‘Knob jokes with depth’ are the words that fifty-six year old Frank Skinner himself uses to describe his new stand up show Man in A Suit. The West Midlands comedian, former lad, is now hitting middle age reluctantly. His age is the reason for the depth added to the pure-and-simple knob jokes that he could get away with as a fresher-faced comedian. Self conscious about his greying hair, and about still having a girlfriend rather than a wife, Skinner, still charismatic as ever, launches into an amusing yet banal portrayal of life as a fifty-six year old that dresses exclusively in suits gifted to him by the BBC throughout his career. Although his show is enjoyable, it is a somewhat disappointing performance from such a promising name.
Perhaps if he didn’t constantly criticise himself for speaking out of place, the audience would bypass his questionable comments - which in themselves are reasonably entertaining - more readily
From the offset, Skinner notices that his audience is mainly made up of people of his own age group and beyond. Indeed, his audience has grown up too. Skinner proceeds to depict his life at this age, ending on an extended skit revealing that while his hair may be grey, his libido hasn’t aged a day.
Skinner’s show also touches upon fame, relationships and celebrities. He passes from one topic to the other with ease, incorporating clever chides directed at individual members of the audience. What Skinner wants to know most of all, is how famous we consider him to be these days, on a scale of one to ten. A series of witty wisecracks at Cliff Richard, Lady Gaga and Emma Bunton’s expense help us to rank his status in the world of celebs.
Skinner’s best comedy lies in his self-deprecatory comments. Of particular note is an instance when he reveals his inability to rap, and turns instead to the haiku, more appropriate for his age group. The pre-written short poems seem to stem indefinitely from his pocket throughout the performance. At first this seems at odds with his persona, but soon the Japanese form of poetry reveals itself perfectly fitting to his new middle-aged interests. His determination to threading them all throughout his stand up is effective and funny.
However, in a series of comments about social inequalities and disability, Skinner crosses the fine line between the witty and the inppropriate repeatedly. Perhaps if he didn’t constantly criticise himself for speaking out of place, the audience would bypass his questionable comments - which in themselves are reasonably entertaining - more readily. His oral sex anecdotes provoke genuine shocked hilarity in the audience, but once again he seems to overstep the line every now again: the first time it gets a laugh, but why does Skinner insist on having his penis speak to us in a high-pitched voice repeatedly?
Overall, I found Skinner’s performance a little lazy. Much of the amateur comedy available at the Fringe has more promise and originality to it. Skinner relies too heavily on predictable celebrity subject matter which, sure the audience can understand, but not necessarily relate to. You really can’t take the man out of the suit (figuratively speaking this time). What’s more is that I didn’t seem to be the only one that felt somewhat underwhelmed by the whole thing judging by the number of people coming and going during the performance. When people are more interested in taking a trip to the bar or the bathroom during your stand up, it just goes to show that there’s a certain storytelling skill and everyman relatability that you are missing.