff about them on social media and they’re quite blasé about it.
I’d love to have a thick skin but I’m afraid it’s gossamer thin.
Who knew you were such a sensitive flower…
It’s quite important for a comic.
I had a mate who tried comedy and people started rolling up leaflets and throwing them at him, they were bouncing off his head, there were 200 of them lying there by the end, and I watched at the back through the cracks between my fingers it was so terrifying, but then he came and sat down next to me and said ‘Well, that went alright’.
You need to really feel the pain or there’s no motivation to get better.
I went home in intense pain sometimes in the early days.
Even now, there’ll always be that one person at a gig who looks at you like you might look at a second hand wardrobe.
See Frank performing at London’s Leicester Square Theatre until 27th July and live in Edinburgh from 31 July-18 August. Frank’s new tour Showbiz runs from 12 September-11 December. For further info and tickets, CLICK HERE