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Review: Frank Skinner's Man In A Suit tour at Margate Winter Gardens

Expectations were running high for Frank Skinner.

He's a comic I've admired since his teddy boy days on Packet of Three in the mid '90s (remember it, set backstage at the Crumpsall Palladium and co-starring Jenny Eclair and Henry Normal?).

My fondness for him then had later led me to read both of his autobiographies, which I rated, and I've enjoyed everything I've seen of him on TV since; from Room 101, through his guesting on panel shows such as Have I Got News For You, to his endearing Tough Gig documentary when he spent time living in a New Age commune to inform a stand-up set performed at the end of his stay. However, I'd never been to one of his live gigs before.

Frank made his entry singing a Catholic cantata which certainly broke the ice, prompting multiple heckles and leading him to break off, exclaiming: "Quite gobby then, Margate?"

The evident love in the room must've been felt, as the clearly-comfortable comic continued: "Excited? You should be. Let's face it, there aren't many grey-haired, middle-aged celebrities still at large."

He warmed to the local theme with: "If Andrew Marr got involved in a massive scandal, it'd be called Marrgate. It'd be brilliant for you guys. I wonder if it would benefit local trade?"

We enjoyed it as Frank let us in on his life and loves, speaking of his current relationship with his younger girlfriend (a term which he confessed is an embarrassment to him, as he feels a man of his age referring to 'my girlfriend' is on a par with referring to 'my skateboard'): "Since I've gone grey, we don't hold hands in public any more: it looks like I'm being helped."

As he mused on patterns of rows between couples, the frequent audience interactions came into their own. Asking a couple at the front about their arguments, he struck gold as Matt (of Sarah and Matt) replied: "We can't row: it upsets our Labrador."

"Happy are the peacemakers, even the dog," responded Frank, having to then ask the obvious question: "What does it do then, if you row?"

Matt responded: "Tries to climb out of the window."

Frank then spelled out the routine around rowing in his own home: "To anyone watching, us rowing would be like a band in concert: we start off with some new stuff, then we roll out our greatest hits. 'Here's a grudge you might recall from 2005...'"

He enjoyed drawing applause for sharing that he is a recovering alcoholic who hasn't had a drink since 1986, then followed up with a typically self-deprecating: "People say, 'At least you can remember what you did last night.' Yeah: nothing."

Regarding the Man In A Suit tour title, Frank explained that each time he does a BBC show he is allowed to keep the suit he is dressed in for the job. "I've got about 90 suits, so I thought I'd get your money's worth."

It is this sort of warm wit applied to his observations on his everyday life, of which we heard more in the first half of the evening, that had me laughing out loud countless times.

The second half featured some of the material that Frank termed 'filth', along with jokes about Saville and other near-the-knuckle humour which I wasn't so keen on personally, but then I am a bit of a prude and I totally own that.

'Nevertheless...' (to use one of Frank's favourite sayings of the night), when he left the stage after an encore with a fond thumbs-up to the Margate crowd, there was still a lot of love in the room and my own share in it only burned the brighter for my first face-to-face encounter with Frank.

Frank Skinner was in Margate for one night only. Visit www.margatewintergardens.co.uk or www.frankskinnerlive.com

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