Frank Skinner, Daniel Kitson, Jessica Fostekew - Mark Muldoon's Comedy Diary

Frank Skinner

"Frank Skinner's live career began in 1987 when he spent £400 of his last £435 booking a room at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe."

So says the promotional material for his current show 30 Years of Dirt. And it's maybe worth pausing to reflect, on the huge success he's had since then, sure, but also the staying power. Keen mathematicians may have also noted that he's actually now coming up to 37 years in the game, rather than 30. Is he worried about whether he can still come up with comedy goods? As he says on stage tonight, "this hour and a half is not going to fill itself. Occasionally you might notice me taking the ball to the corner flag".

You'll likely disagree. Skinner doesn't really ever show signs of needing to add any filler into his show. Which shouldn't be undervalued when a performance is 90 minutes long, or indeed when a performer is nearly 37 years into their career. A harsh critical voice might counter that he doesn't show any signs of breaking new comedy ground either, but then you have to wonder if anybody is showing up to a Frank Skinner gig with an expectation that he does. The tour's title alone goes some way to implying: more of what you already knew you liked. Your money is in safe, dependable hands here.

As you might also gather from the title, there's likely to be considerable filth involved. The audiences for this tour can rest easy knowing that they won't have to suffer through a section excavating modern politicians, certainly. The closest we come to political material is one brief mention of Keir Starmer, and that's only to set up a joke about blowjobs.

The two occasions I've seen Skinner before, his audience interaction bits have been a genuine delight. That's occasionally true tonight, although whenever he receives a heckle he has a running strategy of suggesting he's been training a group of amateur hecklers, which - whilst original - maybe isn't at risk of being named the greatest riff of all time. It's likely a small blip: Skinner continues to deliver against expectations.

Jessica Fostekew

"This is still carnage" says Jessica Fostekew at the start of her new show Mettle. You may wonder if this is another case of cleverly lowering audience expectations, but the messaging seems clear: it's the start of the tour and we shouldn't expect anything slick. She's welcoming us to Slapdashville, population: Jessica Fostekew.

If she does actually believe that, you're left somewhat boggling at how good this show will be when it reaches the latter stages of the tour. Mettle is already in fantastic shape. It sees Fostekew complaining about having been "forced" to turn 40, taking up a new hobby of aggressive litter picking around the mean streets of Lewisham and considering whether or not Crossfit is a cult. Her excellent - and Edinburgh Comedy Award nominated - breakthrough hour Hench is on Amazon Prime, but this is a show that, if there's any justice, will see her achieve mainstream success.

Celya AB

Do you reckon it's difficult running a comedy club? I mean on one hand, having someone stand on stage talking into a microphone doesn't exactly sound like it's matching the Royal Opera House for operating costs. But still, Googling, say, 'comedy club London' comes up with a bewildering number of options. Competition is fierce. You've presumably got to be pretty savvy to build up a loyal customer base. I'd be relatively impressed at anybody who's managed to stay in business for a couple of years, let alone 19.

All credit to Sunday Special, then, who have indeed just celebrated the nineteenth birthday of their weekly comedy night with, let's be clear, a show for the ages. Celya AB opened (largely repeating her excellent Live At The Apollo set), followed by exquisite newcomer Jin Hao Li, then highly encouraging new material from Fern Brady and, to finish, a blistering return to form for Ivo Graham. And it was all hosted by Daniel Kitson, stepping on stage for the first time since mid-December, in order to have knockabout fun with the audience in the way he's always been extremely skilled at.

Daniel Kitson

Kitson did his first stand-up gig when he was 16. He's 46 now, so readily confesses to not being too interested in the form anymore. That makes sense: a few days later we see him on stage at The Cockpit in Marylebone. The tightly-honed show, Collaborator, is still technically classified as a work-in-progress so we won't go into too much detail, but it's extremely meta, continues his efforts to experiment with form, whilst also managing to succeed at still being thrillingly funny.

He doesn't pop up at those under-publicised Sunday Special gigs nearly as much as he used to, but it's worth joining their mailing list in case he does, or in case you fancy checking out a comedy night still in rude health after 19 years in the game.

Read previous editions of this column (featuring Romesh Ranganathan, Rosie Jones, John Robins, The Unfriend (starring Lee Mack) and the top 50 comedy shows of 2023).

Mark Muldoon is also available on Instagram and Twitter. He's never seen fit to deploy the word 'exquisite' in his journalism career before. Very exciting moment really.

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