Talk To Frank
We at Swine love offensive comedy. We love comics who say the unsayable, who tell it like it is, who fear not the hypocritical condemnation of murder loving politicians and their sex obsessed pals in the press. From Lenny Bruce through Richard Pryor to Bill Hicks, Chris Rock and Doug Stanhope, it’s true that most of these icons of comic folklore have been American. They use the ‘n’ word, they mock Jews, crackers and WASPs, they are deliberately offensive because they live in a world that offends them and their own sense of morality.
Frankie Boyle would dearly love to be in the same league as these people but what seperates his comedy from that of a contemporary like Stanhope is any hint of political intent. Some would say that Stanhope himself is only doing a Hicks impression but Hicks also bit from other performers. Boyle is, in the worlds of my mate; ‘A Poor Man’s Jerry Sadowitz’ and that comparison is close to the truth. Not only because of their Glaswegian background but because of the nature of their comedy; the baiting of traditional ‘lefty’ sacred cows and prejudices. Sadowitz came to prominance during the era of ‘alternative comedy’ and all the right on cliches that went with it. He was reacting against them and their own cosy middle class cartel as much as anything else and that’s why he never got the acclaim he was due. Jerry didn’t suck Comedy Store cock and didn’t ender himself to the people who really matter; the suits.
Boyle by contrast has had it easy; he’s the token ‘controversialist’ Channel 4 can wheel out to prove they’re stil ‘edgy’ now that his lucrative stint on Mock The Weak (not the Week) has terminated. Yes, compared to the likes of Russell Howard and Jason Manford, Boyle’s comedy appears ‘edgy’ but he’s been happy to get in bed with these whoppers for years and forged the usual tour/book/DVD sidelines off the back of these mainstream TV appearances.
Boyle approaches ‘taboos’ in much the same way as Ricky Gervais. He uses the words of the bigot, the misogynist, the bully, the idiot because he has ironic distance. Yet much of his comedy revolves around rape, gay sex and mental illness. I assume his Catholic upbringing has something to do with these preoccupations but it’s all been done before and better. If only there was something meaningful behind the abuse and the sneers and the insults.
Tramadol Nights only highlighted the rigid parameters of his shtick. He comes out angrily on stage, bravely insults members of the audience who have no place to hide. Then it’s onto a familiar set of sketches mocking the mentally ill, the sexually perverse, the mentally perverse and the sexually ill. It’s truly shocking in parts but has the same effect of watching a man wanking in the street.
Diogenes did something similar 2500 years ago in the market place of Athens. His acts of ‘cynical’ dog like behaviour was aimed at showing how the supposedly cultured Athenians were only putting on a mask yet underneath all the pretence, they were only disguising their base animal instincts.
Frankie Boyle does have his moments. The recent furore about his spot on analysis of the way wars are reported in terms of ‘our’ dead and ‘their’ dead was a one-off moment of political intent in a series that has relied overwhelingly in nastiness and personalised insults. We all pass around and tell ‘sick’ jokes and usually the sicker the joke the bigger laugh it gets. We enjoyed being shocked by the depths some will go to in order to get a laugh. Boyle is at least prepared to stand up and do his stuff regardless of whether the regulators or the media get on his back. There are times when you think he could be a truly great comic; a Bruce, a Pryor or a Hicks but mostly he comes across as a one dimensional, self-satisfied bully. Tramadol Nights tried very hard to offend but in the end it was far too predictable for its own good. Someone really needs to sit down and Talk To Frank.