What Offends Frankie Boyle?

The cantankerous old bastard on retiring, satanic sex murders and James Arthur

Feature by Vonny Moyes | 04 Dec 2013

Frankie Boyle divides comedy fans harder than Moses did the Red Sea; or at least he would, if that wasn’t a totally made-up story in A.D.’s bestselling novel. If controversy was your mother, he’d already be using her knickers as floss while simultaneously deciding never to call; some folks don’t take well to that. Love him or hate him, he’s one of comedy’s biggest names, and will be sticking around to shred pop starlets and offend royal vaginas for some time to come. I caught up with him to talk about his new book and some other annoying stuff. He’s rude, opinionated, and a bit of a dick, really.

But, did you expect anything less?

You were pretty adamant that you’d be retiring at 40. Obviously, that’s not happened. What’s the story?

It has happened, fool. I stopped doing stand-up at 40. That gets quoted a lot; what I actually said to the interviewer was that after forty people tend to have stopped creating and started producing. The idea, which I still think is true, is that by 40 people tend to have exhausted their creativity building a niche for themselves; then just keep producing more of the same. By forty most people are just marketing an idea of what they used to be. There are exceptions, but they are people who recognise those problems and struggle with them. If you're sitting there going, "I'm 45 and I'm doing the best shows of my life and it's never been easier..." that's because you're shit. But hey, you've probably developed an audience who don't mind. Enjoy it. 

Do you feel under pressure to write material a certain way now?

No, because I've retired, you clown. 

You’ve released two books previously; why did you write this one and are you happy with it?

Yes, I like the book. I originally pitched the publishers a pornographic crime thriller set in Glasgow. It was about a series of satanic sex murders happening around the Independence vote. They weren't keen, but they did allow me to make the introduction to this book, essentially, a porno. Scotland's Jesus is basically social commentary with jokes; it covers everything from the economy, drone strikes, the NSA, right the way down to a three page pummelling of Simon Cowell. 

You’ve said before that no joke is too far; what is the current biggest taboo your material courts? What’s gotten the worst reaction recently? Does anything offend you?

Untrue stereotypes offend me. The sheer fucking laziness and hatred of them. I think comedy is a mechanism we invented for entertaining a lot of ideas that are outside the normal parameters of society, so there shouldn't be any taboos. There's a narcissism around taking offence, you know – why is your opinion so important? I think there's a thing these days where people use taboos to draw a line around themselves and their friends as being the good people. Does not using a certain word or joking about a certain subject really give you moral authority? Have you really earned that? If you volunteer at a drop-in centre three days a week, that gives you some moral authority in my eyes. Maybe we should all think more about earning the moral high ground.

There was a real taboo around disability for a while; this patronising idea that disabled people are vulnerable and must be entirely unmentioned in culture, except in the tones we usually reserve for puppies. Every disabled person I've known hates that attitude. I think that disabled people need to be more visible, more talked about as the government tries to ghettoise them. Benefit changes are already leading to deaths, and there will have to be a real struggle for disabled rights in Britain. I think it will become a struggle for survival. It's quite a British thing to have taboos about talking about certain subjects, but not about acts of downright murder.

Another thing that offends me is people always viewing comedy as something to be judged against some graph of their personal neuroses. It's comedy, not a fucking dinner party. Laugh or don't laugh, but definitely, definitely don't write a long boring article about your reaction to it. Any comedian with the balls to transgress is, by her very nature, not going to care what you think; be heavily medicated; be already face down in three bar staff by the time your piece hits the New Statesman.

How do you feel about Independence?

Yes, I think we should be independent. What have we got to lose? A Tory government? I'm looking forward to the vote just because it will be a novelty for Scottish people to fill in official forms while still in possession of their own belt and shoelaces. And imagine what Scotland's annual Independence Day celebrations will look like; the fucking D-Day Landings.

You seem to be something of a Twitter vigilante these days; how do you feel in the aftermath of war on James Arthur? Do you hope he’s learned from it?

I feel less than nothing. Arthur is probably not capable of learning from it, no. He's probably in a bubble where he's surrounded by all kinds of awful people, but he'll have to grow up. In a few years he'll be looking back on himself in this period as a silly wee boy, wondering what he was thinking. And then he'll be awoken by the sound of me throwing coins into his hat.

How does your stage persona affect your everyday life? Do people treat you differently now compared to when you started out?

Well, it doesn't really affect anything I guess, because I don't really associate with people very much. 

What are you doing next?

I'm writing a graphic novel that will be out sometime next year! I've been writing and script editing on a couple of possible radio series… I don't know what's going to happen there, just because, well, it's unbroadcastable filth isn't it?

I'm doing some freestyle albums with Glenn Wool. It's just the two of us riffing about nonsense really, but it's ended up being quite political and surprisingly philosophical. I enjoy doing work that I can just give away for free; it gets me away from that selling dynamic where we're all marketing ourselves. I always sign up to do the minimum publicity for everything because I didn't really get into comedy to be a salesman. This is one of the few bits of promo I have to do. Thank fuck it's over.


More on Frankie Boyle:

Work! Consume! Die! by Frankie Boyle book review