Opinion: Can Frankie Boyle change the record please?

russell brand

Foulmouthed Frankie Unleashes Torrent Of Anti-Royal Abuse At Russell Brand's Charity Show. I'm not a headline writer but I could see something like this coming. None of the critics who reviewed last night's Give It Up For Comic Relief fundraiser at Wembley Arena could be bothered to whip up a storm about Frankie Boyle's remarks about the Queen and Kate Middleton. They've heard variations of it all before. But I expected that once the gags were out there the red tops would pick up on them.

The trouble is that where Boyle is concerned this is becoming something of a needle stuck in the same groove on a record (if you don't understand ask your dad). Frankie says or tweets something about a topical event, a newspaper finds someone offended by it and before you can say "ban this filth" here we go again. Where Ricky Gervais has shown a softer side on C4's Derek, Frankie Boyle seems to be stuck in a rude, crude rut.

I just don't understand why Boyle still does these gags. He has clearly thought about the response he provokes when he says they are "just words" and that the scenarios he imagines are "what ifs". But what is the poison inside his soul that makes him come out with these words and these what ifs? By all accounts he is a nice, charming man when not doing his day job and he does give money to charity, but there was something particularly venomous at Wembley about the way he said that he wished the Queen had died the night before the Jubilee Party and not just because she has been a bit poorly this week.

This phenomenon of comedians with a dark side occurred to me earlier in the week too when I interviewed the actor Kevin Eldon. He has worked regularly with Julia Davis and cannot speak highly enough of how lovely, kind and demur she is in "real life". So why does she write programmes such as Nighty Night, Lizzie & Sarah and Hunderby featuring such a high number of evil, heartless monsters? I should add that I like her work and unlike Boyle it doesn't, to the best of my knowledge, refer to real, living people with feelings. I'm just slightly obsessed with trying to work out why Davis is so obsessed with the bleakest side of humanity.

So back to Boyle. The problem is that he is clearly a skilled craftsman when it comes to constructing and delivering a quip. He just picks on what decent people consider to be the wrong targets, as was arguably the case last night. His idea that the word "Pistorius" sounds like a Harry Potter spell to make your legs drop off had some comedy merit. And his riff highlighting the hypocrisy of some tabloids for refusing to run topless pictures of Kate Middleton while running topless pictures of non-Royals had some satirical value. And I love a good Savile stab or Pope poke, but elsewhere he just overdid it. I'm not alone thinking this. Tony Law sends Boyle up succinctly in his show. It has come to something when even a freewheeling surrealist comments on your act in his act.

There is something about his desire to shock and push boundaries that felt deeply unpleasant last night. He wasn't saying the unsayable that we are all thinking, it felt as if he was just being plain nasty. And I'm not remotely a flag-waver for the Windsors. In fact I'd better stop this before I start to sound like some demented monarchist. I just wish Frankie Boyle would stop too.

*Note: I've used a picture of Russell Brand above because he is a much better example of how someone can be provocative, outrageous and original.

** After this piece appeared there was a lively exchange of views on Twitter, with some people having the opinion that Frankie can say what he likes and if you don't like it don't buy a ticket. The trouble is that this wasn't a Frankie Boyle gig, the majority of the Comic Relief audience had not bought tickets because Frankie Boyle was on the bill. Maybe he should have softened his style, instead he seemed to harden it. Those arguing for free speech might have a stronger argument if it had been a Frankie Boyle gig, but even there I'd still feel very uncomfortable about what he said and how he said it.

 

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