Still crazy, Frankly, after all these years

Frank Skinner

Frank Skinner

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Frank Skinner - Preston Guild Hall

Any comic who comes on stage, grabs a microphone, launches into Latin carol Gaudete, then invites the audience to sing the next line, is alright by me.

Unsurprisingly, the vocal response was a little muted, but Frank Skinner had his first laughs in the bag.

The 57-year-old gagman was in charge from then on, as you might expect, rambling between subjects, some more likely than others.

He remarked how it was quite unusual to see a grey-haired celebrity still at large, in this era of various unsavoury allegations and arrests – our first example of that cross-the-line humour for which Frank is feted.

Talking about his partner, he apologised for calling her ‘my girlfriend’, saying it was like saying ‘my skateboard’ for a man of his advanced years.

Laughs continued, not least while relating how he equates marital rows with watching established bands play live – with new material followed by a few ‘greatest hits’ – moments in a relationship that rankle forever.

He touched on people using archaic speech at unexpected times, telling how during an audience with HRH Prince Charles he ‘beseeched’ the next-in-line not to reply to comments on his YouTube page (yes, apparently he has one).

That led to talk of ‘chip and pin’ machines asking to tap in details then ‘return to merchant’, before an anecdote about an incident in Preston that day.

Apparently, someone shouted ‘legend’ from a van, a brief moment of pride soon punctured when he noticed King Arthur stood behind him. Only some of that may have been true.

The subjects came thick and fast, with plenty of audience input, including a re-enactment with an embarrassed chap Duncan, of the day a woman stood directly in Frank’s personal space on a crowded Tube train. There was a treasured routine featuring a rendition of Harry Belafonte’s Yellow Bird (‘up high in banana tree’), and social comment too, including advice for the homeless and how the poor’s lean days were over, judging by some of Jeremy Kyle’s guests.

Then the tale of a police car screeching to a halt, a copper asking if Frank and his partner had seen a guy brandishing a samurai sword in the area, then speeding off again, leaving the petrified comic wondering, ‘where does that leave us?’

He also offered regular examples of his haiku, redefining this Japanese poetic form, and ponderings on Lord Ga Ga’s thoughts about his wife’s canon of work.

I’d like to say he’s cleaned up his act now he’s a dad, and for much of this gig that seemed to be the case.

But he feels a duty not to let down his loyal fans, and towards the end was back on familiar territory, a few X-rated subjects designed to make you squirm.

Not easy to summarise in a family publication, but for those who were there, I’ll add a few keywords, like Status Quo, ’50s British films, and ‘help yourself’ hand gestures.

The sound wasn’t great, and with tickets around £28, that was disappointing.

But this was a winning evening in the company of a comedy great who – eight years after his last UK tour – clearly still has that stand-up magic.

Malcolm Wyatt