Frankie Boyle came to prominence when he won the Daily Telegraph’s Open Mic competition in 1996, launching his stand-up career.
On TV, he has appeared on every episode of BBC Two’s Mock the Week, and has been a familiar face on 8 Out Of 10 Cats, for which he was also a writer, They Think It’s All Over, Law of the Playground and BBC Scotland’s Live Floor Show.Other writing credits include 2DTV and 29 Minute Of Fame.
He has also been a team captain on BBC Radio Scotland’s Spin on This and Famous for 5 Minutes.
Frankie Boyle Videos
Frankie Boyle: Hurt Like You've Never Been Loved
So, he’s the crass comedian who says appalling things about paedophiles, cancer and Madelaine McCann to prompt a reaction. But is there more to Franke Boyle than that?
That’s what he’s hoping to demonstrate in Hurt Like You’ve Never Been Loved. His latest show doesn’t hold back on the brutal one-liners, but places them within more context than ever before. The world is a barbaric place, and his bruising, nihilistic gags are more honest about that than any political soft-soaping.
Giving power to the punchlines are uncomfortable reminders of our colonial past and the inequities of the present. He lifts the carpet to reveal what appalling consequences society swept there: the true human price of everything from ‘austerity’ measures to our desire for a cheap iPhone.
So, for example, a simple pun about prostitutes referring to their pubic areas as ‘Gaza strips’ is backed by a savage reminder of the reality of the region, funny but uncomfortable. He highlights how we care more about the lions slaughtered by American citizens than the nameless people slaughtered by its drones. It’s urgent, relevant stuff – save, perhaps, for the Ukip baiting, which seems like easy sneering at a spent political force (although we are in their Essex heartland tonight, so perhaps an extra edge there).
He is a poet of the squalid, of sorts. The gag about child-abusing priests paints a twistedly charming image of cherubs escaping their clutches… and don’t get him started on the Westminster paedophile scandal, his narrative makes Tom Watson’s allegations seem a paragon of caution. For the comic is not surprised at any allegations of child abuse. ‘They kill children every day,’ he rages at the consequences of their policies, so why wouldn’t they do anything else?
When he feels the need to warn: ‘This is going to go into some dark places’ you know he means it – the preamble to a bleak picture of how elite public schools turn out dehumanised sociopaths who become our leaders.
His gags wouldn’t work without the horrific outrages they refer to, and maybe that’s where the righteous ire should be directed, not to him. Understandably, there’s a lot of talk here about offence in comedy – an idea that’s dogged him since the age of 13 when he told a joke in class about a deaf boxer, which fell on very stony ground.
But it’s not as if those who’ve taken umbrage have analysed each joke and decided it’s outraged their humanity, he argues here. Rather they haven’t examined the joke enough; they haven’t seen the intent or understood comedy’s licence to be transgressive in a safe way. They’ve heard a trigger word and sent an angry tweet.
‘I don’t think that,’ he has to stress after one horrific punchline, wary of being quoted out of context by some tabloid controversy-monger. ‘Who would think that?’ Then a beat. ‘But I do think it’s quite funny.’
Objecting to a joke, never meant to be taken seriously, is, he says, ‘like telling a clown his car won’t pass its MoT’. He wants to use comedy to make people outside the ‘tramlines’ of polite thought… and challenging that consensus also informs his politics. ‘It was the banks,’ he rages, exasperated, at the blame on Britain’s financial state being laid at immigrants or benefits claimants, angry that we collectively seem to have forgotten what caused all the woes, brainwashed by the media.
He cites the philosophical concept of phenomenology in defence of his work – the idea that the gag is formed in the mind of the listener, so it’s not all the messenger’s fault. Although that does ignore the reinforcing malevolence comedy can have, whether it’s Bernard Manning promoting racism or Dapper Laughs promoting the ‘she loves it!’ of intimidating misogyny.
Few of his fans probably didn’t come expecting to hear words like ‘phenomenology’. He attracts a young, heavily male-skewed crowd who probably wouldn’t come to a show if they knew it was underpinned with discourse about global economic realities, warmongering and the futility of hope, yet he smuggles it past them under the cover of Jimmy Savile gags. His very first line is a twist on the ‘go fuck your mum’ line of exquisite venom, since he gets heckled from the start and needs to put them in their place.
Boyle says he’s not happy being ‘reflexively horrible’ but acknowledges that’s where his talents lie. He certainly can’t do observational comedy, and directly addresses a routine in Michael McIntyre’s current Happy and Glorious tour about poolside parasols, deflating it in one comment about the stupidity of what MM’s trying to achieve. Though the funniest thing about the whole segment is imagining Frankie Boyle rocking up at a box office and asking for ‘one for Michael McIntyre, please…’
However, in what might be a first for him, there is a short personal anecdote in among all the pungent one-liners and angry rhetoric, when the recovering alcoholic recalls a run-in with an American cop from his drinking days.
Boyle once said he would retire at 40, since older comics have nothing to say. But at 43 he’s found a political impulse stronger than before that gives him a vital relevancy… even if you will continue to wince at many of the jokes.
FrankieFrankie Boyle: If I Could Reach Out Through Your TV and Strangle You I Woul Frankie Boyle Live Mock The Week: Too Hot ForTV
Live (Original) Floorshow - Live! Frankie Boyle in Concert Frankie Boyle and Andy Parsons
Frankie Boyle: The Voice of Black America
Stand Up For Freedom Frankie Boyle: Morons I Can Heal You Stand Up For Palestine Frankie Boyle: Hurt Like You've Never Been Loved
Frankie Boyle: I Would Happily Punch Every One of You In the Face
Frankie Boyle: Last Days Of Sodom