Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Frankie Boyle - This Charmless Man

I was working last night, so couldn't see the full glory Channel 4's Tuesday night comedy live, but read enough feedback on Twitter to know that it was going to be baaaad. I watched Frankie Boyle's Tramadol Nights quietly in my room last night as didn't want to disturb my landlord, but on rewatching it this morning realised it was much worse than I expected.

Ooooh that naughty Frankie ! I mean, that's what we EXPECT from Frankie Boyle! Shock. Outrage. Prepare to be offended. Why would you go to a Boyle gig or watch his show if you are easily offended?

In fact that's exactly the same argument I used when I defended him after the story of his Down's Syndrome 'joke' broke a few months ago when speaking to others about it  (including professional comedians, most of whom thought that Frankie had deeply misjudged his outburst)

'Offensive' comedy is fine. We all have the right to be offended and someone is always going to be offended by something. However, 'offensive' comedy is only acceptable if someone has the skill to make it funny. For example Billy Connolly, Bill Hicks, Stewart Lee, Brendon Burns, Joan Rivers, Russell Brand, Chris Morris: These guys can be seen as offensive. they push the boundaries, they have a point. But most of all, they have the intelligence and comedic skill to take difficult topics such as drugs, child abuse, suicide, 9/11, death, and other topics seen as potentially offensive and make them funny. They think hard about these routines. The joke is either on themselves or the powerful. They don't look down and laugh at people who are less fortunate.

Frankie Boyle doesn't push boundaries. He clumsily charges through them throwing ideas out without any sense of self-editing. It seems that his only goal is to be notorious, rather than to be funny.

Now his rape sketch (Green Mile parody) was SO hilarious everyone wasn't it? I mean surely its automatically funny when a prisoner rapes a prison officer then goes on to rape the governor's wife. Naturally she was scared to be raped at first, but obviously (because she is a woman, and he is a big black man with obviously more sexual power than her husband) she ended up really enjoying the raping.

Frankie, it's not good enough. Yes you managed to cause some ructions and upset a few people. But that's not my point. It just wasn't funny.

The Brokeback Mountain sketch: Now we know a lot of routines can lose any subtle nuances in print, but believe me, this sketch had none. Imagine a gruff, macho cowboy addressing the camera: He starts jovially, and as the sketch progresses gets more menacing.

"What is the meaning behind the bewitching smile from the famous painting that is tonight's particular episode. It is "pick an actor from the movie Brokeback Mountain that you want to fuck" and stick with it. Be it the rambunctious nature of Jake or the stoic poise of Heath or whatever floats your boat. Now which is it? Heath or Jake? On the count of 3 I want everybody at home to make their choice.

One, two three.

Well the overwhelming vibe Im getting is for Heath. I of course would have picked the woman who played Jake's wife you fags. I didn't say you had to pick Heath or Jake, I just said you had to pick an actor from the movie and suggested two of 'em. It was you who unconsciously knew this and still opted for the gay choice anyway. Apart from those of you watching who are actually homosexual, I'm sorry your Sky box fucked up recording "Glee" boys.

The rest of you fist fucking heath pickers, I'm sorry this is how you had to find out about above your love of cum. And I suspect many of you will mistakenly vent your anger towards me. Well bring it on. and if you want to take 2 minutes out of your confused life next week, I'll meet you down in Hampstead Heath in the toilet cubicle with all the disco music coming out of it. And I suggest you bring your life partner to the heath cause I'm gonna show you heavy, fatherfucker!"

(Is that the last line? If so I'm not sure even what it means...)

Now other than the obvious homophobia here, again, my main point is that I just can't find anything funny in this. Where is the joke? Can someone point it out?

Frankie Boyle is clearly turning into Bernard Manning, and without any sense of irony. I think it's time for a new wave of alternative comedy. Bring on the new Alexei Sayles, Rik Mayalls, Peter Richardsons, Frenches and Saunderses, and yes, even Ben Eltons (the good Ben Elton from the 80s, not the current evil Ben Elton),

I'd always enjoyed Frankie's interjections and short nibbles of cheeky fun on Mock The Week, but he just doesn't have enough good material to pull this show off.

Frankie, write some funny jokes. It can't be healthy simply relying on the laughter of nerves. How long is it till you're 40?


  1. Lol, that last line must sound so odd if you don't get the reference...

  2. But I knew clever people like you wuold get it !

  3. Excellent article. You have judged it well without being narrow minded. 'Shock Comedy' only works when the audience thinks you are only ultimately joking. Frankie seems angry, period. It radiates from all his comedic work. The concentration is firmly on being 'shocking' rather than on the 'pay off'. This noterity may have worked ten years ago, but it is clearly dated now.

    Well done on your article.


  4. Here's my take on Tramadol Nights. Quite similar to yours. It has been building for a while, but this show revealed just how empty it all is.

  5. Oh for Christ sake grow the fuck up.

    Tramadol nights is definitely NOT the best show he has ever done, but it's nowhere near as bad as you are whining about.

    How can you on one hand make comments like, "Why would you go to a Boyle gig or watch his show if you are easily offended?" and then on the other, state, "Now other than the obvious homophobia here, again, my main point is that I just can't find anything funny in this. Where is the joke? Can someone point it out?"

    Tramadol nights fails because it is edited down into a half hour slot with an ad break. This loses the 'run up' and 'cool down' and slams into the shocking straight from the get go. t also makes the sketches seem overly long, drawn out and diluted in comparison.

    If you don't like it, don't watch. If you choose to view it, man the fuck up!

  6. I agree with the previous comment, you are rambling along in complete contradiction in a highly hypocritical and rather smug manner. Your "review" appears to go off on a tangent on some distinctly personal bee in your bonnet rant about gay "stereotypes" which are in reality not stereotypes at all. I myself have the pleasure of working in a media office which is if anything heterophobic, poppulated with unbelievabley cliched people of the gay who spend most of the day making fellatio innuendos in a dull attempt to shock this is when they`re not singing Elton John songs...It is just a fact! And if you have this problem with gay stereotypes why resort to your final bitchy comment about "when are you 40 Frankie" Cheap shot. You come accross as jealous. Why must we harp back to the days of Ben Elton and other priviliged champagne socialists as they have turned out to be who were so terrified of offending any of the people they have never mixed with at footlights college.. Surely picking on everyone is a kind of refreshing equality, what we are experiencing now is indeed a backlash against years of goody two shoes alternative comedy, it had it`s day and people got sick of not saying what they thought i.e the truth in the same way punk came to blast away hours of self indulgent stadium prog is just a process. Comparing Frankie to Bernard Manning is just lazy and predictable. You appear to be coming from a position of solipsism where you probably have a whole set of predudices and pressumptions but they are fine. We desperatly need people like Frankie, offencive is such an over used word nowadays and has replaced the word disagree or don`t like..
    As the person abpve said, don`t like it, don`t watch.. I don`t like x factor or countless other shows but do not feel the need to tear them to bits, I simoply don`t look. I find stuff I do like instead. This is called being a grown up.

  7. @chicalolita @robbourke - Thanks for your comments chaps.

    @anon1 - My comment about why would people go to Frankie Boyle gigs and be shocked was the general view and defence of Boyle when he was widely criticised for his Down Syndrome remarks. It was an argument *I* used at the time as well.

    The sketches didn't work. As well as being drawn out the cultural references to The Green Mile and Knight Rider were hardly bang up to date. If my memory serves me correct he even referenced Kerry Katona, which is pretty hack these days.

    But my comment on the anti-gay joke stands - why is it meant to be funny? Where is the humour?

    And I *have* decided not to watch the rest of the series (as I'm sure you can imagine!)

    Anon2 - I can understand why you may see my views as smug. However I can't comment on your work mates. I'm not sure I know any gay people who sing Elton John songs !! :) (but I imagine that would be rather annoying.)

    I was referring back to the "good" Ben Elton. The one I grew up with. The one who wrote The Young Ones and Blackadder and hosted Saturday Live. I have nothing to say in his defence as he is now though. (He's just not that funny - did anyone see his programme on Dave?)

    I'm certainly not jealous of Frankie Boyle. Yeah I'm jealous of a lot of people, but they would be the likes of Stewart Lee or Billy Connolly who just ooze with talent.

    Finally, the remark about Frankie being almost 40 isn't bitchy. It was Frankie himself who stated he would retire from stand up before he was 40 as he believes most comedians arent very good after then because their focus goes. In my experience, good comedians simply get better (see the two examples I've given already.)

  8. Just read your blog @chicololita, and you have managed to write things far more articulately than here. Excellent post.

  9. Wow,
    I came in a minute into Green Mile and found it brain meltingly funny. Was he name checked as a rapist at the start of the sketch, that may have detracted from the surreality / unpredictability of it? Otherwise, bar the prison warder, I didnt pick up a rape angle at all. What I got from it was a very well judged juxtaposition of cod beatific faced Hollywood pulp, with a big dick slipped in. Funny as all get out.

    As for the cowboy... you kidding me? The normally genial Stranger from The Big Lebowski laying down a bewildering headfuck of artfully worded sexual slurs, taunts, threats, with his eyes boring into yours? (I picked Jake :-) That was brilliant - Also the reason I came across your post, I was googling up what he said.

    You clearly love comedy, so I really think you're missing out here and it's a shame, comrade. Sure, it wasn't all golden, but God it's nice to see someone tear into the dishonest, dinner party censoriousness that riddles middle class society these days? For me it's vital, both for its fierce liveliness and for its servicing of honest - though bleak - human nature . I'll be watching it religiously.

    Anyway, you asked why anyone would find it funny, and I owe you one for the transcript of the cowboy sketch, cheers!

  10. I think it was clear he was raping the wife (though naturally she started loving it...)

    Glad someone has appreciated the transcription - it took me ages !