Although he opens and encores with tales about playing the London Palladium, the latter a yarn about a try-out of his routines for the upcoming Royal Variety Performance, Showbiz is a decidedly ironic title for Frank Skinner’s latest show. Even when divulging a sliver of celebrity gossip gleaned from an invite to Elton John’s villa in France, the veteran stand-up delights in the incongruity of the great and good embarrassing themselves in the most relatable circumstances.
Frank Skinner: Showbiz, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh ****
At 62, he’s a showbusiness lag of the old school, unable to stop himself grasping for the gag in any moment, despite the social awkwardness it might provoke. His opening remarks about Bruce Forsyth are not quite the affectionate recognition of ’sleb kinship we’ve come to expect from tributes to the light entertainment colossus, but wickedly funny and verging on score-settling bitchiness. While fronting up about being a millionaire, with a neat inversion of “let them eat cake” haughtiness towards the great unwashed, bus pass holder Skinner retains his cheeky chappie, everyman persona, waggishly reporting back from the glamorous side of the velvet rope.
Age is a blessing for his self-deprecating wit, and the loss of his libido seems a reasonable trade-off for the material it generates. That said, alongside the usual blue there’s some genuine filth as he recounts a gay friend’s tale, the punchline a tad predictable in its fogyish nostalgia. Little matter though, as Skinner is kept vital by having become a father late in life and retaining a fiery relationship with his partner, cheerily sharing the tensions that continue to give his life zest. Jay Richardson