Frank Skinner is my hero. He is my muse, my inspiration and my guiding star. He’s also responsible, along with Simon Fowler of Ocean Colour Scene, for causing me to grow a shapeless mop which I tried to pass off as a haircut between 1996 and 1999.
I met my hero last Thursday night. People say you should never meet your heroes because they will always let you down. You could say the same thing about bank managers.
I’ve been an avid follower of the comedian ever since I stumbled upon the first episode of Fantasy Football League one Friday night in 1994. Alongside David Baddiel, the soccer-based satire of Skinner sparkled, and it was a case of love at first sight. I’ve stalked him ever since, though the fact it took 20 years to meet him in the flesh casts aspersions on my ability as a stalker.
From 1994 onwards Frank Skinner’s television appearances were taped and archived with the precision of a librarian with a sense of humour. The crown jewels of my collection were the pre-recorded videos of his live performances.
I brought along a couple of video sleeves with the aim of getting them signed after his gig in the Waterfront last Thursday evening. Having shook his hand and exchanged platitudes, it was great to share a laugh with Skinner about the demise of the video cassettes as he scrawled his name of the vintage items.
I’ve already mentioned how I tried miserably to copy Skinner’s floppy barnet of the mid-90s. I didn’t tell him this but I did let him in on a story that around the same period I considered changing my middle name to Frank due to my obsession with the comedian and also Glenavon FC. My reasoning behind choosing Frank as a middle name was because it meant I could both pay tribute to my comedy idol whilst giving myself the initials GFC after my favourite football team at the time.
I didn’t follow through with the idea and it was just as well as years later, upon reading Frank Skinner’s autobiography I discovered his middle name is Graham, albeit I spell my version the vegetarian way - without the ‘ham’.
Oh how we laughed when I informed him of the almost calamitous middle name caper. I say laughed, it may have been more of an elongated sigh with a polite smile. No, I’m selling myself short - he definitely laughed. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
It’s difficult thinking of what to say to famous people, especially comedians. The tendency is to try and say something funny. When you think about it, trying to crack a joke to a comedian is ridiculous. You wouldn’t burst into song if you met your favourite singer, would you?
I ended up with a picture of myself and Skinner which I plan to get framed and hang on the wall of my study. In the meantime it’s occupying a few megabytes on Facebook. For that photo I have former Mayor of Craigavon Mark Baxter to thank. My dad had to leave to get the train so I was standing on my own outside the venue to meet Skinner, that is until I spotted Mark.
When the great man arrived I asked if Mark would take a snap of the two of us and he duly obliged.
Councillors are often criticised for taking advantage of photo opportunities so it makes a nice change that for this photo opportunity I was able to take advantage of a councillor.