Once described as the Billy Graham of anal sex, the 1991 Perrier winner’s routines have traditionally – as he reminds us tonight – consisted of ‘wall to wall filth’. But in the years since his last major stand up tour seven years ago, Skinner has reinvented himself as the face of BBC light entertainment and become a family man, leaving behind the one-night-stands that once provided much of his material. Surely it would be a toned down set tonight, perhaps a reflective show on the joys of late fatherhood?
Well, almost. His infant son doesn’t get a mention at all, but after a cracking opening gag that draws on his Catholicism, the first half contains solid routines about relationship woes (continuing themes from his radio show Don’t Start), and the kind of slick, well-crafted gags that play well with the family crowd he draws at the Assembly Hall Theatre. There’s no attempt to present the show as a ‘whole’, as he draws from bits and pieces that segue into each other tenuously. We are treated to poetry and a five second rap, although his ukelele – and singing voice – are left mercifully out of proceedings.
There is a palpable lull in the middle, during which the audience seem unsure how to react to material about how rich and famous he is – always a risky move. Here there is the section that lends the show it’s name, but it really amounts to little more than an anecdote about how he gets free suits. He may still be deciding what to leave in from his full show to the trimmed down running time of Edinburgh – hard for us to forget as he checks his watch constantly.
But as we enter the final third, the topic of bottom sex rears it’s head like an old friend, and we are treated to twenty minutes of – okay, not filth – but kind of joyous smut that Skinner does so well, and makes you laugh, squirm, and try to avoid eye contact with your partner. Where it was once the bedrock of his schtick, tonight you get the feeling that this is almost included as a ‘bit of blue for the dads’. Still, most welcome it is when it arrives.
In some ways you’re left with the feeling that he should come down on one side of the fence. I’d either like to settle in for a traditional torrent of confessional obscenity, or see something more holistic, considered and philosophical. The 57-year-old devout Catholic and ex-alcoholic must surely have such a show in him.
Until that happens, what we have are solid laughs from a more relaxed, seasoned campaigner.