Frank Skinner- 30 Years of Dirt
Gordon Aikman Theatre Edinburgh
Edinburgh Fringe 2023
Reviewer: Mark Ritchie
A Five-Star review *****
One of the things I have in common with comedian Frank Skinner is that I seldom read reviews of my work, either as a writer or as an entertainer. The one caveat being that I may read a review only if I know and respect the writer, I may just be interested in reading his/her point of view.
This may seem a peculiar way to begin writing this piece, but there is a point. When entertainers speak of or publish what they claim to be reviews on social media, the term ‘Review’ is often conflated with audience reaction. Naturally performers like to read gushing appraisals of their many and varied talents. At the other end of the scale are the social media trolls, who are very easy to ignore. Frank Skinner began by informing the packed house; ‘I hardly ever read reviews’, before quoting extensively from one. This is yet another example that the national treasure and emblem of late 20th century ‘laddish-ness’, seems to have aged and mellowed out.
Apparently further underlining my claim about the more mellow and now Roman Catholic Frank, is the fact that he discusses both topics at length, with hilarious results during his latest Edinburgh hour. Looking back on what he describes as 30-years of dirt, a play on words from a line within his hit record Three Lions, Mr Skinner mooches around the stage in crumpled suit and what looked from a distance like a well-worn pair of soft shoes, rather like a high school teacher trying to get his point across.
In true Frank Skinner style, he appears to pull random thoughts out of the air, creating moments in what spontaneous comedy nuggets of gold appear. I have not yet heard a better appraisal of the way stand-up comedy styles have changed, then the searingly brilliant and very funny analogy delivered by Frank on the night. He asks his already enraptured audience to compare the amusement arcade game, where objects on a table keep popping up at random and the player keeps bashing them down again, as the stuff of older style comedy. Frank imparted his insight. ‘This is what comedy used to be like when I first began to perform in Edinburgh. All hard shouty bish-bash-bosh stuff’. Nowadays Frank observes that stand-up has become more comparable to the other amusement arcade pastime, where an object trapped within the bends of a wiggly wire must be negotiated free by a player who is attempting to move the object carefully by hand as the player progresses around all the bends. If they touch the wiggly wire, bells go off and all hell breaks loose.
Frank Skinner is as Frank Skinner does. The whole what you see is what you get theme has been featured throughout the entire 30-years of dirt. Somehow these days there is something much more settled and avuncular about Frank Skinner. Does it make him any less funny? Absolutely not. Do the jokes and routines written by this all-time great British comedian chime any less loudly? Perhaps with many younger fans. The ‘dick jokes’ still make them laugh, but for some unfathomable reason, the younger folks may be looking for and favouring comedy voices from their own generation.
Frank Skinner- 30 Years of Dirt