I don’t take issue with what Frankie Boyle said on his axed slice of Russell Brand’s Give It Up For Comic Relief – why?
Because, as he so rightly stated in between two undeniably offensive jokes, “jokes aren’t even positions on something – a joke is a proposition.” And in case you’re wondering, that’s a direct quote – but there’s a good chance that all the other quotes you read from Boyle’s short routine were either incorrectly edited, censored or just plain wrong. That’s what I take issue with.
First and foremost, The Daily Mirror reported that the “sick” Mr Boyle said of the Queen: “They would have had to hollow out her body into a suit and fill it with helium.” Offensive, indeed! Yet apparently the journalist writing the story wasn’t really at the gig, because what Boyle actually said was that, regarding the Pope (and not the Queen): “they should have just filled his hat with helium so that he stands up straight.”
Meanwhile, it was incorrectly reported several times that Frankie Boyle was booed en masse by 12,500 people (I counted two and a half), but several publications irritatingly opted to omit words from Boyle’s quotes. For example, The Daily Express reported Boyle as saying about Kate Middleton: “I can't believe she is pregnant to be honest, because she told me she was on the pill.” Offensive? Neither here nor there. But what Boyle actually said was: “I can't believe she is pregnant to be honest, because she told me she was on the fucking pill.” Ten points if you can spot the word that went missing.
Perhaps it is to protect readers from the ‘awful’ potty mouth of Frankie Boyle. Yet choosing not to say an offensive word is only offensive to the maturity of one’s audience.
That said, the most perplexing aspect of the aforementioned coverage of Frankie Boyle’s axed sketch wasn’t even the censorship or inaccuracies – but the hypocrisy involved.
Misquotes aside, it’s fair to say that everyone reporting on Boyle’s ‘offensive’ jokes seemed to agree on one thing: that the BBC was right to axe him from their programme, as the comedian’s words were so awful they didn’t deserve to be repeated on air. So what did these papers do instead? Repeat them in print. Some even went above and beyond the call of duty by posting videos of other offensive Boyle routines, or supplementing them with screenshots of angry Tweets. This strikes me as odd – after all, if Frankie Boyle is so sick, why repeat his words for all to hear? Doesn’t that just give him the sort of PR that only imprudently perpetuates his popularity?
Frankie Boyle hasn’t been the only recent target of this hypocritical and sensationalist method of reporting. Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane sparked similar controversy last month after hosting an Oscars ceremony that many publications condemned as “juvenile”, “disgusting” and “sexist”. Why the uproar? There’s a good chance that jokes about Chris Brown beating Rihanna, Zero Dark Thirty being “a celebration of every woman's innate ability to never ever let anything go” and a particularly evocative singing number – entitled “we saw your boobs” – had something to do with it.
Yet again, one can’t help but wonder: if Seth MacFarlane’s jokes were so offensive, why transcribe them for the whole web to see? These foolish attempts to publicly shame comedians are self-defeating at best. Last week, one writer for The Telegraph called for a public boycott of Frankie Boyle, and I’ll bet Boyle was over the moon about it – after all, a comedian who’s made his name being rude can’t buy that kind of PR!
No one can argue that comics like Seth MacFarlane and Frankie Boyle are offensive. That’s their comedic niche, and it’s a very acquired taste – and one I’ll neither condone nor condemn. Yet what I do condemn is when the press truly disdain someone so much that they’re willing to publish lazily written stories about them that are filled with faulty facts and misquotes - which only further a comedian's cause by repeating their jokes. After all, if you want a comedian to disappear, shouldn’t you just stop talking about them?