One of Frank Skinner’s earliest memories is of sitting in his Oldbury council house, between his parents, when a TV newsflash announced that John F Kennedy had been shot.
It made an impression on the six-year-old boy – but he swiftly forgot about the assassination when a new drama series arrived the next day.
He watched the first episode of Doctor Who and became a lifelong fan. Fifty years on, he was thrilled to meet three of the Doctors and a Dalek.
The comedian took part in the spoof episode The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, available on the BBC website, written and directed by Peter Davidson.
The half-hour drama about how Peter and fellow Doctors Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann are upset not to be included in the 50th anniversary episode.
The film is packed with stars, including Ian McKellen, while Frank plays a Dalek operator.
“It was so exciting,” enthuses Frank. “Peter knew I’m a huge Doctor Who fan because I’ve said my greatest ambition is to appear in it. This is as close as I’ve got, but I would do anything to be in an episode.
“I wouldn’t even mind being in a monster suit so nobody knows it’s me. I have met Stephen Moffat several times and dropped some heavy hints, but to no avail.”
It is fun to listen to Frank enthusing about things. He sounds upbeat and happy, partly thanks to the new fulfilment he has found in his life by becoming a father at the age of 55.
He is completely smitten by Buzz, his 20-month-old son with girlfriend Cathy Mason. The baby’s arrival means even his beloved West Bromwich Albion has been shunted into second place.
“I’ve been going to Albion matches for 47 years, since 1967,” says Frank, who will be coming to the Midlands for six gigs as part of his new stand-up tour.
“I’m a season ticket holder but I’ve missed a few games since Buzz arrived.
“It’s different now. I used to walk to The Hawthorns, but now on a Saturday I leave London at midday and don’t get back till 8pm. And as I do a radio show in the mornings, I don’t get to see Buzz at all, which I don’t like.
“I am utterly obsessed with him. Just this morning I was showing off to someone that he could put the tablet in the dishwasher. That’s not a thing a father would normally be especially proud of, but I’m proud of every tiny thing he does.
“Having him is absolutely life-changing and fantastic. Don’t start me off, I will become one of those boring parents.
“When he looks at me and says ‘Dadda’, that’s as good as doing a fantastic gig at Symphony Hall.”
That’s where Frank will be playing three gigs from April 22-24, as well as two shows at Wolverhampton Civic Hall on April 16 and 17 and a date at Warwick Arts Centre in Coventry on May 18.
On his last tour, in 2007, he had three sell-out performances at Birmingham’s NIA. That holds five times as many people as Symphony Hall, but he has deliberately chosen smaller venues.
“I hate to say this but I didn’t enjoy those NIA gigs as much as I normally enjoy gigs in Birmingham,” he admits.
“I felt it was too big, I was too far away from the audience. I said to myself then that I didn’t want to do places that big again.
“Symphony Hall feels more like a gig than a rally. The NIA didn’t suit me. If Symphony Hall sells out, I can always add more gigs. I would like to think that everyone in Birmingham who wants to see me will be able to. Maybe that’s only 500 people!
“Birmingham gigs are special, I care more.
"Though I care massively about every gig. If I get into a lift and there are three people in there, and I tell a joke and one of them doesn’t laugh, I lie awake worrying about it. I’m a bit like that.
“So you can imagine how anxious I get about performing well in Birmingham. I care about what people from Birmingham think of me, which is why I turned down the job of narrating the Channel 4 series Benefits Street. I didn’t want to be seen criticising people from Birmingham.
“I usually do a few jokes just about the West Midlands at Birmingham gigs, but I feel a bit of a phoney. Because I live in London, I can’t really pretend that I understand Birmingham like I used to.
“People from the West Midlands don’t want any bulls**t. They don’t want someone who lives in London coming on and pretending they live in Smethwick.
“I might do a bit about the Albion, especially now we have the new manager in Pepe Mel. There’s something exciting about us having a Continental manager. It feels quite glamorous, I’m optimistic.
“But Buzz’s arrival presents me with a dilemma. For years I have been so strict about saying people should support their local football club, the nearest to where they were born. But that would mean Buzz should support Arsenal, which I’m really not happy about.
“I actually suggested to my girlfriend that she give birth in Sandwell General, where I was born. She thought that was a bit much and said I’d got my priorities wrong!”
He’s called his stand-up show Man In A Suit, to reflect his new maturity.
“I used to wear lots of horrible T-shirts, jeans and trainers. But now I’ve grown up and acquired, over the years, about 80 suits. They are given to me when I do TV shows and I get to keep them afterwards.
“I’ve got so many, I might as well wear them as much as possible. I’m wearing a suit and tie to talk to you now!
“I suppose I am more mature and there is a bit less smut in my act, but I wouldn’t like to mislead people!”
Man In A Suit debuted last November with a sell-out run at London’s Soho Theatre. Now he’s taking it around Britain on what he calls a “two-er”.
“For me, stand-up is whatever I’m interested in at the time. If you have six years off, when you come back the show will be different because you are different. It would be a worry if I was in the same place.
“I love being back on stage, but it certainly doesn’t come easily. The writing of material and trying it out is totally harrowing.
“Some of it didn’t work and the show I have now has changed enormously from what I first wrote.
“If I really enjoy doing something and want it to work, I will give it a few airings. If something is met with utter silence, I have to accept that it’s not working.
“If it’s just above silence, you think maybe if I do that a bit differently it could be funny.
“But I want proper laughs, not sniggers. I want a snigger-free zone. And smiles are no good to comics either, unless they have a torch.”
The tour will also take him away from Buzz for the first time.
“When I went on tour in the past, I stayed out on the road for three months. But now I have four nights of gigs and three at home.
“I’ve never been away from Buzz for that long before, I don’t know how I will cope.
“He and Cathy will come with me to some venues, especially in the Midlands as all my family are still there.
“My sister lives in Halesowen and my two brothers in Oldbury. We’ll take Buzz and go visiting.”
Frank returns to BBC1 tomorrow night as the host of a new series of Room 101, into which celebrities consign their pet hates.
He actually appeared as a guest in 1995, when he put in William Shakespeare.
“Actually it was Shakespeare jokes,” says Frank, who has a Masters degree in English Literature from University of Warwick.
“Although he is clearly a genius, I have never laughed at one of his jokes. I think if people do, it’s just to appear clever.
“I have a problem with comedy ageing. I’m a huge fan of the Steve Martin film The Man with Two Brains, and told my girlfriend she had to watch it because it’s incredibly funny. We sat down and I could tell she was uneasy. I realised it’s not as funny as I thought it was.
“Comedy doesn’t age well, and if it’s happened to a Steve Martin film, what chance does Shakespeare have? But I still love his work. I fantasise about going to the Shakespeare Institute at Birmingham University and taking a course on Shakespeare.”
If he went on Room 101 now as a guest, he’d put in luggage on wheels.
“I know this makes me sound like a grumpy old man, but I properly hate it. Why do we need wheels on bags? They just get in the way of other pedestrians. I can understand it for the old and infirm, but seeing young strong businessmen with a tiny case on wheels is ridiculous. Why not put your wallet on wheels?
“I have started using a briefcase as I think even a shoulder strap feels like cheating. If you can’t carry it, don’t pack it.”
He hopes to work on another series of Sky Arts’ Portrait Artist of the Year with co-presenter Joan Bakewell.
“It’s a really good programme, which I don’t normally say about something I’m in. Being there on the day, smelling the paint and seeing blank canvases being turned into works of art, was incredibly exciting.”
But he won’t be back with I Love My Country, the BBC1 Saturday night gameshow axed after one series.
He and Micky Flanagan headed teams of celebrities who had to answer daft questions about the UK and play games such as placing giant Yorkshire puddings on a map.
It was a ratings flop, branded “an utter disaster” by critics.
But Frank sticks up for it: “It’s very tempting, if a programme is attacked, to lose your initial confidence in it and join the dissenting voices.
“With other things I’ve done, I usually get jokes out of slagging them off, but I really enjoyed doing I Love My Country and I think there should be another series.
“It was a family show, with proper jokes. I accept most people didn’t like it but I still look on it with fondness.”
* Man In A Suit plays Wolverhampton Civic Hall (0870 320 7000) on April 16-17, Birmingham Symphony Hall (0121 345 0600) on April 22-24 and Warwick Arts Centre (024 7652 4524) on May 18.