Opinion: Is Frankie Boyle Cleaning Up His Act?

Were my ears deceiving me? On Tuesday night I turned Radio 4 on at 6.30pm and heard a familiar Scottish accent being unfamiliarly reasonable. Frankie Boyle was one of the guests on the first edition of a new series of It's Not What You Know, chaired by Miles Jupp.

No gags about Katie Price's son. No mention of Madeleine McCann. No venom, No spite. Unfailingly polite. Apart, perhaps, from a little dig at Lenny Henry, which hardly scared the horses. This was Frankie Boyle as I had never heard him before, in gentle, well, how can I describe it? 6.30pm-on-Radio-4-mode. Almost cuddly (now there's a good title for a live show if he ever tours again).

It would have been impossible, of course, to have Boyle on a show like this without referencing his background and Miles Jupp did a very good deadpan job of introducing him as "A jewel in the crown of this country's fine tradition of family entertainment. A man whose career has shown just how far you can get on the back of a smile, a twinkle and the occasional bawdy comment."

The format of the show involves friends revealing what they know about they panel, a bit like Mr & Mrs on a budget of a couple of quid. Boyle's friend Stewart was asked if the comedian had any bad habits and before he answered Boyle chipped in pre-emptively with "I can barely think of a single positive quality that I possess."

We didn't quite discover what makes Frankie Boyle tick, though, interestingly we did find out that something that Boyle hates is "people not understanding what comedy is" – presumably a reference to the fact that he believes that his jokes are propositions rather than positions. He also said: "I'm doing Comic Relief and I hate that." Interestingly the radio show sounds as if it was recorded before this bit of fuss here.

The intriguing thing for conspiracy theorists is that this programme's broadcast coincided with BBC Comedy boss Shane Allen discussing the possibility of Frankie Boyle working for the BBC. Allen was at Channel 4 previously so they presumably have some history already. Allen was quoted as saying that there might be difficulties in case Boyle tweeted something offensive, but it was not his job to censor Boyle's Twitter feed and that he was certainly not banned from the Beeb.

The door is clearly open for Boyle to step through and maybe this low key Radio 4 appearance was a tentative peep through the crack. The funny thing is that I suggested a while ago that Boyle's bile could not last forever and maybe he needed to reinvent himself and clean up his shock tactics. I don't think he knows I said it as he has blocked me on Twitter. Surely I didn't offend the King of Offence? It was only a proposition, not a position, after all. But maybe he is starting to come to a similar conclusion himself.

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