Frank Skinner Live at Birmingham NIA DVD review

After a ten year gap, Frank Skinner proves why he's one of the best stand-ups in the business...

Mr Frank Skinner

It continues to be a point of wonderment for this reviewer that there’s still a small section of people who write Frank Skinner off for telling dirty jokes, and little more. Even without the benefit of the insight offered by his recent book documenting his stand-up tour of 2007 (and we reviewed the book here), this live DVD of his stand-up gig at Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena should surely give plenty of clues as to why Skinner is one of the nation’s very best stand-ups. And you’ll barely even find a swear word in it.

Firstly, there’s his material. Yep, there are dirty jokes, but they tend to be clever ones, or delivered in a not entirely predictable way. His monologue detailing his sexual antics set against the tune The Entertainer is as hilarious as it is surprising. And, as written by Skinner, it naturally enough comes with a killer punchline. There’s also his encore, where he pulls out a ukulele to perform a special song he’s written about Osama Bin Laden. In other hands, you’d struggle to see it working. But Skinner is a legitimate comedy genius, and instead generates belly-fulls of laughs from his material.

But what makes him that extra bit special, and this DVD is full of evidence as to why, is his delivery and stagecraft. This reviewer was at the gig the DVD was recorded at, and watching it again on DVD, you do miss sometimes that Skinner was utterly in control of a room full of 5,500 people. It’s as if they were all gathered round his armchair. From his deliberate facial contortions, to his low-key delivery of some killer material, this is the performance of an expert at work. The DVD helps, too: close-ups on Skinner at the right moment really help the gags along, and by the time the gig comes to an end, he’ll have held you in the palm of his hand for the best part of an hour and a half.

The DVD extras aren’t exactly bountiful. There’s a small behind the scenes look at the build up to the gig, with Skinner admiring the backdrop photos of himself and going through his soundcheck (with the help of Shakespeare!), a look through the local paper and the performance proper. While there’s also an excised monologue from the main DVD feature, which is most certainly worth checking out.

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But it’s the main feature you’ll want here. Given that DVD tends to dilute a live comedy gig, it’s all the more remarkable that the performance Skinner gives here is as outstanding as it is. On the evidence here, it’s a blessed relief that his ten year absence from the stand-up scene is finally at an end…

The Feature:

4 stars
The Extras:
2 stars

Rating:

4 out of 5