Frankie Boyle has outraged the more sensationalist among us this week, with what the Daily Mail has dubbed his “foul tirade” against Down Syndrome sufferers and their parents “by criticising their hair, clothes and voices”. There is no doubt that it must be excruciating to listen to an audience laughing uproariously about a subject which is so close to your own heart, and one which is undoubtedly a difficult and uphill struggle for most of the time, but am I the only one who thinks Mr. and Mrs. Smith may have slightly missed something?
Boyle is a comedian who has made his name with his close to the bone, often taboo shattering, humour and while his type of humour may divide many of us, with some branding it tasteless while others exalt it as ground-breaking, (and there are certainly valid questions over whether shocking equals funny), it seems Mrs. Smith had already made her decision prior to the show: they did pay for front row seats, after all, and she said herself that she likes “his dry humour”; they wanted to go and “see him say things he could not get away with on mainstream T.V.”. In the blog posting which has caused such controversy, Mrs. Smith actually says she wanted to go to the show because she likes “how nasty he is”.
It appears to me that Mrs. Smith may have unwittingly made herself a rather scratchy martyr’s bed to lie in. After reading her blog, one man, named only “Ben” commented: I hate to be ‘that guy’, but you knew before hand the type of humour Mr Boyle performs…I don’t see you complaining about his jokes about cancer, or pakis, I assume you found those in good taste?
Unfortunately for Mrs. Smith, he has something of a point. The tour Boyle is currently on contains material about AIDS, paedophilia, cancer and incest all in the name of his particular brand of humour. Are we to assume, from her obvious enthusiasm for his comedy before the show, her willingness to be shocked by the humour she openly enjoyed prior to her embarrassment, and the fact that she is upset about this one particular joke, that she was unaffected and even amused by the rest of it?
And this isn’t the first time Boyle has hit the headlines, in 2008 he was vilified for making lewd comments about the Queen on Mock the Week. Rather than using this against him, I would say this was a point very much in Boyle’s favour: he has never been anything other than shocking, and on professing herself such an avid fan, Mrs. Smith should surely have been aware of this. Even more unfortunately for her is where this begins to lead: suggesting that, in fact, she didn’t know that much about his humour and perhaps wasn’t aware of quite how dark he could be and is actually a little ignorant of his comedy. And when Mr. Smith joined the fray it was the beginning of the end. He 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.’ Was that a (*gasp*) generalisation? About Frankie Boyle?? Master of the anarchic yet well-known-enough to be a suitable name drop in a conversation where I need to prove my intelligence and individuality in one go??? Generalisations hint at ignorance, and this is where the compassion of the Great British Public runs out of steam. Because to be anyone in this world you have to know what you’re talking about.
Be a martyr if you must Mrs. Smith, but please don’t be stupid. Nobody sympathises with Stupid.