‘I spend a lot of time helping teenagers who’ve been sexually abused…’ — beat — ‘…find their way out of my house.’
You’d scarcely imagine, listening to Frankie Boyle now, that this was the kind of joke he was telling on TV as recently as this decade. I wouldn’t believe it myself if I didn’t have written evidence of it, in the form of a 2011 TV review of his now-forgotten shocker of a Channel 4 show, Tramadol Nights.
Boyle was great back then because he went to places few other comics dared to tread. He joked about everything from cancer (‘What is it about people with cancer thinking they’re suddenly going to run a marathon?’) to having sex with your granny (‘Often she’ll stick £5 in your pocket afterwards and say, “Don’t tell your mum.”’) to Jordan the large-breasted celebrity’s disabled son. It was cruel, it was tasteless, it was horrid — but it was hugely refreshing.
As I argued at the time, Boyle’s no-holds-barred humour was a very necessary counter to the political correctness increasingly strangling comedy.
I’m still really glad that someone is doing it, out there, pushing the boundaries because disability is real and cancer is real and the reason we have taboos about them is that they make us feel scared and uncomfortable. The job of comedy is to test these boundaries; the stronger the taboo the more it needs testing, for that’s how we naturally deal with our fear and unease — through the catharsis of laughter.
Eight years on, Boyle has moved up in the world. He’s on the third series of his own show — Frankie Boyle’s New World Order — yer actual BBC this time (Thursdays), rather than lowly Channel 4. As comics tend to do when they’re endorsed and promoted by our state broadcaster, he has amassed a respectable fortune (estimated at £3.3