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Frank Skinner
Frank Skinner.jpg
Skinner at Wembley Stadium in 2008
Birth name Christopher Graham Collins
Born (1957-01-28) 28 January 1957 (age 66)
West Bromwich, England
Medium Radio, stand-up, television
Years active 1987–present
Genres Blue comedy, musical comedy, observational comedy

Christopher Graham Collins (born 28 January 1957), professionally known as Frank Skinner, is an English comedian, actor, presenter and writer. At the 2001 British Comedy Awards, he was named Best Comedy Entertainment Personality. His television work includes Fantasy Football League from 1994 to 2004, The Frank Skinner Show from 1995 to 2005, Baddiel and Skinner Unplanned from 2000 to 2005, and Room 101 from 2012 to 2018. Since 2009 he has hosted The Frank Skinner Show on Absolute Radio, broadcast live on Saturdays and later released as a podcast.

Along with David Baddiel, he provided vocals and wrote the lyrics for "Three Lions", the official song in collaboration with Liverpudlian indie band The Lightning Seeds, to mark the England national football team's participation in the 1996 European Championship (which was hosted in England); he also reprised his role to release two subsequent versions of the song for the England team's involvement in the 1998 FIFA World Cup and 2010 World Cup. The 1996 version is the only song ever to have four separate stints at number one in the UK singles chart with the same artists, the most recent coming in July 2018 following England reaching the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup.

Early life

Skinner was born on 28 January 1957 in West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England, and grew up in a council house in neighbouring Oldbury. He was the youngest of four children born to John Collins (1918–1990) and his wife Doris (1919–1989).

Skinner wrote in his autobiography that his father, who was born in West Cornforth, County Durham, played for Spennymoor United before the Second World War, and met his mother in a local pub after Spennymoor had played West Bromwich Albion in an FA Cup game in 1937. However, club officials and historians could not find his father in their records.

Skinner attended Moat Farm Infant School from 1961 to 1964, St Hubert's Roman Catholic Junior School from 1964 to 1968, and then Oldbury Technical Secondary School from 1968 to 1973. He passed two O-levels in summer 1973 and took A-levels in English language and art, along with several O-level resits, at Oldbury Technical School Sixth Form. He subsequently took 4 A-levels (including English language and literature) at Warley College of Technology and graduated from Birmingham Polytechnic (now Birmingham City University) in 1981 with a degree in English. This was followed by a Master's degree in English literature at the University of Warwick in Coventry the following year.

Despite his given first name of Christopher, his parents called him by his middle name Graham; all his friends referred to him, and some still do, as Chris. Skinner once explained that whenever someone called at his house to ask if "Chris" was there, his mother would say yes, only to then turn around and shout for "Graham". He adopted the stage name Frank Skinner when the actors' union Equity told him there was already a singer from Burnley on their books called Chris Collins. He took the name from a member of his late father's dominoes team.


After graduating, he spent three-and-a-half years on unemployment benefit before finding work as a lecturer in English at Halesowen College. In 1987, he decided to give stand-up comedy a try on the side. Skinner performed his first stand-up gig in 1987 and made his television debut a year later. In 1990, he co-wrote and starred in the comedy variety show Packet of Three on Channel 4 but continued to see his reputation as a stand-up grow.

Skinner won the 1991 Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe, beating Jack Dee and Eddie Izzard. He has worked with David Baddiel, notably on the popular late-night entertainment show Fantasy Football League from 1994 to 2004 and on Baddiel and Skinner Unplanned from 2000 to 2005. The duo also co-wrote and performed the football song "Three Lions" with the Lightning Seeds and the England national football team for Euro 1996, and re-recorded it for the 1998 World Cup. The song reached #1 in the UK charts both times. In 2001, he released his autobiography Frank Skinner by Frank Skinner, which became a bestseller. The accompanying TV show, Frank Skinner on Frank Skinner, in which Skinner showed where he lived as a child and interviews with Skinner, his friends and family members, was recorded and shown on ITV in 2001. In July 2018, "Three Lions" re-entered the charts at number 1. Fans were celebrating the progress of England at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with the phrase "it's coming home" featuring heavily on social media and television.

In 1998, he took part in a documentary titled A Little Bit of Elvis. He paid over £11,000 at auction for a shirt which he believed was worn by Elvis Presley at his famous 1956 Tupelo concert. Skinner visited the US to find out if the shirt was the genuine article. After a slightly awkward conversation with Dave Hebler, Presley's bodyguard, it appeared the shirt did once belong to Presley, but it was not worn at the concert. Skinner is a lifelong fan of Elvis and used to buy the Elvis Monthly magazine.

From 1995 to 1998, Skinner had his own chat show on BBC One, which ended when the BBC refused to meet pay demands of a reported £20 million. After a short break, the show found a new home at ITV in 1999, where it ran until late 2005. He has appeared in a number of self-written sitcoms, including Blue Heaven (1994) and Shane (2004).

In 2000, he appeared as Buttons in the ITV Panto adaptation of Cinderella. In 2003, he was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy. In 2005, Skinner announced he was going to leave behind his television work in favour of returning to the stand-up comedy circuit. A second series of Shane had been made, but never shown.

In February 2006, he received an honorary degree from the University of Central England (now Birmingham City University). Skinner and David Baddiel covered the 2006 FIFA World Cup by podcast for The Times. The podcasts received a nomination for the 2007 Sony Radio Academy Awards.

In 2007, he performed a new live stand-up tour, his first for 10 years, starting at a warm-up gig at the Swindon Arts Centre, continuing through to the Edinburgh Festival for 2 weeks at The Pleasance, the venue where he won the Perrier Award, and a 69 date national tour including three sold-out homecoming performances at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham in the autumn.

In November 2008 and in the light of senior broadcasting figures such as ITV boss Michael Grade and Terry Wogan calling for TV to reduce its use of vulgar language, Skinner decided to experiment with removing swear words altogether from his stand up live act although stated that it would be a shame if 'clever swearing' was lost. He also stood in for an ill Paul Merton as a team captain on 21 November edition of Have I Got News for You.

From March 2009, Skinner started to present the Saturday Morning Breakfast Show on Absolute Radio with his co-hosts Emily Dean and Gareth Richards (who was succeeded by Alun Cochrane in June 2011). The show is produced by Avalon Television. After an initial 12-week stint proved very popular with the listeners, Skinner's contract was extended until summer 2010. The show is still running, with Emily Dean and a guest as co-hosts.

The George Formby Society (cropped)
Skinner playing with the George Formby Society in 2018

Skinner plays the banjo ukulele and in 2010, he contributed ukulele parts to a song by Fairport Convention called "Ukulele Central" which featured on their album Festival Bell. A great admirer of George Formby, he hosted a BBC Four TV documentary, Frank Skinner on George Formby, which aired on 27 October 2011.

In 2011, he wrote and performed a Radio 4 comedy series, Don't Start, with Katherine Parkinson. Each episode was based on an argument between Skinner's character Neil and Neil's girlfriend Kim. Skinner said each episode was only 15 minutes as it was "too intense" to be any longer. Don't Start returned for a second series in 2012, and aired its third and final series in 2015-2016.

FSkinnerSoho081117-6 (24410637888) (cropped)
Skinner performing at the Soho Theatre in 2017

From 2012 to 2018, Skinner was the host of BBC show Room 101. In August 2013, he was a team captain on the BBC comedy show I Love My Country.

A longtime fan of Doctor Who, Skinner appeared alongside Peter Capaldi's Doctor in the 2014 episode Mummy on the Orient Express. He subsequently featured in the 2019 Big Finish Productions audio release The Sinestran Kill, the first episode of Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Adventures, Season 8.

In 2015, Skinner also appeared in the inaugural season of Taskmaster where he tied for second place with Romesh Ranganathan behind Josh Widdicombe, who won the series.

In 2020 he began a podcast, Frank Skinner's Poetry Podcast, in which he analyses and discusses his favourite poems.

Personal life

Skinner married in 1990, but the marriage was annulled shortly after. He and his longtime partner, Cath Mason, have a son, Buzz Cody (b. 2012). His brother-in-law is the writer Jack Thorne, who is married to Mason's sister.

Raised Roman Catholic, Skinner reconnected with the faith in his 20s, and remains a practising Roman Catholic. He is also a supporter of West Bromwich Albion, and regularly attends games.

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