Frankie Boyle: I Would Happily Punch Every One Of You In The Face

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

On the day the BBC issues new guidelines prompted, in part, by jokes Frankie Boyle cracked on Mock The Week, the man himself demonstrates exactly the sort of comedy you get when you ride roughshod over any considerations about disparaging people. The answer is: a very funny sort.

Yes, it is abjectly cruel – there are very few guilt-free laughs in this corrosively evil 80 minutes – but the sheer brutality is what makes it funny. If you’re going to be vicious, you may as well do it with relish, and Boyle has such a reckless abandonment of conscience, you can only gasp at his excess. Knowing that it’s so wrong -– combined with the devastating, dark hyperbole of the callously efficient writing – is what makes his material so powerful.

When Boyle’s jokes about swimmer Rebecca Adlington were criticised by BBC bigwigs for targeting an undeserving victim, his defence was such peripheral lightweight figures were all the Mock The Week producers gave him to work with. Well live, where he can put whomever he likes into the crosshairs, he picks such worthy prey as, erm, the McCanns, the victims of the Cumbrian taxi driver killer, Jade Goody and Katie Price’s disabled son. That last gag is the pinnacle of sickening taste, leaving Boyle to hope the sheer audacity overrides his audience’s scruples. Rest assured, it does. It is his audience, after all, and no one could be under any illusions as to what his show would entail.

He does raise some issues, most notably Britain’s shameful involvement in Afghanistan or our security forces’ complicity in torture, but for the most part his political agenda is little more than being rude to David Cameron. Though maginally less rude, it must be said, than he is to a cancer victim. That said, the image he conjures up is so perfectly evocative of the smug old Etonian, you won’t forget it in a hurry.

Therein lies Boyle’s strength – for behind the sheer nastiness lies a keen wit, focussed as sharp as any laser. His analogies are so destructively accurate, and described with such rare elegance, the have a hideous beauty, like some comedic gargoyle.

The defence for any bad taste is summed up in one of his few gags you could repeat in polite company: Whenever anyone is asked what they were doing the moment they learned Michael Jackson died, the answer will always be ‘texting a joke about Michael Jackson dying’. Sick gags are common currency, and Boyle is the Royal Mint.

He starts the show by verbally laying into a teenager in the front row (there despite the rather wise over-18s only policy), for no apparent reason. The punter, of course, loves it – the implication is that whatever follows are only jokes and no harm intended.

You could easily argue the opposite, but the one thing you couldn’t accuse Boyle of is comic laziness with hundreds of efficient, well-honed one-liners. You certainly get a lot of insults for your money, although a touch of variety might help hold the attention in the face of such a unrelenting onslaught of moral bankruptcy.

Boyle says he doesn’t need the rush of performing, and has stated this will be his last tour as he (wrongly) feels that stand-up is not for the over-40s. But he does appear to be having fun on stage, frequently bursting into deep, demotic laughter at his own nerve, providing welcome breaks in the tone of the show.

It’s no-holds-barred stuff, though, and if you like Boyle on TV, you’ll most likely love him as his raw, uncensored, uncompromising self. Just be prepared to be condemned to the fiery pits of Hell for doing so.

Review date: 13 Oct 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Brighton Dome

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