ONE of the country’s best loved comedians and TV personalities, Frank Skinner’s appeal lies in his gentle humour and lack of pretence.

A proud Black Country lad, Frank comes across as sharp, fiercely witty but charming with it. He’s a bloke we’d all like to have a pint with along with a chat about football (he created and presented the hugely popular Fantasy Football alongside David Baddiel); music (his footy anthem Three Lions, also written with Baddiel together with The Lightning Seeds has topped the charts four times) and the kind of pet hates which made his Room 101 show an enduring success.

So how is he? “I think I’m alright,” he says in those distinctively warm Oldbury tones. “I don’t have mad nights out anymore. Last night I was in bed early with a copy of Doctor Who magazine.”

Doctor Who is a bit of an obsession for Frank, who actually starred in the show – as a dalek operator no less, in the 50th anniversary story alongside Peter Capaldi.

He talks at length about the show and its regeneration, as well as his love of the terrifying shows of his youth and its scariest monsters (“not daleks; you can just tip them over,”) before getting to the matter at hand – his current tour, which sees him return to his roots as a stand-up comedian.

Tomorrow he arrives in Oxford for a show at the New Theatre. Last time he hit the road it was for a series of completely improvised gigs called The Man With No Show, which saw him riffing off the audience with no prepared jokes or set list. So what will he be doing this time?

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“Joking,” he chuckles.”It’ll be me doing jokes and messing about with the audience.”

“It’s called Showbiz, which is politely ironic as I’m not very showbiz, but it will include some stories involving celebs. However it’s not about the glamorous side of celebrity.”

Frank knows about that world, but is refreshingly un-celeb. Indeed he shared a house with Baddiel for years after moving to London – a time which, it is tempting to imagine, was impressively laddish – but was probably quite cosy and domestic.

We discuss fellow comedians, with their lavish celebrity lifestyles, big houses and, in some cases, expansive menageries of horses and exotic animals.

“I don’t have any pets of any kind,” he says. “Except a caterpillar in chrysalis form which is about to become a cabbage white.”

So does he actively shun fame?”No, I quite like it,” he admits. “I like people stopping in the street and having a chat. People will say you are nice to others, but that’s what human beings are supposed to do.

“I’ve been with celebrities that won’t even sign an autograph.”

So how does he respond to the inevitable selfie-taker?

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“That’s grown during my career,” he says. “I’ve been doing this for 32 years and people never used to ask for photos. But now it’s probably easier than autographs. I do get shoulder pain though, which is probably repetitive strain injury from putting my arm around shoulders!”

But back to the show: “Yes, that will be me talking about what’s happened to me since my last stand-up show, as if I have a gift, it’s for expression rather than invention.

“I’ve never been that gifted at making things up, but I can talk to an audience – though I select funny things rather than ones that aren’t.”

And does he pick on his audience? Should we be wary about occupying the front row at his show?

“It depends how it goes,” he chuckles again. “Some comedians have put-down lines, but I don’t want to shut people up... I want to hear what they have to say. Sometimes it’s interesting.

“I remember a comedian asking someone in the front row what they did for a living, and someone at the back shouted ‘ventriloquist’. Now, that’s funny.

“When I did The Man With No Show I had no material and I loved it. Some nights were fabulous and others were hard work but exhilarating. But this time I’ve done my homework and written a show.”

he goes on: “People like a bit of both: something unique happening before their eyes but if they are paying £25 they want to know you’ve put in the graft.”

The show sees him doing what he does best. After all, his live career began in 1987 when he spent £400 of his last £435 booking a room at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Four years later he returned and beat fellow nominees Jack Dee and Eddie Izzard to take home comedy’s most prestigious prize, The Perrier Award.

“Stand-up is very interactive... whether you’re laughing or not laughing,” he chortles. “And I like going on tour; it’s a great way of exploring.”

So is he still the ‘lad’ of popular image? “Well, I went with lots of women and loved football, but have not had a drink since 1986,” he says. “All the time I was doing Fantasy Football I was teetotal. I always listen to or read poetry every day and spend my nights reading books about Anglo Saxon history.

“In fact I am obsessed with Anglo Saxon history and chose Pierre Novellie as my support act because he has degree in Angle Saxon history – so we will certainly be looking for some interesting sites in Oxford!”

  • Frank Skinner plays the New Theatre Oxford tomorrow (Wednesday). Tickets from