Posted: Sun Nov 09, 2008 4:16 am Post subject: Frankie Boyle
Frankie: My drugs and drink nightmare
9th of September 2008
OUTRAGEOUS TV comic Frankie Boyle last night confessed to an 11-year drink and drugs binge that threatened to wreck his skyrocketing career. Mock The Week star Frankie was once crippled by shyness and turned to booze, cannabis, ecstasy and LSD for help. It will stun the BBC2 show's four million fans who only know him as the fearless joker taking on politicians, terrorists-and even the Queen's naughty bits.
Frankie, 36, admitted: "Everybody in Scotland fucking drinks and it's hard to tell when you've got a problem. By the time I was a student I was trying to get pissed five or six days a week, drinking up to ten pints a night. I knew I was an alcoholic."
And he laid into critics who blasted a shock joke he made about the Queen-broadcast by the BBC just as the furore exploded over filthy on-air phone calls by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross. In a Mock the Week segment titled 'Things the Queen would NOT say in her Christmas speech' Frankie quipped: "I've had a few medical issues this year-I am now so old that my pussy is haunted." The show was cited as another example of the Beeb's failure to restrain artists. But Frankie refused to apologise and decared: "What are we going to do, ban humour? I have two words for the people who complained-'Fuck off!' "
Below-the-belt one-liners like that have propelled the now-sober dad-of-two to fame - a skill he honed at times in his life when things weren't always so funny. At 15 ginger-haired Frankie got his first taste of booze. "I remember sneaking a bottle of vodka from my parents," he said. "I must have downed half in one day and got absolutely steaming. And from then on I realised drinking was an easy way to forget my problems-and have a good time."
Heavy boozing was the norm in Glasgow, where Frankie grew up in a tenement block with labourer dad and school dinnerlady mum. "I had a pretty grim childhood," he said. "There was nothing to do so me and my friends started drinking whenever we could." Things got more serious when Frankie went to university to do an English degree in Brighton, and teacher-training in Edinburgh. He said: "Ten pints of fizzy lager made me funny. I'd sing Gloria Gaynor's 'I Will Survive' in a French accent and scare the new students. I'd drink until I vomited or passed out somewhere.
"The most I had in one go was about 20 pints. One time I woke at a friend's in a panic because I couldn't see. I eventually realised I didn't have my glasses on. I looked everywhere until I noticed they'd fallen out the window and were in a pool of vomit from the night before. I carried on like that for years. It didn't bother my friends or family-in Scotland everyone is fucked. I was 26 when I had my last drink. I had a drinking competition with three Romanians and drank them all under the table. I knew it was time to quit. I was bored and ready to do something different. Work became my addiction."
Even though Frankie quit drinking, he still carried on using drugs for another three years. He said: "I'd do anything I could get-a lot of weed, ecstasy and acid but never cocaine. That's an idiot's drug. But it's been years now since I've done anything."
Divorcee Frankie-now with a long-term girlfriend-found fame in the mid-90s with an open mike award at the Edinburgh Fringe. Now he is the dark soul of Mock The Week, guests on 8 Out Of 10 Cats and Would I Lie To You? and his current tour, Frankie Boyle Live, which started a year ago, has so far wowed more than 100,000 fans.
Recalling the royal controversy he said: "I don't think we should worry about hurting the Queen's feelings. She's got a lot of money. Satire is talking about the people who wield power." Then Frankie turned his venom on Westminster and said: "If we were a rag-tag band of survivors do you think we'd elect Gordon Brown to lead us? He'd be like the village idiot. And if David Cameron hadn't gone to Eton College? He'd be managing a Pizza Hut. The minute I get cancer I'm killing all of Britain's politicians."
Frankie speaking SHOCK JOCK: His politically incorrect humour has won him a faithful following, but Frankie Boyle wants to escape stand-up comedy before the world bursts into flames. By Paul Dalgarno
16th of November 2008
FRANKIE BOYLE, star of the BBC's Mock The Week and arguably Scotland's funniest man, is sitting in an office, on an industrial estate in London, reading a newspaper. He is clean-shaven, wearing blue chunky cords and a khaki-coloured hoodie. He pushes his black-rimmed glasses up on his nose, turns a page, lifts an apple from a fruit bowl on the table between us. Crunch. Crunch. He is allergic to oranges, he says, and copper coins - both make his hands swell "although you get less oranges in with your change".
Crunch. Boyle is sleepy; the atmosphere is relaxed. It feels a bit like lunchtime on a building site: those private, tired moments in the Portakabin, with a joke or two here and there, before the foreman calls the squad back out again. Boyle is drinking water, having given up coffee before his ongoing, sold-out national tour. "The combination of the caffeine and the adrenaline would just be too much," he says. He is match-fit, and enjoying his day off, but the nearly non-stop touring schedule is affecting his mind. "F***ing hell man, you just go completely mad," he says. Crunch. Slaver. "Well, not completely mad. It's actually surprising how much you take it in your stride after you've done the show for a few nights."
Certain adjustments to his act are necessary from gig to gig. "Sometimes you have to sell the show to the audience differently. Swearing less is quite a key thing. You've maybe just done a Saturday night in Edinburgh and it's Monday in Sheffield and you're still going mental. You can't really do that - you've got to present things in an alternative way." But his show is not really all that extreme, he adds. "I don't piss on anyone."
Typically his audiences have had a drink before performances, while Boyle remains sober as a judge. When he started out in stand-up in his early 20s (he is now 36), he took full advantage of the free bars afforded to him at low-key venues. But those bars took advantage of him. He has been teetotal for more than 10 years after a period of borderline alcoholism. "It was a problem," he admits. "I was never a wet-the-bed alcoholic, so giving up I never got the DTs. But it's very easy, in Scotland especially, to say you're an alcoholic because people will stop offering you a drink, otherwise you'll be under a lot of pressure."
One advantage of beating the booze is being able to slip quietly out of social functions, while the drinkers get steadily noisier. "I think a lot of people are bored with drinking but they just don't admit it," he says. "Culturally, it's an impossible thing in Britain to go, Actually I just don't need to drink'." Boyle took up taekwondo for a couple of years to replace alcohol, and it worked. "I was shite at martial arts, actually," he says. "But I'd still rather be doing that than doing comedy."
Boyle's downbeat demeanour comes as a surprise. He is not zany; nor is he wearing his trademark pink Ozwald Boateng suit. I had been expecting the interview equivalent of a few rounds with an on-form Joe Calzaghe, or that boy at the back of the class the teachers hate and other kids live in fear of being teased by. He has given few private press audiences during his career and is part-novice, part-painfully sincere. Which is sometimes a bit weird. He says he recently told a middle-aged journalist from a women's magazine about the first time he masturbated as a boy: while watching Tenko, the TV drama series set in a female prisoner-of-war camp. The scene when the woman bit the head off a grasshopper? This is my idea of a joke. It sucks. But Boyle was being deadly serious. "No, it was a full-frontal nudity scene," he says quietly. "In a metal bath."
Boyle, who was raised in Glasgow's Pollokshaws, is the son of Irish immigrants from Donegal. His mother, a nursery school dinner lady, is about to retire; his father was a labourer until recently. His sister raises funds for Edinburgh University; his older brother works as an economist for a bank. At least, he did. "He's potentially unemployed now," says Boyle. "Maybe he's working for fucking Greggs." It was during a teacher training course in Edinburgh, after which he planned to teach children with learning disabilities, that Boyle first tried stand-up, aged 23. "I had been working in mental health and you couldn't really get promoted," he says. "I thought if I had a teaching qualification I would have a better chance." But the classroom was a bad fit. "I find education really horrendous," he says. "That whole thing of having to move on to the next class when the bell rings, so that obedience is more important than what you're studying. The Big Bang? Hamlet? Drrinngg - off you go. I never got past that, really."
But life is currently all right. The BBC's Mock The Week has been unofficially dubbed The Frankie Boyle Show in some quarters. Boyle stands out from the other comedians who regularly appear on the show - a mixture of Whose Line Is It Anyway? and Have I Got News For You - especially when contestants have to step forward and respond to news-related prompts by the host, Dara O'Briain. Boyle is usually first; if not, he is usually the funniest. Without exception, he is always the most intense.
He writes dozens of topical gags before the show's three-hour recording session, the most offensive of which are then sieved out for the final half-hour cut. Certain tabloids took issue with his recent quip on the show about the Queen ("I'm so old my pussy is haunted") - a joke that surely weakened any likelihood that Boyle would be invited to appear on the Royal Variety Performance any time soon. "I'd never get on that anyway," he says. "And that's a good thing. I don't think I'd ever be accepted into the establishment because of the nature of what I'm like. You have to have slightly more entry possibilities than I have."
Boyle moved to London four years ago after being bumped from BBC Scotland's comedy cabaret Live Floor Show when it went national. With a second child on the way, and limited career opportunities in Glasgow, he headed south. "I felt a real sort of career spurt when my daughter was born," he says. "A real sort of dad-responsibility software kicked in." He spent a full year in London doing office pilots - literally going from office to office, performing in shows that were never commissioned. In the interim, he wrote for Jimmy Carr as part of a team of television writers.
But from those office pilots he scored a place in the short-lived Channel Four show FAQ U and then subsequently Mock The Week. Being a Scot was not necessarily to his advantage. "Not at all," he says. "I found to start with it was a really unfashionable thing to be. There's also that idea that Billy Connolly's kind of done it all. You're never going to be the most successful Scottish comedian because Billy Connolly's just done a gig on the moon."
I wonder if there has been any backlash against Boyle in Scotland over his Scottish jokes, such as this one from Mock The Week: "The east end of Glasgow is already like the Olympics. Lots of people wandering around trying to speak English wearing tracksuits." Do people accuse him, as with Connolly, of belittling his country for the sake of comedy? "Was that what people said about Billy Connolly?" he asks. "I thought it was more to do with him being a friend of the royals, that's what I always remember as a kid. He did stuff about drunks in Glasgow, I suppose, but you can't really argue with that. People think it's an easy route to do the whole slagging Scotland thing, but it's not necessarily easy to travel all the way to Aberdeen to tell them it's a shithole."
Boyle plans to return to Glasgow soon for good, and to commute back and forth to London, a city whose intensity, and traffic jams, he hates. He bemoans the fact that London is where the work is, and complains that Scotland is at least 25 years behind the city in terms of television. "In fact, it would be hard to quantify just how far behind the times it is," he says. Particularly comedy. "It's all based on stuff I've never heard of before," he says. "People doing jokes like Aye, that's what you say when your wife's down the bingo', and you're like What? This guy's only 30'. Until recently, there were still shows on BBC Scotland with people doing two guys walked into a pub' jokes. You're like, What the f*** is this - 1970-something?' There are lots of talented people in Scotland. Why doesn't someone do a show with them? It's sickening."
Boyle's career options are limited by the fact he refuses to fly. The final straw came a couple of years ago during a flight to Kilkenny in Ireland. When the plane hit a small air pocket, Boyle screamed "Jesus f***ing Christ", to the astonishment of the other, still tranquil, passengers. "I'll never fly again," he says. "I didn't realise how much it was affecting my life. I thought I was just stressed in general but actually it was the fact that I had a flight coming up. Once you take that out of the equation, life gets much easier."
Does he not think his fear is illogical?
"It is fucking logical," he insists. "I mean, what a fucking way to go - brilliant view and then your head gets ripped off. I'm not inclined to think plummeting towards the ground at 700 miles an hour upside down is logical. It takes three minutes for you to drop from the sky going Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!'" Recently, he was offered work in America, but said he would have to get a boat: "A six-week journey and then, Hi everybody'." Would he consider hypnotherapy to try and overcome his fear? "Fuck that," he says. "To try and shut down my body's natural defence mechanism from going, This is wrong'? Nah." Boyle has an unsettling theory that his phobia makes dying in a plane crash all the more likely. "I sometimes think, what if those people in air disasters were all scared of flying? What if you're much more likely to die if you're afraid of flying?"
The mood has turned decidedly edgy, but then "edgy" is a byword for Boyle. His televised jokes on paedophilia, date rape and gang bangs cut close to the bone, although, at times, he is wonderfully surreal. "If Tim Henman had won Wimbledon it would have been so weird it would have torn a hole in our normality," he once said. "Oh, Henman's won, and here to present the trophy is Winston Churchill with the head of a bee."
His comedy approach comes across as no-holds-barred, but there are some self-imposed limits. He is not, for example, Jim Davidson ("My parents fucking hated his jokes about the Irish"). The recent Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand row is just the latest example of the pitfalls Boyle wants to avoid. "I won't say anything I think can be taken the wrong way, as racist, or homophobic," he says. "There have been a couple of times in recent years where people have been slapped on the wrist for the type of gags they've done, and they've gone, Oh, well, it just sort of slipped through'. Your job as a comedian is to make sure that it doesn't slip through, to make sure it's something you're happy saying, because you're saying it."
His comedy is "quite right-on in a way", although he acknowledges that people might not automatically get this from his act. He gives careful consideration to everything he says on stage and screen, and insists there is a philosophy underpinning his work. "I suppose my ideology is that we're all living on a dying world where we'll probably f***ing nuke each other to death before the planet gets a chance to die," he says. "We're dancing on a burning ship and we really need to do something about it." He finds it hard to get the urgency of the problem across to people. He considers government carbon reduction targets to be inadequate and is hoping for a "large-scale change of consciousness". He smiles slightly but he isn't joking. The solution, he says, may be something we haven't thought about yet, a catalyst that we don't yet recognise. For example?
"For example, people who are 25 in Glasgow these days aren't like the people who were in Glasgow when I was a teenager," he says. "My brother's mates were quite brutal. But there's a whole generation of people who took ecstasy and became very different. That's where the whole hill-walking and surfing culture in Scotland came from, the whole outdoors thing - it's down to a drug. So what else could happen in terms of technology that could change things? It's going to have to be something major but I don't think that's impossible."
One of the press clippings I have brought with me, from 1997, is headlined Glasgow Funny Man. It catches Boyle's eye. He examines the article; it's an artefact - one of few - pertaining to his early stand-up career. He is amazed to read his assertion, as a 20-something winner of the Daily Telegraph Open Mic Award, that he would love to still be doing stand-up when he's 50. "Wow," he murmurs. "I said that?" His attention is fixed on the page. "I think I'm just f***ing lying basically. I imagine as a younger guy I was saying that to please people. It doesn't sound like that's what I really thought."
In fact, Boyle plans to write just one more touring show after the current one, then retire from stand-up completely. He wants to write a TV sitcom, a novel and - to further indulge a lifelong passion - a comic book. The last of these is already in train and can be glimpsed in part on Boyle's website: it tells the story of a superhero who would save the world, but for his addiction to internet porn. "I'm certainly looking at maybe three years left as a stand-up," he says. "People are never really that great after 40. At the minute it's very good because I'm very intense about comedy and I'm working at it all the time, and it would be good to stop before that stops. Especially with kids; you've got to live a life as well. It's not that I fear becoming establishment - it's more that I don't want to become boring or stale."
His career, as it stands, revolves around writing hundreds of new jokes a year: far more than his comedy predecessors would have been expected to produce, and a tall order to achieve consistently. And consistency is important to Boyle. "It's about trying to do a good thing before you go," he says. "I've turned offers down this week for TV work because I'm focusing on my tour, and they were still going, Yeah, but it's OK, it'll be fine'. But it wouldn't be. I want things be of a certain standard because that's all there is in this for me. Ultimately, all there is to look back on is that you did things properly."
Frankie's comedy cuts to the bone November 17, 2008
THIS brutal brand of un-politically correct comedy left me laughing so much my face hurt, as Mock the Week star Frankie Boyle performed for a sell-out audience at the Princess Theatre. Frankie spent a fair amount of the show mocking Scots, ginger people and Scottish ginger people ï¿½ like himself. Cracking jokes at his own expense gave him a free reign to poke fun at others. Sex, age, and race were all easy targets.
His brand of cynical, dark comedy laced with occasional cruelty cut a bit close to the bone at times. Frankie was happy to tell gags about the disabled or child abuse. Luckily I'm not easily offended and neither was the audience, as it was rare for a gag to fail. A few jokes from the routine left me grimacing, and prompted some 'ooohs' from the audience, as I thought, 'should I really be laughing at this'.
King of the one liners, he engaged with the audience, poking fun at one man in the front who looked like 'Someone had shaved a monkey and kicked it through Topman'. His hilarious social and political commentary mocked, among others, Gordon Brown, George Bush and Barak Obama, and the Queen. It appears too that the funnyman doesn't believe in self-censorship. The whole set was an exercise in pushing the barriers of taste and seeing just how far he could go.
I felt one of the show's more provocative parts were the lines which couldn't be shown on Mock the Week, none of which are even remotely printable here. However, there were a number of one liners I felt I'd heard before. They were still funny, but left a sense that parts of the show were old material rehashed, or Mock the Week wisecracks reused. This definitely was an adult show, but an outrageously funny one at that.
'In comedy, there's no line that you cannot cross' Comedian Frankie Boyle is famous for saying the unsayable. Marc Lee meets him 20/11/2008
The morning I meet comedian Frankie Boyle, the hysteria surrounding "Manuelgate" is at its peak. Russell Brand is a few hours from resigning and Jonathan Ross a few hours from resigning himself to the loss of ï¿½1.5 million from this year's pay packet. The issue of what is acceptable in comedy is front-page news. Yet, before I am ushered in to meet Boyle, his PR minder sits me down and insists that I don't bring up the Brand/Ross affair in the interview. In other words, we should not talk about what everybody in the country is talking about. What makes this attempt to censor our conversation particularly bizarre is that Boyle's whole career is built on a reputation for saying the unsayable, for pushing the boundaries of humour. What could he possibly come up with that would be as controversial as much of his material?
Boyle is one of Britain's most daring comedians, delivering a twisted perspective with cheeky nonchalance. His edgy style has found a place in the mainstream since he became a regular panel member on the satirical BBC2 show Mock the Week, in which half a dozen stand-up comedians are invited to be rude about the events of the previous seven days. They are all naughty boys and girls, but Boyle is the naughtiest - and usually the funniest.
Because some of the jokes push the boundaries of decency and taste, Mock the Week found itself caught up in the wake of the Brand/Ross affair. Whether the programme - due to return in the spring - should survive in these sensitive times is debatable. If it is neutered, it won't be worth watching.
Boyle is adamant that there should be no limits on humour. "I think most people believe that. They might say to me, 'That was unacceptable, I didn't find that funny', or whatever, but ultimately they believe in freedom of speech - I've only had one complaint in 12 years. As long as you're not trying to solicit murder, there's no line that you can't cross." Having said that, Boyle himself is censorious of certain fellow comedians. "There's still a lot of racism in stand-up," he says, "but they [the comics] don't seem to recognise it. They just think they're doing a 'funny' Spanish accent or a 'funny' Chinese face. I find it offensive that these people haven't grown up or educated themselves. I have pointed it out to them at times."
If Boyle does have self-imposed no-go areas, he is lavishly outrageous in his opinions of anyone he regards as fair game. In his latest DVD - recorded at a show at the Hackney Empire - his targets include Amy Winehouse ("Looks like a campaign poster for neglected horses"), Ann Widdecombe, John Prescott, Jamie Oliver, and the Duchess of Cornwall.
He's adept at ridiculing his paying customers ("Looks like someone shaved a monkey and kicked it through Top Man," he tells one). There are gags, too, about the disabled, paedophilia, rape and terrorism. Most of them are unrepeatable here, and it is intriguing to watch the faces of the audience at the gig. There are shots of people in tears of laughter, but there are also a fair number of stony faces; some people are uncomfortable, others apparently appalled.
Yet the fans know what to expect before they arrive (on her way into the venue, one gleefully describes the star of the show as "obnoxious and hilarious"), and Boyle receives a rapturous welcome when he saunters on stage. Curiously, for him, it's downhill from that point. No matter how many hundreds of laughs he gets during the evening, he is never satisfied with his performance. "You could have said anything up there; the potential is limitless. You could have hit your absolute peak, but it never happens. It's always a big disappointment afterwards." So Boyle never comes to the end of a show thinking it has been brilliant? "Almost never, not for years anyway."
In the past, he frequently considered quitting. But then, one day, he had a revelation: "I said to someone, 'I can't be bothered to go on tonight.' And they said, 'You say that every night, every gig.' That's when I realised that hating [stand-up] was what made me good at it."
Yet, for all the darkness in his soul (he is introduced at the start of his show as "the blackest man in showbusiness"), Boyle also lets in a little sunshine occasionally. Since becoming a father, he has included a few cute-kid gags, ending his routine by recounting a breakfast-time conversation with his four-year-old daughter in which he tells her she's the best thing in the world, only to learn that, for her, the best thing in the world is sausages. And, if he really is racked by anxiety and self-doubt as the show comes to an end, the beaming look of delight on his face as the crowd roars its approval tells a different story.
Cruel to be kind of funny The heir to Billy Connollyï¿½s throne says he has no intention of letting the complainers blunt his comedy scalpel Allan Brown
28th December 2008
Beyond debate, this has been the year thatï¿½s seen Frankie Boyle installed as the comic laureate of broken Britain ï¿½ or at any rate the Britain that finds abortion, paedophilia, bulimics and the disabled funny. Itï¿½s curious to realise it, but the 36-year-old Glaswegian is the first Scottish stand-up since Billy Connolly to make any sort of dent upon the wider British audience. Until Boyle, there have been few from here with the capacity to replicate the Big Yinï¿½s broad appeal. Connolly has cast a shadow three decades long.
But times change. Look at a Boyle audience today and probably to the bulk of them Connolly is no more than a pensioner with a purple beard, a tame, back-slapping adjunct of Parky and Tarby. Connollyï¿½s comic universe was a sepia-toned realm of shipyards, tenements and bike-shed innuendo. Boyle, on the other hand, gives us news we can use, suggesting with a certain joyful malice the keys that will unlock the cant and doublethink of our mediated modern landscapes. The spice in his act lies in sifting the horrible truths from the childish morbidity. To paraphrase the humorist PJ Oï¿½Rourke, many people share Boyleï¿½s world view, especially after a few drinks.
The dividend for Boyle has been acceptance into a gilded academy of comics who, like Ricky Gervais, Paul Merton, Ross Noble and Jack Dee, leave behind the club circuit for television panel shows, theatre tours and live DVDs released for Christmas. He has just concluded his first large national tour, a three-month odyssey through the heartland of middle England, from Carlisle to Leamington Spa: ï¿½Sometimes I sit in the dressing room before a show thinking someone in the next room is watching a football match really loudly,ï¿½ he says. ï¿½They arenï¿½t ï¿½ itï¿½s just the noise 2,000 people make filing into the hall.ï¿½
The jump-lead for Boyleï¿½s career has been a regular slot on the BBC2 panel show Mock the Week, an ideal forum for his two-fisted take on current affairs. Before that, though, was a 12-year clamber up the comedy pole, much of it spent within the thankless corridors of BBC Scotland, peddlers of what Boyle dubs the ï¿½the gonny-no-flush-my-budgie-doon-the-cludgie school of comedyï¿½. He recalls one producer there asking him to remove a joke about former first minister Henry McLeish because his wife ï¿½quite likedï¿½ him: ï¿½When I was doing BBC Scotland shows Iï¿½d have to write two scripts a week so Iï¿½d have one in reserve when they threw the first script in the bin.ï¿½
For all the national recognition this year has brought, though, Boyle seems sanguine. He has a steely certainty about his comic abilities and, thanks to an early brush with teacher-training, an innate confidence in front of crowds. Uncommonly for a stand-up, he can live without audience affection. In conversation he is as sad and thoughtful as his stage persona is harsh and hard. You get the sense that comedy is a rather academic subject to Boyle, a science to be perfected rather than the conduit between himself and a public.
Performing was a means to an end initially, a way of demonstrating he could create material to compete with Connolly and Jerry Seinfeld. He anticipates the day he can retire from the stage and devote himself solely to writing. ï¿½You hear sculptors argue that, to them, the statue is inside the block of marble and they just have to get rid of the waste material,ï¿½ he says. ï¿½Itï¿½s the same for me with jokes. Someone attacks Glasgow airport and I think to myself, there will be five definitively funny jokes within that event and I wonï¿½t rest till they come out. The worst feeling is when you donï¿½t have The Joke on something, you just have A Joke.ï¿½
By his own admission ï¿½the blackest man in showbusinessï¿½, Boyle flirts with sickness for its own sake.ï¿½Why do so many paedophiles have beards and glasses?ï¿½ goes one routine. ï¿½What is it about that look children find so sexy?ï¿½ His stand-up show is a charnel house of contemporary dysfunction, from sexual issues (ï¿½Viagra takes half-an-hour to have any effect; I often find in that time the woman has managed to wriggle freeï¿½) and gay adoption (ï¿½great idea ï¿½ the dads already know where all the best parks areï¿½), to terrorism and Michael Jackson, performed in front of audiences he believes resemble ï¿½a holding pen for the Jeremy Kyle showï¿½.
Thereï¿½s little light relief in a Boyle show, just the rather bleak sense that outside, the world is morphing into one huge Daily Mail headline. You could see him as a kind of Roy Chubby Brown for people whoï¿½ve been through further education. Boyle, meanwhile, positions himself as a kind of malevolent schoolteacher, bullying his subjects to think more critically about the world confronting them: ï¿½Sometimes people point out to me that I look like one of The Proclaimers,ï¿½ as he says in his act. ï¿½One? Theyï¿½re twins, you daft bastard.ï¿½
None of this, however, prevented Boyle being dragged into the recent Ross-Brand controversy when a rather poor joke about the Queen heï¿½d made on Mock the Week was adduced as further evidence that BBC standards were plumbing new depths. ï¿½When you think about all the extreme stuff I do,ï¿½ he counters, ï¿½Iï¿½ve had one complaint to my face in 12 years. That whole Queen joke thing left me quite disappointed by things like Newsnight and John Humphrys. Theyï¿½re supposed to be the guardians of a public agenda, but then they jump on this thing I said. ï¿½These are jokes, theyï¿½re not pledges in a manifesto; they shouldnï¿½t have to be justified. The only limitations are whether itï¿½s funny and whether itï¿½s telling people to go out and kill. If someone tells me a joke is unacceptable I say, well, listen to 3,000 people laughing at it ï¿½ itï¿½s clearly not unacceptable.ï¿½
What success means most for Boyle, he says, is the end of his decade-long struggle to achieve it. The completion of the mission means he will be moving back in the new year to live in Glasgow, where his partner, the artist Shireen Taylor, is based with their two children. As of February, Boyle will join the ranks of the weekly BA commuters, shifting to London briefly for blocks of work, then returning. One of Boyleï¿½s children has an uncommon name, which Boyle would prefer not to see in print lest it leads to their being identified as a showbusiness scion at school. Fittingly, thereï¿½s a strong streak of playground cruelty through Boyleï¿½s comedy, a sense of the thrill contained within the questionable anatomical nouns, of statements made to provoke sharp intakes of breath.
The child of a labourer and a school dinner lady, Boyle attended a Roman Catholic school in Glasgow southside: ï¿½It was like a zoo,ï¿½ he laughs. ï¿½There were 3,000 kids and we were taught in plywood huts some of the time. It was like getting through prison, all these kids with mental health issues slipping through the cracks. I joined the Latin club solely because it happened in a lockable classroom. Weï¿½d be in there having lunch and thereï¿½d be kids trying to climb in the windows to get at us.ï¿½ Boyle went on to study English at Sussex University, did care work with mental health patients then teacher-training in Edinburgh. He first tried stand-up as a drunken dare at The Stand comedy club in Glasgow and was later tracked down by its owner, Tommy Shepherd, and invited to perform again. After abandoning teaching, Boyle won an open-mic event at the Edinburgh Fringe. Two years ago he made the move to London.
In between was more than a decade as a dedicated comedy aspirant, albeit one suffocated by his previous, alcoholic lifestyle: ï¿½I donï¿½t really believe in the AA view of alcoholism,ï¿½ he says. ï¿½The idea that Iï¿½m a recovering alcoholic is unacceptable to me. I hate the idea of imprinting people with the notion that they are addictive personalities and will always have a problem. I believe that you are what youï¿½re doing at the time. It just crushes peopleï¿½s confidence and makes them more likely to relapse. Studies prove that thereï¿½s less recidivism among drinkers who take up tennis than those who join AA.ï¿½
One thing is certain: a career advertising Kaliber low-alcohol lager, ï¿½ la Connolly, was the act of a different Scottish comedy generation altogether.
A conversation with Frankie Boyle Stand up comedian, Frankie Boyle, star of comedy panel shows such as Mock the Week, Have I Got News For You, and 8 out of 10 Cats talks to Arts Hub's resident budding comic Sam Stone at the side of a busy roundabout about grief sex, fatherhood and writing jokes. By Sam Stone
February 20, 2009
"I Reckon I Could Kill a Labrador" is the unsentimental title of the email that Frankie Boyle sends out inviting me to attend his new material night at Islington's Hen and Chickens theatre. I enjoy the show despite having to stare at the floor. Boyle had asked me not to sit near the front because he would find it "distracting" to get eye contact from someone he knew while delivering a punchline. As a new act comic I find this admission of nervousness from such an accomplished entertainer comforting and disturbing in equal measure. Unfortunately, when I arrive there is only one seat left... second row from the front, hence the staring at the floor.
Our conversation took place after the show on January 21st, a date which has become known as "Blue Monday" because some statisticians have calculated it to be the most depressing day of the year. It is not a day for killing Labradors... it's a day for killing yourself. "I tell you what is depressing," says Frankie, surprisingly softly spoken and wearing a woolly hat that renders him almost unrecognisable, "nominal determinism... that's depressing." Nominal determinism is the notion that your destiny is linked to your name, or the sound of your name. "Payne" for a doctor for example or "Tinkle" for a piano teacher. As Frankie is a "Boyle", this could be interesting but we donï¿½t get the chance to pursue it... as we sit outside Weatherspoons on Highbury roundabout, a very loud roadsweeper passes and the moment is lost as we wait for the noise to diminish, leaving me to ponder the possibility that the machine is operated by a Mr Annoying Bastard.
Pointing out that he has a great name I ask if he has any interesting anagrams for it. I had promised I would not ask the "same old, same old" questions that he must have heard and I reckon he cannot have been asked that before. His reply is typically dismissive, "I cannot think of anything more boring. All the porn in the world would have to dry up and then perhaps my legs fall off and I might get around to working that out."
I laugh because heï¿½s funny. He laughs too, an almost girlish trill of a laugh that rises at the end. Few comedians are as funny in conversation as they are on stage but Boyle is an exception and I am overwhelmed by self-consciousness at how uncomfortable it will be to listen to my own garrulous laughter when I transcribe the taped interview. I begin scribbling the letters of his name on a sheet of paper whilst declaring my intention to complete an anagram by the end of the conversation. Boyle might think Iï¿½m square but anything has to be better than being the goofy idiot who laughs at everything he says.
The gig itself was intimate and full of fans delighted to be involved in the process of helping Boyle develop new material in a safe environment. Thereï¿½s a lot of polite laughter. Iï¿½m not suggesting that the jokes werenï¿½t worthy of laughter, but I wonder if having such a supportive gathering of fans is going to provide a realistic verdict for the new jokes. Other than myself, there were no journalists to write critical reviews of material that didnï¿½t quite cut it. Like the rape joke.
Shock-jock comics all over the country commonly perform jokes about rape and similar controversial topics in the hope that breaking taboos will get them noticed. But as they invariably fail to provide sufficient comedic purpose for the inclusion of such material, the only response they get is the embarrassed laughter of audiences keen to prove their understanding that everything is fair game these days. Boyle is in a class of his own, however, when it comes to that kind of joke though and often unleashes stuff that would have other comics booed off the stage. He readily admits that one of his rape jokes did not work tonight and that heï¿½ll have to ditch it. Wanting to offer a more hopeful view, I put it to him that occasionally material doesnï¿½t work because structurally there needs to be something that cushions the blow and that he should not necessarily write it off entirely.
ï¿½To be honest,ï¿½ he says, ï¿½I have such a high turnaround of jokes that if I'm doing a new one-hour show every year, that's 120 new jokes. I could go ï¿½I need a lighter way into the rape stuff hereï¿½ and I could purposefully do that, but most of my jokes are a by-product of topical material from TV shows. So there's no time for structure. It's a collection of gags. You try to sort them as best you can.ï¿½ Some comedians donï¿½t like to talk about the ï¿½process of comedyï¿½ but Boyle is generous enough to tell me how he writes his material. ï¿½If Iï¿½m touring, Iï¿½m often I'm in the car for five hours and I can't work while I'm driving, so it can be frustrating but I'll take stuff I've pre-prepared. I've got a notebook for different stages of ideas,ï¿½
He pulls a slightly dog-eared notebook from his bag and thumbs through it as he talks. ï¿½There's a notebook that I'll write ideas down in and they will eventually get upgraded to a 'potentials' notebook. I'll take 'potentials' on the road with me and think about them and try to put three or four potential jokes a night into a tour show. Some of the tour shows have twelve hundred people in the audience so it's hard to force yourself to do those new bits.ï¿½ Very brave indeed I would say. No wonder a small gathering of friendly Islington folk holds so much appeal.
I first met Boyle backstage at one of my own gigs at The Stand in Edinburgh. Recalling what it was like walking down the street with him as strangers stopped to shake his hand and pat him on the back, I wonder if being a recognisable figure has influenced the nature of the material he writes? ï¿½Sort of... there needs to be 'something else' though. I think audiences want a mixture. If I was just doing material about Tony Blair or Gordon Brown for an hour the audience would go nuts.ï¿½
At the side of the busy roundabout there is a lot of noise, itï¿½s late and he probably wants to go home. Boyle is still and upright in his woolly hat and I am continuously shuffling about to find a good place to rest the dictaphone or scribble anagrams. He has granted me this interview because beneath that seemingly cynical Glaswegian exterior - that hails from an almost clichï¿½d background of poverty and alcoholism, he is a warm and deceptively optimistic person. If you donï¿½t get that about him, then youï¿½ll be offended by his rape joke. And his wife beating joke. Oh... and his paedophile joke.
It would be too easy to forget how well informed and politically sensitive he is if you just focussed on the fact that much of what he does challenges through its apparent tastelessness. But he is a man of superior intelligence who wipes the floor with other comics with classy topical writing and delivery to match. During the Iraq war which he was strongly opposed to, he tells me that he believes he once had the plug intentionally pulled from his microphone during the ï¿½Live Floor Showï¿½ from where he was summarily sacked. I asked him why.
ï¿½Because they were fucking idiots.ï¿½
Before Boyle turned to comedy, he worked in a mental asylum. The work and, consequently, his life, comprised two days on and three days off. He used the lengthy spells away from work to get plastered: ï¿½it was fucking amazing... I got to see how an Asylum runs. It was a very good experience. I had no qualifications so I couldn't have got promoted. I would probably still be there if I wasn't doing comedy.ï¿½
He gave up drinking ten years ago. He became a different person to the one his wife had met and that took its toll on their marriage. They hardly had any money and once he had taken drink out of the equation, ï¿½things just stopped being fun. Nobody can drink that much without getting fucked up... I never got to the wetting-the-bed stage but I was definitely an alcoholic. There's a lot of undiagnosed alcoholics in Britain who drink at that level. There seems to be this almost Viking idiom of drinking, war, sex... itï¿½s weird.ï¿½
He shifts easily between the sharp one-liners and matter-of-fact coarseness to the more quietly philosophical observations. When he remarks on his interaction with one of tonightï¿½s audience who had revealed their very low self esteem, he is surprisingly tender, ï¿½I must remember to be more positive with people like that.ï¿½ I suggest this wouldnï¿½t suit him. He agrees, ï¿½Yeah itï¿½d be fucking terrible.ï¿½
Boyle recently became a father for the second time and I ask him how it feels to bring new life into a dying world. He is unperturbed by my flippancy. ï¿½At least with each species that dies out, there will be less to teach your children". He mimes a child pointing, "What's that Daddy?" He shrugs, "Probably a dog, son". "The world is dying", he says, "People are in denial.ï¿½ I tell him that I find it curious that people are willing to admit this but remain happy to continue having children. ï¿½Why wouldn't you?ï¿½ he insists, ï¿½ My kids will be ok. Their kids won't be, but mine'll be ok. I think my kids'll live a kind of Mad Max lifestyle. We're definitely supposed to have kids - we're equipped to have them. Why wouldn't you have kids?ï¿½
He is asking me this question directly. I simply hold his gaze and remind him that I'm the one asking the questions. I recall a joke from the end of his show about "grief sex" and mention that he's coined a brilliant phrase. He corrects me... the phrase already exists. ï¿½I always make sure I throw in a bit of material that I really love right at the end of a show.ï¿½ He repeats the line, not even a joke yet: " 'There must be some people who are in it just for the grief sex'. ' There's something funny about that, but I don't think there's anywhere to go with it.' I disagree, I think there is. He pauses for thought, then adds "The grief sex is probably what the police go into the job for." Boyle continues, ï¿½women do become very aroused around death. They've got this thing about creating life to balance it out.ï¿½
Sex and death, I suggest. ï¿½It's not about sex and death. It's about sex and life. We're fucking to create life but we forget that because a lot of the time we're not! That can be the title of this piece if you like - Frankie Boyle: Fucking to create life." I suggest it should be the title for his new Edinburgh show. Boyle smiles broadly. ï¿½I was thinking about a title for that and was considering, ï¿½I Would Quite Happily Punch Every One Of You In The Face.ï¿½ï¿½ But he swiftly returns to his more serious point, ï¿½we are fucking to create life. That's what we are doing. We are procreating. We're educated out of it because of the whole fucking love thing. It's very hard to have kids and not love 'em. The forces that rule the planet want us to atomise and like to keep us working. It's very difficult to come to work when you've got a baby. There are some days when all I want to do is stay at home and talk to the baby. Why wouldn't you have kids?ï¿½
Again, the question sounds rhetorical but he is asking me directly, so I give him my reply: I cannot think of anything more boring. All the porn in the world would have to dry up and possibly my legs fall off and then I might consider it. I ask him if he thinks he really could kill a Labrador, ï¿½I reckon I could, yeah. It would clearly be an effort but I reckon I could. A pit bull, that'd be harder.ï¿½ I realise that while I am asking whether he could kill a Labrador from a compassionate stance, he is commenting merely on whether he could kill one from a practical one. Unaware of my misgivings, he continues unabashed and takes at face value my observation that he could easily kill a Labrador as they are "soppy as fuck".
ï¿½You wait 'til I start gouging it's eyes out,ï¿½ he counters, ï¿½it could turn!ï¿½
I finish scribbling, ï¿½Iï¿½ve got an anagram for you Frankie Boyle.ï¿½ He leans over and I show it to him - "Real Knife Yob". His face registers something between unease and disappointment. I realise itï¿½s not the nicest of anagrams, - ï¿½I can do another one for you if you like.ï¿½ ï¿½No. Please don't.ï¿½
Frankie Boyle Nihilistic Scot Frankie Boyle loves to stir things up a bit. We caught up with the shock Jock and found him in surprisingly thoughtful mood. 9 December 2008
Do you find it strange that your dark comedy is a huge hit?
Yeah, it is pretty weird. But, clearly, people are more broad-minded than they're given credit for.
So what inspired you to become a comedian?
The local library. There was nothing to do in the part of Glasgow I came from so I'd go to the library and get comedy records out. That was a big thing for me. All the Monty Python albums, all the Goon Show albums. And I started reading PG Wodehouse so the biggest influences on me have been English, which is quite weird.
Because I think my humour has a very Scottish voice ï¿½ Scottish humour is a negative, dark thing. Billy Connolly is really unusual ï¿½ and he's always got a mixed reception in Scotland because of that. He talks about how great and brilliant stuff is. That's not something you hear a lot in Scotland, you know what I mean?
So your dark gags are in the blood?
Well, I've come up through that sort of attitude but I'd like to be doing more political material. It's hard to do loads of that in the live show at the moment because people come to see me with certain expectations. I've got jokes that don't really fit at the moment about Israel and Palestine and weapons being transported through Britain and that kind of stuff. I think that's more the direction for the next tour.
Mock the Week is much sharper than other topical panel shows - you want to take things further?
Absolutely. It's hard to talk about certain things in that show. We did a show when the main news story was Iraq but we lead on John Prescott retiring and you think ï¿½ for f**k's sake, it really looks like we're going out of our way to talk about the news. In a lot of these shows ï¿½ I wouldn't say Mock the Week is the worst offender ï¿½ they have big stories they don't particularly want you to talk about. Also, Mock The Week goes out in the summer and f**k all happens in the summer. We literally start just as parliament closes and then stop as the party conference season begins. This summer we talked about the Olympics for five weeks. We talked about it before the coverage started and carried on after the coverage had finished.
Is that frustrating?
I've always had a political consciousness ï¿½ they don't use that phrase any more do they? I remember as a kid seeing Ghandi and the bit when he gets thrown off the train... the fact that stuff like that went on really angered me. I must have been 10. I was pretty much a socialist growing up. I joined the labour party when I was 16 but it disillusioned me pretty quickly so I drifted out within a year. I'm anti party politics, but I've always been quite a political person.
Didn't you start your career at The Stand?
Yes, I went down and said "can I do a spot?" and the owner Tommy said "no". I promised to bring 12 mates down to watch and he went "alright then". In 1996 I won a comedy award, which put me on a national student tour. My early stuff was darker than what I do now.
Darker than jokes like "Camilla looks like Diana if she'd survived the crash?"
Yes. It was more about death and murder. I'm trying to think if there were any light bits in itï¿½ not really. It was quite Scottish.
You've got a new DVD out, but it's actually taken from your current tourï¿½?
Yeah, I'm still on the road. It finishes in late December. The only problem with the DVD coming out is that I'm still using some of the jokes ï¿½ so I'm hoping no one will watch it 'til Xmas.
Only some of the jokes?
The live show now is less than half the stuff on the DVD. I'm changing it all the time. If I said all the same words every night I'd go nuts. Absolutely nuts.
How do you decide what to keep and what to drop?
It's when you mess about with material that some really interesting things happen or you finally get the courage to do that new line you weren't sure about. You don't always have perfect judgement - it's a bit trial and error. Like last night I stuck a line on the end of a joke on the DVD about Macy Gray being spit roasted by two guys ï¿½ I had this idea, a line that says ï¿½ Macy Gray spit roasted? No wonder she tries to walk away and then stumbles. I did it just through boredom and it went down a storm.
There's a lot of teasing the audience too. Guess that changes every night?
I try to keep the jokes coming fast with no break. The audience chat is really the pause for me. The thing about being on the road for three months is that the chats start to get quite bleak. I just went round the whole gig the other night telling people to kill themselves. You work in what? Kill yourself.
The Spray Q&A: Frankie Boyle hecklerspray
April 1, 2009
We caught up with Frankie Boyle - the Scottish one from Mock The Week who recently had a joke about the Queen’s genitals read out on Newsnight - for an impromptu question and answer session…
How did it feel winning the best director Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire?
I’ve met Danny Boyle actually. He has a glowing niceness that extremely successful people have. It’d be nice to get there…
At what temperature does Frankie boil?
I’m pale and Scottish so I’d say around 20 degrees.
Do you believe that chivalry is dead?
Not with me. Particularly with women. I am always rescuing women in distress and Serbian sex traders. The sex is good.
Do you think you should send Kerry Katona a royalty cheque for all the material you’ve got out of her?
I find her a bit sad actually, a bit tragic. On the other hand… she is a large, slow-moving gag target!
Does it ever disconcert you that Andy Parsons looks like a midget version of Ming The Merciless?
(Laughs) Andy looks more like Pingu’s friend, Seymour the Seal.
What’s it like going through life knowing that Garry Bushell adores you?
I take love where I can find it. I see him as an Obi-Wan figure.
Are you really retiring soon?
Yep, I’ll stop performing at the end of 2010.
A fan of yours described you as an “evil genius”. What kind of animal would you keep beside you and who do you elect as your sidekick?
I think the term ‘genius’ is overused. I’m not a genius and what I do is not that difficult. Anyway, I would elect a huge drunken monkey wearing a suit!
Did you find it difficult to give up alcohol?
Not difficult, just boring. My days were really empty and I had 10 hours of nothing to do.
How do you celebrate?
How did you get into comedy?
I was funny when I was at school and it was one of the few ways I could relate to women… I hate performing and felt totally nervous for the first eight years. I was lazy and I needed the fear to motivate me. Fear is something that you never get over live.
How did you find the confidence to perform stand-up?
I don’t think it is confidence. We live in a society where confidence is really highly rated but I think a good comedian is someone who can create intimacy with their audience.
You once said you would like to make a show in the UK like the Daily Show in the US. Any plans?
I would love to do that but I don’t think it would get commissioned. British people are not engaged enough with the idea that we should be engaged with politics. They’re more likely to say “Fuck this, why should we be interested?” I ended up on panel shows by accident really.
Is it true you’ve only received one piece of hate-mail?
I think it’s two letters actually…. but I think they were written by the same guy! I think the second letter was the first guy posing as a group of girls.
You’ve previously commented about not needing the validation of the audience. Do you care what people think?
Not really… Maybe ….I only care what women think.
Does censorship frustrate you?
Yes. I’ve done episodes of Mock the Week that were entirely censored. The BBC think the public can’t handle certain debates but blatant censorship is propaganda on some level. I think the British public are so much more broad minded than you would imagine by looking at the media.
What do you do with material that gets no laughs?
I hate to give up on a joke. (From show to show) it’s weird how universally people react.
What do you make of the Daily Mail getting work up over your joke about the Queen’s pussy being haunted?
I said that in 2007 and if her pussy wasn’t haunted then… it sure is now.
What will it be like to be a boundary-pushing comedian working for the BBC now that everyone’s waiting for another moral outrage?
I welcome it.
The surprise is that Darling hasn't introduced a tax for people whose hair and eyebrows match By FRANKIE BOYLE
29 Apr 2009
ACERBIC, close to the knuckle and hilariously funny, Frankie Boyle is Britain’s most outspoken comedian. The Mock The Week comic agrees with us that the best cure for the current doom and gloom is a good chuckle. So he has offered us his thoughts for the week as part of The Sun’s great Get Britain Laughing campaign. As the dust settles on Alistair Darling’s Budget, here are Frankie’s views.
ALISTAIR DARLING announced the rich will see their tax rates change. Yes, they will — when they bugger off to Switzerland. The one bright spot in the Budget was when the Chancellor said: “I’m taking the necessary measures for Britain’s recovery”. Unfortunately, the gun jammed when he tried to shoot himself in the head.
I couldn’t believe that in the current financial climate it took him 20 minutes to explain our Budget... how long does it take to say: “We have three beans, we are going to eat one, plant one and attempt to trade the other for a magical harp”? Things are so bad David Cameron is now sending around emails about himself so he can lose the next election.
Analysts expect that Britain won’t be able to balance the books until 2018, when at least two or three General Elections have passed and the British Civil War has ended. Duty on the average bottle of beer has gone up by two per cent, thereby putting an additional strain on Scottish parents as they’ll have to increase their kids’ pocket money. And two pence has been added to a litre of petrol. This will upset many rural types, making their favourite tipple unaffordable.
He has been criticised for allowing pubs to close, while trying to save the car industry. This is a silly move; the more drivers we have using pubs and then ploughing their cars into bus stops, the more demand for replacement cars. This will also help buoy the replacement limb industry and florists. The Chancellor announced a £2billion package aimed at preventing school-leavers from joining the dole queue... he’s going to build a big fence around job centres to stop them getting in.
The City has dismissed Darling’s predictions on the economy as overoptimistic. Coming from them, that’s interesting. They based their entire financial model on receiving a mortgage payment from an unemployed, one-eyed banjo player in Detroit. Most Chancellors proudly hold the Budget box high for photographers, whereas Darling looked so embarrassed he used it more to cover his face like a paedophile getting into a police van. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d delivered the entire Budget speech holding a blue folder in front of his face.
The new supertax will affect people who earn over £150,000. It’s surely of no surprise that Alistair Darling earns £141,866 as a minister. The real surprise is he hasn’t introduced a tax for people who’s hair and eyebrows match. They are taxing the rich to help pay for assistance for the unemployable. Hey, I’ve made most of my money from insulting Dundee, I may as well give a little back.
So Labour have returned to their socialist principles. Tony Blair must be spinning in his four £9million homes. Darling is putting 150,000 young people into jobs in “green technology”. This should be successful. Brit teens are already experts at smashing streetlights and heating whole estates with one burning car.
The stress is really beginning to show on Darling’s face — his left eyebrow is beginning to go grey.
Frankie Boyle has stopped writing his column for The Daily Record after they refused to publish his comments about Michael Jackson. Here's the column in full...
Frankie Boyle: unpublished Daily Record Column
So the Michael Jackson roller coaster has stopped. Looks like he got enough. Apparently he died after walking into a pub in Paisley and saying ï¿½Do you wanna be starting something?ï¿½ We can all learn something from Michaelï¿½s life. For example, it looks like oxygen tents are a big waste of money.
Why did no one pick up on it when he had shown all the signs of a heart attack? Wheezing noises, jerking of the arms, ashen complexion? I suppose to be fair he has been showing all those symptoms since the mid eighties. Had Jacksonï¿½s staff noticed something was wrong earlier he might have been saved, but when they saw him grab his left arm, go stiff and yelp they just thought he was practising his moves for Beat It. Itï¿½s not known what triggered the heart attack, but High School M usical 3 was on cable at the time. In many ways he was a tragic figure. Letï¿½s be honest, he had more personal issues than Batman.Who could have imagined that the monster he transformed into in ï¿½Thrillerï¿½ would look less weird than what he transformed into in real life? Itï¿½s got to be a tossup whether he get cremated or recycled. His postmortem will look like the Roswell autopsy.
I was a big Michael Jackson fan when I was 8. I didn't know it at the time, but I was his 'type.' For his London concerts Michael Jackson advertised for children in wheelchairs or with missing legs! What parent would agree to that? Look what happened with kids who could run away! Those tickets sold out in minutes. An interesting attitude we have to paedophilia in this country, ï¿½ We donï¿½t want paedophiles round here! Unless theyï¿½ve really worked on their choreographyï¿½ï¿½
He was a legend and his funeral will be amazing. Ironically the funeral will be the first time in years his children havenï¿½t been forced to wear veils.With the amount of money the concert tickets have made I wouldnï¿½t be surprised if they still wheeled him on. It would add an interesting touch to Iï¿½ll Be There. Michael Jackson was apparently refusing to eat ahead of his O2 gigs. He now weighed less than nine stone and the only thing he would eat willingly was nachos. Nachos being the name of a young Mexican boy. Itï¿½s said that Jackson had developed a phobia about being fat. Not like him to worry about his looks. Apparently when the news broke Jacksonï¿½s father rushed straight to the hospital, just to check if the medics needed a hand with beating Michaelï¿½s chest.
Jacksonï¿½s family said they were moved to see that the hospital staff were all wearing black. Actually, they were all wearing white as usual, but that family had always had a little trouble admitting the difference. The man may be gone but he has left a musical legacy that will be around for hundreds of years. As will his face.
Murraymania has hit Wimbledon with millions convinced that Andy Murray has what it takes to become the first British male for a long time to be knocked out in the final.
Murray could be Wimbledon if he just the right breaks, like one to Roger Federerï¿½s ankle. This year Murray is desperately trying to convince the crowd heï¿½s ï¿½Britishï¿½. Then he fucked that up by winning. Nine Brits were beaten on the first day. Mind you, they all turned up with snooker cues. The Lawn Tennis Association says the eighty million pound roof over Centre Court will improve British tennis. Really? Theyï¿½re attaching a noose? Visitors to Wimbledon have been paying ï¿½20 a day to park on a graveyard. It only came to light after the families of deceased relatives complained about having to lay flowers on a BMW.What sort of person would think itï¿½s acceptable to park their 4x4 on top of someoneï¿½s grave. Oh yes, the sort of person that owns a 4x4.I love Wimbledon. Itï¿½s the only time I get to watch women in short skirts grunting and sweating without night vision goggles. I really enjoy all that grunting. My neighbours keep banging on the wall to get me to stop.
The BBC has published its expenses. They also claimed for chandeliers, moats and large houses. To be fair, it was for ï¿½Pride and Prejudice.ï¿½They claimed thousands of pounds for ï¿½entertaining.ï¿½ Itï¿½s a disgrace. The BBC hasnï¿½t done that for years.Deputy Director Mark Byford charged licence fee payers ï¿½4.99 for a book of the history of QPR football club. And a thousand on a divorce lawyer when he gave it to his wife for Christmas. ï¿½1,137 was spent on a knighthood dinner for Terry Wogan. And itï¿½s the last time they take him to Pizza Hut and say, ï¿½Order anything you like.ï¿½
The BNP may be sued for refusing membership to non whites.The BNP say they welcome minorities as card carrying members. The cards say ï¿½Fuck off home.ï¿½ I look forward to Nick Griffin holding ï¿½minority awarenessï¿½ workshops and playing God Save The Queen on steel drums.
London Underground is using quotes from Ghandi on the Tube. I saw the film and I donï¿½t remember him saying, ï¿½Thereï¿½s a body on the line at Marble Arch.ï¿½
They use other famous quotes too ï¿½ but the one from the Koran emptied the train.
The Scottish National Library banned the Saltire flag for being racist. There are racist librarians? Knitting a cardigan with a swastika in it must be a nightmare.
Iï¿½d love to see them march. ï¿½What do we want? Sssshh!ï¿½
A ghost town that was built in Argyll but then abandoned to the wild is to be demolished because it lies crumbling and derelict. Itï¿½s a shame because thereï¿½s some great scenery around Greenock.
A male stripper, known as Sergeant Eros, has been convicted of impersonating a police officer and pulling over other drivers using flashing lights on his car. He pulled over several female drivers but they quickly realised he wasnï¿½t a policemen when he didnï¿½t expose his genitals.
Twenty-two people in the UK have donated a kidney to a stranger. Itï¿½s just a shame that many of the strangers were German cannibals. Sir Ranulph Fiennesï¿½s wife says that he canï¿½t read a map. Getting to the South Pole unassisted is even more impressive as it turns out heï¿½d only gone out to buy some fags. I reckon the rights to broadcast Scottish football next year could be picked up by anyone with a few empty Irn Bru bottles and a camcorder. So thatï¿½s STV out of the running.
Scientists have found that Botox can make hair re-grow, but women that have had injections in their forehead donï¿½t need to worry. People will still be unable to see your frown lines, because theyï¿½ll be hidden behind all that lovely forehead hair.
How Frankie Boyle came back from the dead Boyle has told jokes about paedophilia, incest, rape and terrorism, but denies his act is based on malice 2 Nov 2009
Right up until Frankie Boyle arrives I’m bracing myself for a no-show. He’s already cancelled the interview three times: the first following his mysterious illness on the set of BBC Two’s Mock The Week last month, the second citing exhaustion, and thirdly, just a few days ago, because of a throat infection which left him unable to talk. Yet here he is at last, the light dancing off his goofy black-rimmed glasses, sporting a bushy beard which befits his slightly shambolic appearance.
In fact – drum roll – Boyle is early, as he has just abandoned another magazine photoshoot in disgust. “A bit of crossed wires,” in his words. The comedian shakes his head incredulously. “They were trying to get me to do this really terrible photo idea,” he says in soft Glasgow tones that are the polar opposite of his aggressive on-screen persona. “I was meant to be a medieval warrior with a falcon” – he pauses to pour himself a glass of water and pop a couple of paracetamol – “and I thought, ‘Great’, because I love birds and it would be great to see a falcon in the shoot. Then they appeared with this really horrible stuffed, dead bird.
“They wanted me to wear a fucking kilt. It was like a shitey Halloween Braveheart costume. I said to the guy: ‘I’m not going to do this …’” He breaks off into machine-gun laughter. “The guy was really angry but I was like: ‘Hang on a minute, you are trying to take the piss.’ I left immediately.”
I died – well, at least according to Wikipedia. I think that’s pretty cool. It’s a proper Richard Pryor rumour, an Elvis rumour
It’s been a tumultuous few weeks for Boyle. The 37-year-old was taken to hospital last month after complaining of chest pains on the set of the satirical comedy show, Mock The Week. At the time Boyle’s agent denied he had suffered a heart attack, prompting speculation about the comedian’s physical and mental health. Following his hospital dash, Boyle pulled out of a publicity tour to promote his colourfully titled autobiography, My Shit Life So Far, blaming extreme exhaustion. Only days later it was announced he planned to quit his role on Mock The Week, where he has been a regular since 2005.
“I died – well, at least according to Wikipedia,” jokes Boyle, after the online internet encyclopedia reported he had passed away. “I think that’s pretty cool. It’s a proper Richard Pryor rumour, an Elvis rumour: it’s great. The thing that happened on Mock The Week, I was just knackered. When I went to the hospital the doctor said I’d had too much coffee, basically. I was knackered in general. There was this fucking ambulance there [at the BBC studio] for a stunt on Blue Peter, so I spoke to the paramedic and he said, ‘C’mon in.’ I was saying to my pal that I wanted to be airlifted out on a stretcher, you know, like in M*A*S*H.” Boyle cheerily hums the theme tune to himself.
Now Boyle has been floored by a severe throat infection which has left him unable to talk for two days. “Have you ever had strep throat? It’s really terrible. It’s like a throat infection squared. I’ve eaten nothing but yoghurt for three days,” he says. Describing his bout of exhaustion as a “wake-up call”, Boyle is resolving to take life easier. “I have spent the last three weeks swimming and sitting in a sauna listening to lower-league footballers discuss betting patterns,” he says. “To be honest, it’s been fascinating. Did I get any good tips? No, they seemed to lose heavily all the time.”
On stage and screen Boyle seems to spew venom by rote, his mouth curled into a perpetual sneer. In person he is infallibly polite, whip-smart and gregarious. There’s even the hint of a smile on his lips. Quizzed on his motivation for writing an autobiography, he quips: “Money and settling scores,” before adding: “Seriously, though, I don’t have grudges with anyone.” Although I’m sure the US-born Scottish comedian Jerry Sadowitz would beg to differ (more of that in a moment).
Boyle’s autobiography offers a colourful snapshot of his life to date; two parts anecdote, one part acerbic observation. The middle of three children – his father was a labourer and mother a nursery-school dinner lady – Boyle grew up in Pollokshaws, Glasgow, which he describes as “an aching cement void, a slap in the face to childhood”. Among his earliest memories is the frigid cold of the family home, the only heating in the living room a three-bar gas fire that went on for the Six O’Clock News.
He recalls huge chunks of his childhood with vivid clarity, whether it be his fear of nuclear war (“Every time I heard a plane go overhead I was convinced we were all about to disappear in a ball of incendiary light”) or the hours spent peering through his elder brother’s telescope at the neighbours (“One of my favourites was this woman who’d do really high-powered eighties aerobics and then put a coat on and go outside on to the balcony and smoke fags for ages”).
“Pollokshaws in general was a lot like Blade Runner without the special effects,” he writes. “Turning one way from our house, high rises towered over freezing little sixties prefabs. The other way, the road must have been one of the bleakest in Europe. It had a yard filled with building materials that was eternally locked up, a tiny office building the size of a large van and a milk factory. All facing a giant used-car lot.” He adds: “Most tower blocks in the seventies were so depressing they should have put a diving board on the roof.”
So did he enjoy any part of growing up against this backdrop? “Naw,” says Boyle, before breaking off into a staccato burst of laughter. “It was terrible. I quite enjoyed primary school. It was a real haven, as was nursery school.” And secondary school? “It was horrible, really terrible,” he says. “Although there must have been people who had far worse experiences than I had.”
Brought up a Catholic, religion featured prominently during Boyle’s early years and formative education, although he says he hasn’t been to church since he was 14. “I’m beyond atheism now, I’m in some different fucking place,” he says. Boyle condemns the Catholic school system which he went through. “Taking little kids in and telling them there is a magic guy in the sky with a beard? There’s a fucking creepy death obsession about all of that,” he says. “This dying man who rose again. Kids of five should be out playing in the sand. It horrifies me.”
His teenage self, says Boyle, was “driven by horniness”. In his autobiography he recalls the eternal search for decent porn – unlike youngsters today, he notes, who can access illicit material at the click of a mouse. “I hid my porn under a rabbit hutch – until it was stolen. I think by my dad, although I’ve never been able to prove that.”
He is, it seems, warming to the topic. “My porn habit is a bit like having malaria. It’s not a huge problem but every few months I lose a couple of days to it,” writes Boyle. He gives a little shrug. “That’s pretty accurate although, to be fair, it’s calmed down over the past few years, maybe because I’ve seen almost everything. Think of it like Marco Polo going round the world, what he might have seen in the imperial harems of China would have been the greatest exposure to that – now you can see it all in a day. We can see stuff that would have shocked fucking Genghis Khan.”
During his late teens Boyle underwent group therapy for depression. Or did he? “I don’t really think it was depression,” he says. “In terms of depression being a chemical illness, I don’t think I had that – in fact, quite the opposite. I’m strangely optimistic usually.” So does this mean he’s a positive person, then? Boyle looks thoughtful. “That’s quite a conundrum. If you wanted my opinion about almost any noun it would be quite negative, yet at the same time I’m always ridiculously optimistic. I remember this famous comic telling me he did NLP [neuro-linguistic programming] which is about positive visualisation, like imagining doing a gig and it being brilliant or your journey home being totally untroubled. It’s exactly like how I think all the time anyway.”
Does he consider himself quite well adjusted? “Naw. I can’t be, can I? What am I adjusted to? Horror. Comics, probably. And death. I started reading some stuff about Buddhism, that whole mindfulness of death. It’s just there, with me, all the fucking time now.” Is it true he’s a perfectionist: that, no matter how well he performs, always thinks he could do better? “I could definitely do better,” says Boyle, grinning. “But that comes from imperfection, not perfectionism. If people pay their money, I want to do it properly.”
When I ask him about the notion of self-destruction, though, it seems to touch a raw nerve. We go back and forth with Boyle not really understanding the purpose of the question. “You could destroy my career by saying something like that,” he says. “I don’t understand how me being venomous is self-destructive.” Perhaps, I venture, people view his sharp and biting brand of humour as a sign that he’s not a very happy person. “But I’m not being venomous about myself,” he counters. “I’m venomous about, usually, politicians.” He laughs softly, lightening the mood again. “I can see that as destructive – I would like to destroy those people.”
Thanks to his morbid sense of humour, Boyle has been dubbed “the dark heart of Mock The Week” by its host, Dara O’Briain. While the BBC’s official line is that Boyle has left to pursue other projects, the comedian believes he has gone as far as he could with the show. “I have done 60-something episodes now. That’s enough,” he says. He also hints at creative differences with the show’s producers. “I wanted to move on from episode one,” he says. “I write a lot and I feel I’m writing great stuff, then this year they didn’t really want me to do the stand-up thing. That’s fine, but I want to do this great stuff somewhere. If that’s live or has to be in a different environment, that’s cool. I don’t have to be doing panel shows all the time.”
Boyle is due to film a pilot episode of an eponymous show for Channel 4 in December, produced by RDF Scotland. “It’s me doing some stand-up, which will hopefully be a bit more like my live DVD,” he says. “I’ll also be doing some sketches with Jim Muir, who is Reverend Obadiah Steppenwolf III for any Scottish comedy trainspotters, and Tom Stade, who is a comedian maniac. It won’t be a panel-type show. There will be no frills about it.” He remains philosophical about whether or not the pilot will be picked up as a series. “Loads of people want to get a show on Channel 4,” he says. “We’ll give it our best shot.”
Boyle hit the headlines again last week when the BBC Trust, in its first ruling since announcing a crackdown on cruel comedy, ruled that a comment Boyle made about Olympic gold medal-winning British swimmer Rebecca Adlington on Mock The Week in August 2008 was “humiliating” and “offensive”. A separate ruling saw the trust dismiss complaints about another episode in which Boyle made a sexual reference to the Queen, concluding that the joke was “in bad taste” but was broadcast long after the watershed and was “within audience expectations for the show”. Boyle says he feels “almost less than nothing” about the rulings and has no regrets about either comment.
“I think political correctness is something which got inflated slightly as a political thing for privileged people to push against,” he says. “These things move in fashions. Sometimes you get a break on that fashion, which is great, but you can’t really dictate it. Also it’s the economy. People like cheerier, less challenging things when they are worried about how they’re going to pay the bills.”
Boyle has made jokes about disabled people, paedophilia, incest, rape and terrorism, but by the same token views racism and homophobia as no-go areas. “I don’t make jokes about disabled people that are offensive to disabled people,” he clarifies. “Most jokes have victims but I don’t think any of my stuff is done with any real malice, apart from the stuff that is towards people I feel malevolent about, like fucking politicians, bankers, racists and the world’s cunts.” I mishear his last comment. “Cunts,” repeats Boyle with a flourish.
So what has Boyle done to annoy Jerry Sadowitz? The stand-up recently announced he would be calling his tour I’d Happily Punch Frankie Boyle In The Face, in a nod to Boyle’s own upcoming tour I’d Happily Punch Every One Of You In The Face. Boyle has been the topic of vicious tirades by Sadowitz in the past, with some comedy fans making less than glowing comparisons between the pair and dismissing Boyle online as a “Jerry Sadowitz impersonator”. “It’s me being more successful than him,” says Boyle, looking duly unfazed. Have they ever been friends? Boyle shrugs. “I’ve never seen him, never seen his act.”
What about other high-profile enemies? “Yeah, I’ve got a beef with Jay-Z,” he deadpans. “Do you know the rapper The Game? I’ve got a beef with him too.” How did that come about? “It didn’t really,” says Boyle, grinning. “I’d like to have some proper beefs, though – people with guns, to keep me on my toes.”
In My Shit Life So Far, Boyle lays bare his battle with alcoholism and drug abuse, the former leading to the collapse of his first marriage. “Luckily, because of the drink, I have very few memories of whoever that was,” he says joking. He was 27 when he stopped drinking and kicked drugs (he dabbled in cannabis, ecstasy, LSD and magic mushrooms) six years ago, although he insists there was no watershed moment. “You don’t really have those turning points,” he says. “I don’t believe in alcoholism and how it’s presented. I don’t believe in AA [Alcoholics Anonymous]. I don’t believe I’m a recovering alcoholic – I’m someone who used to drink. AA comes from a religious movement and that whole thing of ‘I’m always burdened with this’ and the original sin idea. It’s not like that for me. Drinking was just something that happened.”
As a father of two, what advice would Boyle give his own children (a son aged two and daughter aged five) with regards to drugs and alcohol? There’s a long pause. “I don’t know,” he says finally. “I would have to get more of an idea of what they are like as they get older because I think it’s very much down to what the individual person can handle. Let’s not think about them on drugs yet.”
He is, understandably, protective of his children and asks that their names not be mentioned. Likewise, when asked about his current partner, the mother of his son, he shifts uncomfortably in his seat, his brow furrowing and his eyes taking on a steely glint. “I don’t really fancy talking about my family,” he says. “I don’t mind talking about kids in general but …” He trails off, returns again. “I don’t understand that whole idea of [he adopts a shrill American accent, waving his arms around] ‘Here are my kids, here’s my house, wanna find me? Here I am.’ I just think it’s madness when people do that.”
He is less reticent when it comes to talking about his fellow comedians. In the book he writes: “I’ve never felt any sense of kinship with other comedians; they’ve always seemed too needy.” Is that perhaps true of comics as a breed? “I have some friends who are comedians but not many,” he says. “I tend to be quite outside the whole thing. I wouldn’t go and see someone’s show or hang out with some comics. They try to replace the things they don’t have with comedy.” Such as their parent’s approval? “Their parent’s love, more than approval. I think people who need approval tend to go into more structured things such as becoming producers and agents.”
Boyle says comedy has a “stupid, young man’s game side to it”, and refers to comedians in general as “social retards”. He nods animatedly. “There’s a real sexual edge to it as well,” he says. “They are travelling about, not really adept at making conversation, trying to hit on people at the disco at the end of Jongleurs and bin raking. Comedians are sexual bin rakers.”
He laughs at the notion of comedy being a good way to get sex. “I’m an old man now with a family. It’s not really a concern.” Not even in his younger days? “No, never. Comedy is a terrible way to meet women. It’s certainly a way to start talking to them, but they always have preconceptions about you. The fact my act was all about murder and getting paralytic probably didn’t help.”
Next March Boyle will embark on a UK tour, although those who want to catch him in action had better get in fast. Asked where he sees himself in 10 years he says: “Very much retired, knocking about Glasgow and largely forgotten. I’m looking forward to it. I’m starting to wind down right now. This is the last tour. After that I’d like to do some telly stuff, something that has some quality to it. If I can’t do that, I’ll just stop, try something else.”
My Shit Life So Far is published by HarperCollins, priced £18.99. Frankie Boyle will be signing copies at Waterstone’s, 13-14 Princes Street, Edinburgh, at 5.30pm on November 18 and Borders, Buchanan Street, Glasgow at 6pm on November 19.
Frankie Boyle at the King's Theatre, Glasgow Frankie treats his home town to a typically frank - and funny - stand-up set.
Rating: * * * *
22 Mar 2010
Putting Frankie Boyle on stage in his native Glasgow is a bit like letting an especially energetic bull loose in an extremely well-stocked china shop. The results are messy and chaotic, yet compelling and hilarious.
Mid-way through the show, Boyle recollects his favourite jokes (his own, of course) that were made on the set of Mock the Week, the satirical TV show he quit in October last year, but were considered unfit for broadcast. This is more than a little disingenuous, as at least 90 per cent of the eveningï¿½s material would not make it on to even the nationï¿½s most liberal airwaves. Needless to say, therefore, reviewing this gig (visiting Clydeside as part of the Glasgow International Comedy Festival) for a family newspaper is akin to being asked to fight Joe Calzaghe with a bag over your head, your hands tied behind your back and your feet set in concrete.
The show (which runs to an impressive and densely packed 75 minutes) combines sheer, unadulterated personal hatred, merciless abuse of the front rows of the audience (spare a thought for the audience member stupid enought to tell Boyle that his chosen profession is ï¿½debt collectorï¿½), and a set of gags so diverse that it seems as if Boyleï¿½s head contains the brains of several people, including a pop-culture junkie, a pornographer and Che Guevara.
Particular hatred is reserved for people who stop the comedian in the street and ask him if heï¿½s related to Susan Boyle. His response is two-fold: firstly, an expletive-laden denial of any blood relation, and, secondly, the observation that the Britainï¿½s Got Talent runner-up ï¿½looks like Gordon Brown playing Mrs Doubtfireï¿½.
There is no repeat of his infamous comments about the physical appearance of Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington, but when you have as many targets as Boyle has, thereï¿½s no need to return to past controversies. Most of the material Boyle presented in Glasgow will translate for audiences throughout his almost entirely sold-out UK tour. However, there were a few local crowd-pleasers.
For example, his sympathy for the Scottish Governmentï¿½s decision to return to Libya Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing. Boyle likes al-Megrahi, because his name sounds Scottish. ï¿½Big Al McGrahy. Sounds like he played full-back for Dunfermline in the Eighties.
Furious mother confronts comic Frankie Boyle over jokes about Down's syndrome victims
By Kate Loveys
9th April 2010
Frankie Boyle had an on-stage run-in with a mother of a Down's syndrome child after he made fun of victims. The former panellist on BBC quiz Mock The Week devoted five minutes of a stand-up show to a foul tirade against sufferers and their parents by criticising their hair, clothing and voices. He then turned on the audience, picking on a couple - Sharon and Keiron Smith - in the front row and accusing them of talking. Laughter turned to awkward silence when Mrs Smith told Boyle: 'My daughter has Down's syndrome and I'm very upset.' Boyle was unrepentant. He made fun of the couple before saying: 'This is my last tour. I don't give a fuck what people think.'
His behaviour has prompted online outrage after the couple revealed their ordeal to friends in a powerful blog posting. The blog says: 'Frankie Boyle spent a good few minutes making joke after joke about people with DS. And they weren't even clever or funny jokes either... I expected dry, nasty, crude humour, yes, but unimaginative humour poking fun at the stereotype of people with Down syndrome was not something that I expected.
'The more jokes he made, the harder I found it to stay unemotional and detached. My husband noticed and asked if I was OK. At which point Frankie noticed him talking to me and came over (oh how I wish I had not booked front row seats).
'He asked why we were talking during his show. I wanted the ground to swallow me up. I have never felt so small, so stupid, so emotional and to be honest so pathetic. How can a stranger make me feel like that?
'So I told him that my five-year-old daughter has Down syndrome and that I was simply upset at some of his jokes. He tried to laugh it off, "Ahh, but its all true isn't it?" to which I replied no, it wasn't.
'He then went on to say that it was the most excruciating moment of his career but then tried to claw the humour (?) back by saying we had paid to come and see him and what should we expect. 'To which I replied that I understood that and that it was my personal problem/upset. He then said it was the last tour ever and that he didn't give a fuck.
'He was obviously unsettled by the episode, but nothing like the way I felt. I truly have never felt so small.. I don't feel that I did my daughter any justice at all. I wish that I had managed to explain to them all why I was upset, to tell them how wrong the stereotypes about Down syndrome are. I wanted to show them how proud I am of my daughter, to tell them about how well she is doing at mainstream school.
'To show them the hundreds of pictures I have of her, so that they can see how pretty she is, that she wears pretty clothes and that she does not have bad hair (well apart from when she has put toothpaste or Marmite in it anyway). I wanted to break through their prejudices and to show how wrong the stereotypes are. But instead all I did was make people think I was someone who couldn't appreciate live stand-up comedy. Which isn't the case at all.'
Former marketing executive Mrs Smith said: 'Throughout his show he made fun of disabled people. But when given an opening he launched into a puerile, childish and ignorant attack on Down's syndrome sufferers. It wasn't funny. It was playground humour. My eight-year-old son could have been more astute.'
Mr and Mrs Smith's youngest child, five-year-old Tanzie, has Down's syndrome. Mr Smith, managing director of an online book company, said: 'We're fans of comedy. We've been to lots of live stand-up shows. We knew what to expect, or we thought we did. This was out of the dark ages. Not the material of a highly regarded comic. I'm still fuming. We both believe in freedom of speech but Boyle's jokes were borne from ignorance and based on stereotypes. We knew he was a dry, cutting comedian, but we thought he was intelligent and clever with it. It appears not.'
Boyle has been criticised before for bad taste jokes about the Queen and Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington. He no longer appears on Mock The Week but has begun a 113-date tour, titled I Would Happily Punch Every One Of You In The Face, which is almost sold out.
Boyle hits back at the BBC over 'anti-semetic' joke
Obviously, it feels strange to be on the moral high ground but I feel a response is required to the BBC Trustï¿½s cowardly rebuke of my jokes about Palestine. As always, I heard nothing from the BBC but read in a newspaper that editorial procedures would be tightened further to stop jokes with anything at all to say getting past the censors.
In case you missed it, the jokes in question are: ï¿½Iï¿½ve been studying Israeli Army Martial Arts. I now know 16 ways to kick a Palestinian woman in the back. People think that the Middle East is very complex but I have an analogy that sums it up quite well. If you imagine that Palestine is a big cake, wellï¿½that cake is being punched to pieces by a very angry Jew.ï¿½
I think the problem here is that the showï¿½s producers will have thought that Israel, an aggressive, terrorist state with a nuclear arsenal was an appropriate target for satire. The Trustï¿½s ruling is essentially a note from their line managers. It says that if you imagine that a state busily going about the destruction of an entire people is fair game, you are mistaken. Israel is out of bounds.
The BBC refused to broadcast a humanitarian appeal in 2009 to help residents of Gaza rebuild their homes. Itï¿½s tragic for such a great institution but it is now cravenly afraid of giving offence and vulnerable to any kind of well drilled lobbying.
I told the jokes on a Radio 4 show called Political Animal. That title seems to promise provocative comedy with a point of view. In practice the BBC wish to deliver the flavour of political comedy with none of the content. The most recent offering I saw was BBC Twoï¿½s The Bubble. It looked exactly like a show where funny people sat around and did jokes about the news. Except the thrust of the format was that nobody had read the papers. I can only imagine how the head of the BBC Trust must have looked watching that, grinning like Gordon Brown having his prostrate examined.
The situation in Palestine seems to be, in essence, apartheid. I grew up with the anti apartheid thing being a huge focus of debate. It really seemed to matter to everybody that other human beings were being treated in that way. We didnï¿½t just talk about it, we did things, I remember boycotts and marches and demos all being held because we couldnï¿½t bear that people were being treated like that.
A few years ago I watched a documentary about life in Palestine. Thereï¿½s a section where a UN dignitary of some kind comes to do a photo opportunity outside a new hospital. The staff know that it communicates nothing of the real desperation of their position, so they trick her into a side ward on her way out. She ends up in a room with a child who the doctors explain is in a critical condition because they donï¿½t have the supplies to keep treating him. She flounders, awkwardly caught in the bleak reality of the room, mouthing platitudes over a dying boy.
The filmmaker asks one of the doctors what they think the stunt will have achieved. He is suddenly angry, perhaps having just felt at first hand something he knew in the abstract. The indifference of the world. ï¿½She will do nothing,ï¿½ he says to the filmmaker. Then he looks into the camera and says, ï¿½Neither will youï¿½.
I cried at that and promised myself that I would do something. Other than write a few stupid jokes I have not done anything. Neither have you.
Pretty powerful stuff there - I hope he does start to do more as he's certainly got enough people interested in what he has to say...
What kind of 'comedian' jokes about Baby P?
12th November 2010
Can it ever be funny to make jokes about Madeleine McCann and her parents? Or about Baby P and Katie Price’s blind, autistic son Harvey? Not to mention Jade Goody’s cervical cancer, limbless swimmers and the rape of children? This is what I am thinking, sitting in the audience of one of Frankie Boyle’s sell-out London shows as the audience roar and guffaw from the stalls to the circle.
This concert is part of Boyle’s current British tour, charmingly entitled I Would Happily Punch Every One Of You In The Face; a night of the kind of hateful observations and poisonous asides that masquerade as comedy in the modern world. The Scottish entertainer says this tour will be his last as he plans to quit stand-up and do more television instead. That’s going to be interesting. Boyle jokes that his new Channel 4 series which starts at the end of this month will be called Hide And Seek And Rape. At least I hope it’s a joke.
On stage, he does indeed seem to be unhealthily obsessed with rape, but has promised to clean up his act for television. Out on the road, however, it is a different story. Here, we are deep into the dark side as Boyle, famous for his offensive and abusive humour, piles the odium high with one-liners about Peter Sutcliffe, breast cancer and the nine-month-old twins who were both attacked by a fox in London earlier this year. ‘At least they’ll still be identical,’ he sniggers. He also says he likes having sex with broken, disappointed women because they are more grateful. That’s why, he says, he wants to sleep with Elisabeth Fritzl.
Appalling isn’t the word. What is Boyle’s excuse for making light of the suffering of others? ‘It’s just jokes. Jokes about people you don’t know. They might as well be about Winnie the Pooh. Anyway, I don’t give a fuck,’ he tells his audience. It is a funny excuse. Indeed, it is the funniest thing he says all night. Particularly horrifying are his jokes about the death of Linda Norgrove, the British aid worker recently killed in Afghanistan. The gist of it is that at least the American authorities filmed their bungled rescue operation, meaning that Norgrove’s grieving parents will receive compensation. ‘£250 from You’ve Been Framed,’ cries Boyle. Admittedly, there are some gasps of horror from the audience at this — but surely the fans’ principal reason for coming here is to be horrified?
On this wet Friday in November, more than 3,000 of them have trudged across the venue’s sticky carpets and lager-slicked stairs to see how low Frankie will go — and they are not disappointed. I wrote recently about how British comedy has turned decidedly ugly. Over recent years, what is amusingly risqué is too frequently replaced by what is calculated to offend. Anne Frank, maimed soldiers, the suffering of little children — nothing is off limits in the rush for cheap laughs.
I had thought it was because today’s comedians were out to impress each other, rather than entertain us. Yet this depressing night at the Hammersmith Apollo reveals to me that, in fact, the likes of Boyle have a massive fan base out there, spurring their heroes on to greater heights of cruel affront. Who are these people, these slope-head barbarians chortling and guzzling beers in the stalls? Mostly youngish men, whose idea of a good night out is to laugh at jokes about Susan Boyle’s looks.
And as Frankie Boyle is notorious for abusing front-row punters, buying tickets there is seen as a badge of honour by his walnut-brained fans. ‘You look like Boy George in a chemo wig,’ he tells one. For reasons that escape me, the opportunity to be abused by someone famous off the telly seems to have a cachet all of its own. Dutifully they recite their occupations when quizzed by Boyle; an embryologist, a plumber, a banker, someone who works in advertising and, God help us, a secondary school teacher from Warwickshire.
Comedy is big box office these days, with both Peter Kay and Lee Evans out on huge arena tours. Their humour is of course gentler and more observational than Boyle’s. However, the latter’s success proves there is a market out there for those who text jokes about the death of Michael Jackson and laugh like a drain about the violent death of a defenceless toddler. What a world we live in. And what a depressing night.
Interview: Frankie Boyle
The List (Issue 692)
9 January 2012
Funny or vile? Intelligent or inhuman? The public and press will have another chance to debate the success of Frankie Boyle when he returns to Scotland with his new tour in August. In an exclusive Scottish interview he sounds off on taboos, sectarianism and the tabloids. The following are his own views in his own words. If you don’t like swearing, controversial comedy, or have been offended by him previously, read no further …
Why are you back on the road – is it a money, fame or love of comedy thing?
Fuck knows. I’ve been writing jokes my whole life and I’ve found it hard to stop thinking of them. I was just going to do a few gigs and record them, and maybe stick it out as an audio album. Then I thought it seemed like the best stuff I’d done, so why not go shout it at people in a variety of dying towns?
Have you ever told a joke that, in retrospect, you’ve thought ‘that was a bit too far’?
There is no ‘too far’. You ever hear George Carlin’s thing about, ‘My job is to find out where the line is and step over it?’ Remember, taboos are just a map of what a society feels it’s acceptable to be neurotic about. Taboos aren’t rational. At the minute, it’s kind of acceptable to do a joke about cancer but not one involving disability. Certain types of cancer are a lot more serious and debilitating than a lot of disabilities. So it’s not rational. We’re in this kind of decadent society where we imagine ourselves to be progressive and enlightened and we’re just barbarians. Everybody says they have no hang-ups about sex but we watch porn all the time. Everybody says they have no taboos but they’re offended all the time. It’s like that Kafka thing, ‘There is an infinity of subversion but not for us’.
I got a bit of stick years ago for using the word ‘mongoloid’ on stage, but I only used it to describe Vernon Kay. To be clear, Vernon Kay looks like a learning disabled adult who has been taken to one of those people that draw your portrait in a tourist place, the ones that always do a really upbeat version of people? That’s Vernon Kay to me, an upbeat caricature of a learning disabled adult.
Have you been following the Leveson Inquiry into press standards? Does it please you to see the red tops getting a kicking (even considering your Sun column)?
Yeah, I saw the McCanns on there and really wanted them to go, ‘Could you round it up in the next five minutes mate? We’ve left the kids over in Starbucks.’ Just to show they can still have a bit of a laugh.
I think the tabloids do deserve what they’re getting, yes. I feel a bit uncomfortable, though, because there’s this idea of the public interest versus what the public is interested in. The overall consensus in the broadsheets seems to be that someone else needs to tell the public what they should be interested in, which is basically patrician. The broadsheets are a lot less relevant if you don’t have money, they’re all about consumption – city breaks, holiday homes, boxsets. Maybe if you’ve just got 30p all you want is a paper that will tell you who Rio Ferdinand is pumping. At the same time, the tabloids present a tortured, warped reality. It’s a picture of humanity that would only be recognised by an enraged sex criminal. Let’s be honest, they’re like some bleak telescope focussed on a schizoid apocalypse. But you do get the odd funny headline.
Does it make your heart glow when you see the success of Daniel Sloss and Kevin Bridges, two comics that you’ve helped along the way, or are they now just two more rivals for the public’s affections and cash?
It makes my heart glow! Daniel was my work experience boy. I gave him £50 a week and dragged him round Edinburgh like I was some comedy Fagin. When I retire I’m glad one of those young pricks will get the heart attack, CIA mind-controlled assassination, or simply the HIV-loaded pussy juice that was meant for me. Or that’ll be old news by then and it’ll be sexually transmitted facial megacancer or some shit.
What do you think of the Scottish Government’s anti-bigot bill to help curb sectarian aggression?
I love the fact that we’re teaching the police these songs! Just think, somewhere right now there is a classroom packed with policemen going on this course. And they have to sit there in a cramped fucking room, on tiny plastic seats and pretend that they don’t know the words to ‘The Sash’.
It’s basically an attack on freedom of speech. It’s the ruling classes telling the working classes what to say and think. Will middle class rugby fans be arrested for singing anti-English songs? The idea is laughable. This is what I think the heart of the misunderstanding is. Supporting Rangers, being in an Orange Lodge, that whole life – that’s a valid culture. Supporting Celtic, waving a tricolour because your parents are Irish – that’s a valid culture. You can’t come in and say that the opinions those people hold, the songs they sing, the language they use is inferior and invalid. An anthropologist studying an aboriginal society would be really careful about making those judgements, but here we have a ruling class that has internalised colonial attitudes and says ‘ban songs, ban words’. Because that’s exactly what a colonial power would do. That’s exactly what happened in Scotland too and we have internalised it and are repeating its failings.
Of course, some of the songs and words contravene laws on racial hatred, and maybe even on inciting violence. But that’s a debate that needs to be had. Why aren’t we having that? Because it would be really fucking awkward. Sectarianism is a real problem, but it should be addressed by people engaging with each other – reconciliation. If we were really serious about this the first step is to end religious segregation in schools. It’s a Scottish reaction to think we can get rid of all this with a piece of paper, just so we don’t have to make eye contact, talk to each other, agree. Anyway, why am I discoursing? I feel like Alice Cooper in Wayne’s World when he gives that mad speech about the history of Milwaukee. In my time in Glasgow I’ve known a lot of Catholics and a lot of Protestants and you know what? Scratch the surface and we’re all the same. Total cunts.
Which comedians do you rate highly?
Doug Stanhope is great – I saw his Burning the Bridge to Nowhere show and it was inspiring. He’s like an anti-shaman, taking the sting out of a bunch of things we’ve chosen to give a symbolic power to. I’ve made it sound noble and worthy there, it’s not, it’s really funny. Maria Bamford I really like, Bill Burr, David Kay in Scotland was always brilliant. Every time I’m on a bill trying stuff out there’s something that really makes me laugh, although admittedly sometimes I’m laughing because it’s incredibly bad.
Define bad comedy.
Why bother? I’ve always hated that thing where people come up to you after a gig and go, ‘You were good, not like that cunt …’
It’s a hard job, I try not to bash other performers, unless I really feel like it, because I’m in a bit of a mood or something. I have no real enemies in comedy, but there are a couple of people who I’d laugh about if I heard that their legs had fallen off. And maybe even something less cartoonish than that. Maybe I’d kind of laugh if they got cancer. Yeah, now I think about it I would. Possibly even if it was a secondary cancer after they’d bravely beaten it the first time. Maybe even if they were trying to renew their wedding vows before they died, and started choking during the ceremony, doubled over wheezing, trying to remember where they were, maybe I’d kind of laugh about it. Maybe as they attempted to read the simple vows they’d written, their own handwriting looking suddenly alien as they took a deep calming breath then exploded over their wife’s wedding gown in a fountain of blood and shit … No, actually that seems a bit horrible. Maybe just the legs falling off. No, I’ve spoiled it now. Leave the legs on.
Will there be a second series of Tramadol Nights?
Eh, no. I was really happy with it, but you can see why they didn’t want to re-commission something that was getting them doorstepped over Christmas and front-page hatred. And I was a bit relieved. A six-week panel show takes six weeks to make. Because I was involved from storyboard to editing, Tramadol took over six months, and loads of that was late nights and six-day weeks.
I put a couple of quite long sketch ideas for the second series into my new book. I wrote them up in a couple of days and went back and tweaked them every time I thought of something funny. It was a lot more fun than filming the fucking things and getting them past lawyers.
Is there another book in you?
According to my contract there is, yes!
Who made the breakfast in the photo on our cover, and did you actually eat it?
I hate having my photo taken, so I ordered a large meal and ate it while they photographed me, like some captive animal. We were all trying to have a laugh about it, but it was pretty painful. I lay down and pretended to be dead for quite a bit of the shoot.
Frankie Boyle appears at the Edinburgh Playhouse, Wed 1 & Thu 2 Aug; King’s Theatre, Glasgow, Thu 16–Sat 18 Aug. His book Work! Consume! Die! is out now.
Frankie Boyle | The most misunderstood comedian in the world?
19 January 2012
Work! Consume! Die!, is a hugely relevant, scathing critique of our vapid, debased culture that is both morally and financially bankrupt. Utterly hilarious and ferociously intelligent, Boyle is a ranting prophet who, fuelled by an insatiable desire for justice, wants to make sense of an insane world. He has launched a one man Jihad against apathy and indifference and in the process has managed to outshine most of what is published today.
If he is shocking, a charge frequently levelled at Boyle, it is because he is trying to jolt people out of their catatonic state due to being hypnotised by that flickering box of light in their living rooms, taking refuge in a world of comforting illusion as war, poverty and injustice are increasingly tolerated. The theatre of the narcissistic, absurd, celebrity culture is fair game for Boyle's often vicious barbs because as he is at pains to point out, it is manifestly not real. It is a mass hallucination that serves to distract people from what is real and meaningful - "the flickering of shadows on the wall of the cave" as Plato wrote, where people mistake illusion for reality.
The peerless intellectual Chris Hedges, who wrote a superb book called The Empire of Illusion, which was damning indictment of our obsession with vapid celebrity culture, blind consumerism and our inability to distinguish the real from the artificial, interestingly makes similar arguments that Frankie Boyle does in "Work!Consume!Die!" as does Don DeLillo in the novel White Noise. The only difference is that Hedges and DeLillo use their weapon of choice, which is eloquent prose and Boyle relies on what Mark Twain called "the human race's most effective weapon", humour. The underlying point is the same.
Boyle has also obviously read Umberto Eco when he asserts with customary dark humour, dark humour being a particular leitmotif of his. "The best comics are really trying to wake you up from the symbolic world; they're desentimentalisers, pointing out that those First World War soldiers who had a truce to play football at Christmas probably killed each other the next day before muttering 'that was never offside you c*nt'. Impressively well read, he quotes a range of writers and thinkers such as Thomas Pynchon, Slavoj Zizek and as with George Carlin and Bill Hicks before him, he has been profoundly influenced by Noam Chomsky. This is very apparent when you notice that an unstinting morality reverberates through the pages and the pages will stick to your fingers like glue as he is an incredibly engaging writer. This lends Boyle's rage a palpable moral force as his book is one long plea for more humanity in an increasingly inhumane world.
As with all great books, you will read about something you didn't know before and you will look at something very differently that you did know before whilst pausing for inner reflection. The pages are also drenched in Boyle's uniquely acerbic wit as he deservedly excoriates the usual suspects: venal politicians, vacuous celebrities, organised religion, the reactionary right, racists and bigots, complacent and smug middle class liberals, the craven, ineffectual and corrupt media and the double-standards and nauseating hypocrisy that wafts through our dysfunctional society like a fetid fart.
Boyle is not shy of breaking taboos and pushing boundaries. Such as when he punctures the cosy consensus of deference towards the monarchy and exposes the glaring double standards of the press in their fawning coverage, which is often thinly veiled servile propaganda that would make the editors of Pravda blush.
"Prince Charles gets praise in the Daily Mail for the way he's brought up William and Harry since the death of Diana. Eh? For years as a single parent living mainly on state handouts? Has the Mail gone nuts?" To all the people that feign offence and horror at Boyle's innocuous words that have never physically harmed anyone, where is your faux outrage and indignant letters over the violence, suffering and social misery that *is* being caused by governments on your behalf and with your money due to waging (and in Ireland's case facilitating) illegal wars, torture and the imposition of harsh austerity measures on the most vulnerable in society? Boyle regularly reminds the reader of the nefarious crimes of governments and the complicity of an anaesthetised public.
Frankie Boyle is that nagging voice in your conscience telling you to turn off that TV, stop imbibing celebrity culture and wake up from your soma induced coma and pay attention to what is happening in the real world, not the soothing artificial one that you find comfort and solace in, the proverbial flickering of shadows on the wall of Plato's cave.
Crucially Boyle, who is a drinking man's Michael McIntyre, has crammed in more laugh out loud gags on the average page than most bland comedians manage in their entire hacky sets.
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