Frankie Boyle has been condemned for calling Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington 'Dolphin Face.'' Risque comedy or just a bully?
There’s a place for gratuitous abuse in comedy. There’s a place for seeing how absurdly and wilfully grotesque you can get. The Aristocrats conceit is a solid enough premise to warrant an entire film. Stewart Lee committed brilliantly immature offence in the last fifteen minutes of Nineties Comedian, conjuring up images of a kneeling Christ becoming a willing and divine urinal in his hour of need. Jerry Sadowitz won a 1980s’ bet by calling Mandela and Terry Waits, ‘cunts,’ to remind everyone that back-slapping alternative comedy had stagnated just as much as the working men’s club compering that preceded it. The reason they do this is either to highlight hypocrisy – see Stewart Lee’s Christ piss riff – or because they are funny enough to get away with it, provoking us to laugh where we shouldn’t.
Admittedly, it’s a fine line. What about when you’re just a gratuitous bully, picking at easy targets, disingenuously presenting yourself as a fearless savage because you pick on the disabled? Why, then you’re Frankie Boyle. When he makes a pun on the title, ‘Baywatch,’ craftily transforming it to, ‘Gaywatch,’ we must simply be grateful to him for taking us back to the fearless work of Lenny Bruce. When he makes the classic joke, ‘Congratulations on passing your test! You’re HIV positive,’ it conjures up the finest Swiftian satire. I reckon Peter Cook, if he’d tried hard and spent a lot of time with Frankie Boyle, might even have come up with this gem: ‘When I heard Cristiano Ronaldo was pictured holding a manbag, I was surprised it was a Gucci bag and not another guy’s sack.’ Tee-hee. Cristiano Ronaldo is gay. Curse our luck that Dudley Moore was the unfortunate swine to get the chance.
What really winds me up isn’t so much the jokes he’s making – we all make tasteless jokes that we shouldn’t – it’s the unwarranted veneration and shamelessness. There are a fair few reasons why he’s so able to piss me off, though most of it’s because he’s pathetically celebrated for bullying some truly blameless groups of people, and doing it crassly, taking comedy nowhere. Taking the piss out of Down’s syndrome – not a laugh riot. I am so square, daddy-o. In Mock The Week, what was he up against? Russell Howard, a child’s sketch of an alternative comedian. Hugh Dennis, a Radio 4 bedblocker. Mark Watson, a comedian devoted to having stubble and being almost competent enough to talk without tripping over his tongue. Who else? Andy Parsons – The One To The Right Of The Screen. Against these comedic mavericks it’s no surprise he got a bit of a name for himself.
“What about when you’re just a gratuitous bully, picking at easy targets, disingenuously presenting yourself as a fearless savage because you pick on the disabled? Why, then you’re Frankie Boyle.”
But for what? For being tiresomely shocking. He says female athletes are lesbians. Good one. With Labour’s pledge to get any and all into university, we’ve endured the unstoppable rise of Student Humour. What does university give these thousands of kids? A certification of their intelligence. With narcissism going through the roof, we were always going to pay for this. Is it OK to think you’ve achieved when you’ve got a 2:1? No. University is three years of not thinking, jumping through educationally stunted hoops to carry the thick kids through. University is watching your lecturers drink themselves to death in response to the startling lack of constructive thought. University is the place for this century’s self-regarding youth’s brainless provocation, carried out a thousand times before. Renaming buildings after Terry Nutkins. Going to bad taste parties dressed as Maddie. It’s been done a thousand times before. All Frankie Boyle did was get on telly and say the word AIDS as a joke, just as it became the tired centrepiece of twentysomething gross-out humour.
Really though, what gets to me is he’s a charlatan. Calling his autobiography, ‘My Shit Life So Far’, is playing to the idea that he’s pushing boundaries. But he’s on BBC2 every week, Channel 4 every other week, surrounded by the B-listers he maintains disdain for. He pretends to be the outsider because he says The Bad Word to Sonia from Eastenders. He performs lazily at corporate gigs just like Peter Kay and Jim Davidson. He calls his DVD, ‘If I Could Reach Out Through Your TV And Strangle You I Would.’ He pretends contempt for our coin, but he’s no more than our court jester. The Weimar Republic had its days of decadence before it’s descent into Nazism. So when Hitler comes back, blame Frankie Boyle. Ooh, look! A Hitler joke! Frankie’d like that.
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