Once a Brummie, always a Brummie! Frank Skinner tells David Johns why he’s so excited about coming home with his new live show.. and two-year-old son Buzz Cody
Britain’s favourite Brummie is coming home! Frank Skinner is packing his suit, collecting up his small two-year-old son, and heading for the city that inspired him. And he admits that he’s thoroughly excited at the prospect. Frank is in town for five sell-out dates on his new Man In A Suit stand-up tour. And when he walks on stage at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham and Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, it’s going to be like one big, incredible family party. “It’s seven years since I last performed live in Birmingham,” says Frank. “So I’m really looking forward to it. I just think it’s going to feel like going back to the family – admittedly a big family! It’s going to be great, because when you come from a place and then go back it’s always special. A bit like everyone being on the same wavelength.
“The last time I toured I did the NIA, but I think that felt a bit too big. So this time I’m at the Symphony Hall which is perfect. And the Civic Hall in Wolverhampton is always a wonderful place to perform.” I caught up with Frank shortly before the start of his 35-date UK tour and somewhat naively expected him to be rehearsing for the rigours ahead. “You can’t really rehearse for stand-up,” he says, a patient tone evident in his voice. “Anyhow, I’m pretty match-fit as I’ve already done a five-week run of the show in London.” Far from putting his feet up though, Frank was working on another project, a comedy history show he’s created for BBC Radio 4. “I need to get this sorted out and fit it in around the tour,” he explains. Frank is always in demand of course, whether it be his TV shows like Room 101, radio hits such as his regular Saturday morning Absolute Radio programme, or seemingly off-the-wall projects – presenting Sky Arts’ Portrait Artist of the Year with Joan Bakewell comes into that category! (“Sky just asked me in one day and said: ‘What sort of things do you like doing?’ I said I quite liked looking round galleries, and the next thing I knew I was doing an arts programme. It was crazy!”)
ANYONE FOR CRICKET?
But touring is something that has always excited him. And with The Man In A Suit tour there’s the added bonus that he’ll be able to spend more time with his family and friends in Brum. “I’ve got a flat in Harborne,” he says. “I stay there when I can and it’s very handy for the tour as Birmingham has the bonus of being very centrally located for the rest of the country. The flat’s near the cricket ground too – I’m a member of Warwickshire Cricket Club – and I like watching the odd game of cricket as well as loving football of course. “It also means that I can bring my two-year-old son up with me and he can spend some time with the rest of the family.” Frank has two older brothers, an older sister and their families who all still live in the area. “I haven’t lived properly in Birmingham since 1991,” he says. “So I can’t claim that I’m walking up and down Broad Street every day, but I still have a real feeling for the city and the people. That never leaves you.” Apart from his son Buzz Cody (named after US astronaut hero Buzz Aldrin) and long-time partner Cath Mason, Frank’s other love is West Bromwich Albion – he’s been supporting the Baggies since he was a young lad himself. “I started in 1967 and I always watch them play at the Hawthorns. This season it’s been difficult, not just for the team but for me too because I haven’t seen as many home games as I normally would. “When I’m working all hours in the week, it’s hardly fair on the little lad if daddy then disappears on an eight-hour round trip on a Saturday or Sunday to watch football. When I’m not at the game though I somehow feel a bit guilty, as though I’ve let the side down. It’s ridiculous, but that’s supporting a football club for you!” Frank will be hoping for the same fanatical support from the Brummie audiences at his shows this month. “Playing Birmingham and Wolverhampton is always the highlight of my tours,” he says. “I really care about giving everyone the best show that I can. That’s why you can’t over-rehearse stand-up. I like to keep each show fresh, so I’ll swap and change material around at the last minute.
“If there’s something topical happening in Birmingham, I’ll try and work it in. It depends what crops up, but I like to tinker about with things. My show is not always fully formed before I go on.” As my mind turns to throwing in one or two rather more bizarre questions – why hasn’t Frank ever written a football song for the Baggies… will England win the World Cup… and is Joan Bakewell really as scary as she looks – our time together comes to an end. The nation’s No.1 Brummie is off in a flash to plan yet another new project.